Improving Michigan's Solar Energy

Improving Michigan's Solar Energy

Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 13. Climate Action

Overview

The solar panels support the mission to offer both commercial and residential solar energy throughout Michigan. Solar energy is especially well suited to providing consumers with affordable and clean energy. The innovation lies in taking the newest solar technology to a geographic market that had previously been seen as non-lucrative, by using real time data to support the usage of solar panels.

Authors

Michael Bridges

Michael Bridges

Gerald Morsovillo

Gerald Morsovillo

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart

School

Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University

Professor

Timothy Palmer

Timothy Palmer

Innovation

Solar Winds Power Systems helps rural Michigan homeowners reduce their solar footprints through the use of renewable solar power - a source that had not previously been utilized. This requires the firm to explain to prospective customers that solar panels are effective and efficient. They can last over sixty years and pay for themselves in about ten years. Solar Winds Power Systems is also a vetted partner with the Sierra Club Solar Partner Program. The Sierra Club decided to partner with Solar Winds because they were seeking a professional solar partner in Michigan with a strong product offering and excellent customer service.

Solar Winds doesn’t view their employees merely as everyday nine to five workers. Solar Winds employees also have second jobs as contractors. This flexibility allows for the employees to work on other jobs if Solar Winds is in a slower season.

To help reinforce the energy benefits of the solar installation, Solar Winds provides live data of customers' installed panels on the company website. This allows consumers to go online and check exactly how much energy their panels have been saving them. They will install their panels anywhere, whether that be on a house, business, or even a barn. The company motto is “it’s about the customer’s needs, not ours.” Solar Winds prides themselves on their ability to meet their goal of “being perfect for the next project.”

Improving Michigan's Solar Energy

Inspiration

Mike Linsea has always had an interest in solar power, and its capabilities. Linsea studied solar energy when he attended college in the 1970s, however, the technology available at that time did not allow for Linsea to follow his passion, so he put his dreams on hold. At the turn of the century Mike Linsea was approached by a friend, who wanted to put solar panels on his barn. Linsea agreed to put six panels on the barn's roof. Time passed and eventually Linsea increased the number of panels to 70. The nearby home is now fully-powered by solar energy.

That initial job motivated Linsea to begin pursuing his dream of competing in the solar panel business. Mike Linsea then created Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC. in 2008, with their focus on quality and jobs. By focusing on the smaller jobs, Linsea found a way into the market and the quality of his work brought in more business. Linsea never looks too far ahead for his goals. Rather, the goal, says Linsea is to “do quality work on the next project.”


Overall impact

Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC. has installed solar panels around the State of Michigan, including the cities of Kalamazoo, Houghton, Lansing, and Saginaw. Solar Winds has an interesting feature on their website (https://www.thesolarwinds.com) where viewers can see a live feed of energy being stored by real installations. The viewer can see a picture of the solar panels and are showed the current power, the energy from this month, and the history of that particular solar panel over the past four years. It also gives the customer the ability to see if their solar panel is not working properly: if its numbers aren't consistent with historical data. Data from other solar panels can also be seen, so customers can compare statistics, and how effective their solar panels are in comparison to similar panels at other installations.

Live statistics reassure customers about their decision to invest in solar panels. Most potential customers worry about the upfront cost of buying into solar energy, and there is some logic to this concern. The payback period for solar installations can be up to 10 years. By seeing live feedback of the solar energy their panels are generating, customers are reassured about their investment.


Business benefit

Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC. took a simple idea, solar panels, and added the extra benefit of real time data. Some have questioned the effectiveness of solar power in Michigan because the state doesn't get as much direct sun as other states. The real time data allows for customers to have evidence that their solar panels were a good investment. The feature of real time data has been a significant differentiator for the company.

Solar Winds has greatly increased its volume of business, not only in the number of projects completed, but also the number of solar panels sold. Customers either need to install their first solar panels or increase the number that they already have. For people who are interested in solar energy, acquiring some solar panels can lead to wanting more. Saving energy and being more “green” can make people want to install more panels than they originally planned. The installation of solar panels across the State of Michigan by Solar Winds have allowed for millions of watt-hours to be saved.

Social and environmental benefit

There are a wide variety of benefits to society and the environment for using solar energy and Solar Winds has played a significant role in supporting renewable energy in Michigan. We are especially proud that Solar Winds sold and installed the solar panels found across our campus at Western Michigan University. Before their work at WMU, Solar Winds won the Kalamazoo Chamber Environmental Award in 2012. This award is given to a business that exhibits exemplary practices in operating in an environmentally friendly manner or that has made a significant contribution to an environmental process, program, or improvement.

Interview

Mike Linsea, Student

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Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC.

Solar Winds Power Systems, LLC.

Shelbyville, MI, US

Business Website: https://www.thesolarwinds.com/

Year Founded: 2008

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Solar Winds Power Systems, located in Shelbyville, MI, was established in 2008 by Mike Linsea. The company provides renewable energy solutions throughout all of Michigan. Solar Winds has had over 200 successful installations and more customer references than they have time to call. Solar Winds also provides live data on their website of their installed panels.