Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje hopes the wind and sun will provide one-third of Ann Arbor’s energy by 2010.

That goal is drawing a response from the federal government, which recently designated Ann Arbor a “Solar City” and gave it $200,000 to market solar energy to residents.

In an effort to increase the use of environmentally-friendly energy sources, the government selected 13 American cities based on their proposals to switch from their current energy sources to solar power.

Each city submitted proposals to the U.S. Department of Energy detailing how, if selected, the funding would be used to market and inform citizens about the use of renewable energy.

The city will also put $400,000 of its own funds toward conversion from coal energy to renewable energy sources like solar energy.

The first phase of converting to solar power in Ann Arbor will be to install solar energy panels on the buildings at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market.

The panels will power the entire market, and some leftover power will be used to power Kerrytown buildings, Hieftje said.

A kickoff celebration was held Monday on the grounds of the market. Energy experts and politicians, including Hieftje and Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn), attended the celebration and described the benefits of solar power.

“What this entails is a community-wide effort to educate not only people who might want to buy (solar panels) but also installers on how to inspect them and the city government to make it a little easier,” said David Konkle, Ann Arbor’s energy coordinator.

Konkle said the money will be used to build indoor and outdoor traveling exhibits to teach residents about alternative energy resources.

The desired end result of educating Ann Arborites about the benefits of solar energy is an increased interest in solar energy, which would hopefully lower solar panel costs, Konkle explained.

“At this point in time it’s a little expensive and the technology has to come down,”

The remaining money will be used to survey residents and teach residents and businesses about the potential cost benefits of converting to solar energy.

These goals fit into Hieftje’s challenge to draw 30 percent of the energy powering downtown Ann Arbor municipal buildings from renewable sources by 2010 and to draw 20 percent of energy powering the entire city from renewable sources by 2015.

Despite Heiftje’s hopes for Ann Arbor, energy experts have reservations. Kurt Brandle, a professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, says that solar power has drawbacks.

He said that if the energy gathered by solar panels is not used immediately, it can be costly to store. The optimum hour for gathering solar energy is at noon when the sun is the brightest. But the hottest hour – when there is the most demand for energy – is about two hours later.

“When you get it, unless you use it immediately in the building you have to store it in batteries or you have to give it back to the electrical company or throw it away,” Brandle said.

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