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New Low-Cost Residential Solar Power Available

DETROIT (WWJ) -- The Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office is offering a new residential solar energy financing program and a rebranded home energy efficiency audit program.

The office, formed in 2009 to serve 25 local governments in the Detroit area, has fired up a new program called MI Solar Works.

In partnership with a Novi solar installer called Srinergy, the program offers solar power at an installed cost of less than $3 a watt. Combined with 10-year, zero-down financing at 7 percent interest, the program offers homeowners a 5-kilowatt rooftop solar installation for $14,800, which works out to a payment of $175 a month.

"We've finally made residential solar affordable," said Joel Howrami Heeres, sustainable communities coordinator for the WARM Training Center in Detroit, part of the regional energy office.

Howrami Heeres said the 5-kilowatt system should generate about $75 a month worth of electricity, which will come off the top of buyers' DTE Energy electric bill. That makes the actual payment about $100 a month for 10 years -- and the estimated life span of the system is 25 to 30 years.

The program takes advantage of Michigan's "net metering" law, in which utilities are required to allow homeowners to connect renewable energy systems to the grid. The systems thus reduce the homeowner's utility bill -- and in some cases, can even result in a credit, if the homeowner's system produces more electricity than what's used in the home.

The financing for the program comes from Michigan Saves, a nonprofit financing source for energy conservation that has assembled a consortium of local credit unions that lend the money at 7 percent interest.

If you're interested, visit and fill out a form to get your home's roof and location checked for suitability for the program. The system requires 360 square feet of available roof space and exposure to the south.

The energy office also provides MI Home Energy, a discounted home energy audit. Howrami Heeres said government financing reduces the cost of a complete home energy audit to $100, well below the $300 to $350 market rate.

MI Home Energy is the successor to the federal stimulus-funded Better Buildings for Michigan program, which retrofitted more than 4,000 homes in the Detroit area to the latest energy conservation standards and doubled existing utility incentives.

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