‘U’ students, Ann Arbor community celebrate installation of solar panels on Fire Station Six

Sunday, October 20, 2019 - 11:34am

Volunteers and members of Students for Clean Energy celebrate the installation of solar panels on the roof of Fire Station Six Friday afternoon.

Volunteers and members of Students for Clean Energy celebrate the installation of solar panels on the roof of Fire Station Six Friday afternoon. Buy this photo
Emma Mati/Daily

The city of Ann Arbor celebrated the installation of solar panels on the roof of Fire Station Six with an event Friday afternoon. About 50 people attended the celebration, including city officials and community volunteers.

Students for Clean Energy at the University of Michigan originally brought the idea of installing more solar panels to the city last year. Club participants as well as other community members volunteered to prepare and perform the installation of 142 solar panels on the fire station’s roof.

Engineering senior Grant Dukus and LSA senior Taylor Lind, members of Students for Clean Energy, helped the club take the idea to the city. Dukus said the city was supportive of the student group’s ideas.

“We reached out to the city, basically saying that we had a bunch of passionate, energetic students who were looking for this kind of like real world, hands-on experience and we are willing to put in whatever work necessary to kind of get this to this point,” Dukus said.

The installation occurred over a two-day period, Lind said. Volunteers laid out the panels Thursday and Harvest Energy LLC, the company which partnered with the city to provide the solar panels, ran the electric to get the system up and running.

“It was a pretty hefty job for two days of work,” Lind said. “We’re definitely thankful for all of the volunteers.”

Volunteers and workers install solar panels during the Ann Arbor Fire Department's solar panel designation ceremony at the Ann Arbor Fire Department Friday afternoon.

Volunteers and workers install solar panels during the Ann Arbor Fire Department's solar panel designation ceremony at the Ann Arbor Fire Department Friday afternoon. Buy this photo
Emma Mati/Daily

The group raised a total of $3,295 to go toward the solar panels, which cost the city $74,000.  In May 2019, the installation was postponed due to safety and financial finalization. The city of Ann Arbor was able to reduce the overall cost through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement.

Josh MacDonald, sustainability energy coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor, said the students from Students for Clean Energy played a pivotal role in taking initiative on the project.

“For us to continue to meet our goals, it’s going to be important to partner with the University,” MacDonald said. “I think in many ways, University of Michigan students are that bridge and start those kinds of conversations.”

MacDonald said an installation of this size would normally last a week, but the large number of volunteers helped it run smoothly. He estimated about 50 volunteers helped with the project over the two-day span.

“We were very, very happy and pleased to see all the volunteers come out,” MacDonald said. “I think in many ways it also shows that there's a real untapped interest in this community to be a part of sustainability to really reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I'm really hopeful that as we proceed, we can continue to replicate the same model.”

The city’s Office of Sustainability and Innovations and their Energy Commission also worked in partnership with the Students for Clean Energy on the installation. 

At the event, attendees were able to climb onto the roof to see the newly installed solar panels and learn about solar energy. The new system will be powering approximately 98 percent of the building and can generate 52 kilowatts of energy at peak capacity. 

Mike Kennedy, Ann Arbor fire chief, told The Daily the fire station was excited to be able to partner with University students and have the opportunity to implement sustainable energy sources into Fire Station Six.

“With the fire service, we are sometimes limited in opportunities to go green,” Kennedy said. “This was a great opportunity. We had a ton of open roof space, and we're able to help contribute towards the city's sustainability initiative.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell helps install solar panels during the Ann Arbor Fire Department's solar panel designation ceremony at the Ann Arbor Fire Department Friday afternoon.

Rep. Debbie Dingell helps install solar panels during the Ann Arbor Fire Department's solar panel designation ceremony at the Ann Arbor Fire Department Friday afternoon. Buy this photo
Emma Mati/Daily

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor; U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor; state Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor; and multiple city council members honored the installation by drilling in the last pieces of the solar panels.

Taylor said the solar panels are an important step in helping Ann Arbor’s focus on reaching its sustainability goals and reducing its carbon footprint. The city hopes to expand the solar panel initiative to other public buildings in Ann Arbor, he said.

“This is a proof of concept demonstrating that organized volunteer labor can substantially reduce the cost of solar installation, thereby making it more affordable, thereby increasing it and thereby doing all sorts of good things,” Taylor said.

If similar student organizations want to implement alternative energy initiatives in their own community, Dukus said it is very possible. He advised students to reach out to stakeholders in their cities that will help the idea become a reality.

“Hopefully, we can set an example for other student groups and activists and community members to push for this kind of things in their city,” Dukus said.