Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Green Streets of Grand Rapids

Monitoring the sun power at the Green Well

My little neighborhood in the East Hills of Grand Rapids seems to be ground zero for both green buildings and new energy programs. Besides having the first electric car charging station in Grand Rapids, now we have the The Green Well Gastro Pub on Cherry St. as part of Consumers Energy's SmartStreet pilot program, using both smart-meters and solar power as a demonstration of the future of electric energy.

Smart meters that show real-time energy usage have been distributed in the area, and look for these to go statewide in the coming years as Consumers starts to replace the old monthly meters. They help identify when and where you can cut energy use, which ultimately will help save money on your electric bill.

(Roger Morgenstern, the SmartGrid communications coordinator) and his team are playing with different models during this stage of the program to find out the best way to manage energy costs, resources and incentives.

“We may do credit awards, where people pay different amounts per kilowatt,” he said. “It is possible that we may offer prices that represent different resources like solar energy. We haven’t finalized it.”

The Green Well also received a very nice gift from United Solar Ovonic and Cascade Renewable Energy, a small roof-top array (see picture here) of Uni-Solar's new PowerTilt modules that track the sun.

United Solar and Cascade Renewable Energy, which supplied the engineering and design services, are proud sponsors of the SmartStreet project. The Green Well project combines solar power with energy efficiency and smart meter technology, all working tandem. This project acts as a demonstration installation and consists of ten UNI-SOLAR brand PowerTilt® photovoltaic modules. At maximum output, the installed solar panels can generate 1.44 kilowatts of electricity. Green Well customers can view a video and watch a real-time display of the energy being produced by the rooftop UNI-SOLAR solar panels.

The HD display above shows the power that was being generated at 1:30 in the afternoon on a sunny day, the next screen in the sequence indicated that they had generated 3.4 kwh on the day, and over 434 kwh total. For the calendar month? Not sure. For comparison, as of 2009, the average Michigan home used 666 kwh a month. Don't know exactly when they flipped on the switch, just that the panels were installed sometime last month. The restaurant manager told the Press he could already see a 5-10% energy savings on their bill, so I'm assuming they have been running for over a month now.

The screens show other information like carbon dioxide saved, etc., a rolling display of the benefits of the solar in real-time. It's a nice touch for the restaurant, and a nice selling tool for solar power - keep it visible, and people will start to think about it for their own homes.

I hear that the food is real good too, one of these days I'll be sure to give them a try. Thanks Consumers and Uni-Solar for this experiment; looking forward to hearing the results from the whole program - because what they learn here will translate into savings statewide someday.