Friday, June 19, 2009

Michigan solar energy seminars for local residents

While Michigan is the second cloudiest state in the nation, Norm McKinney looks to the sun to cut his utility bills.

According to, more than 30,000 solar energy systems were installed in Michigan homes between 1974 and 1991.

McKinney installed one in his 108-year-old farm house on Bowers Road. "It cut $100 a month off my heating bill," he said.

According to the Tax Incentives Assistance Project, on-site renewables, which includes solar systems, are now eligible for a federal tax incentive worth 30% off their total cost. McKinney said there's also a state tax credit available for solar installations.

Michigan residents, according to, receive a 100% personal property tax exemption on the installation of any qualifying solar power or other renewable energy installation. This means the state will not up the property value based on the installation.
McKinney, along with business associate Richard Johnson, recently formed American Educational Technologies Management Inc. He's offering a four-night solar seminar at Mott Community College's Lapeer Extension Center, 550 Lake Drive, Lapeer starting May 5.

The pair want to spread their word on how using solar systems can be good for the environment and homeowner's pocketbooks.

"Solar is not a panacea," said McKinney, who once taught construction trades at Pontiac Business Trades in Oxford. That's because, according to statistics from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Southeast Michigan only has about 75 completely clear days a year and about 175 that are completely cloud covered.

Still, he said, a solar installation in conjunction with an existing forced air or hot water heating system can result in significant energy savings. One way a solar system can cut down on utility bills, he said, is by preheating fresh air drawn into a home heating system.

McKinney said a solar system can eliminate the need for a pool heater for swimming pool owners. "I had a 33-by-18 (foot) pool in Cadillac that I heated to 90-degrees," he said.

"There are lots of easy ways to do things that will cut your electric bill," he said.

McKinney said he will cover all those ways during his seminar from 6-9 p.m. May 5, 7, 12 and 14 in Room 200 at Mott. He said there will be a $60 fee for all four sessions.

"We'll show people how to building their own solar collector for less than $100," he said. McKinney said some solar solutions are as simple as placing insulated panels in south facing windows at night.

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