An unlikely location in the Midwest is setting up to be a locus of solar activity: Detroit, Michigan, former world auto industry capital as famed for its Model-Ts as it was for its smoke-belching factories, is also at the center of a pilot solar incentive program offered by utility company DTE Energy Co. through its subsidiary Detroit Edison. With Michigan shooting for a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 10 percent by 2015, however, the pressure is on for utilities to deliver—and DTE has stepped up to the plate. SolarCurrents, as the $25 million Detroit Edison program is called, provides rebates of $2.40/watt—or, $2,400 per kilowatt—of installed solar capacity, a lucrative rebate that could set off the price of a 5 kW system by a hefty $12,000. It applies to solar photovoltaic systems between 1 kW and 20 kW in installed capacity, and the program will accommodate only up to 5 MW of installations, so get your foot in the door while you can.
It may only be a matter of time before America’s Rust Belt sheds its image of faded glory for a new moniker that is about as green as it is snazzy, because a new industry has come to town and hit the ground running. At Solar Power International 2009, officials from Ohio sung praises of the Buckeye State’s potential for solar, despite its smoke-belching past and a history of Sunbelt governors trying to lure Midwestern businesses with tax breaks and a union-free workforce. But with federal incentives and a powerful “Buy American” mentality—as well as a growing national desire for energy efficiency, or so we like to think—to motivate renewable energy companies, at few of them have headed for Detroit and the Northeastern industrial states to set up shop.