Solar power for NEO

Submitted by More Better on Tue, 11/08/2005 - 10:51.

Thoughts regarding solar power as an alternative energy resource for NEO

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Solar Power : What's going on now?

I'd love to know more about solar projects going on in NEO - I know there is good work being done on photovoltaics in Oberlin, for example.  I also know that Green Energy Ohio does an annual 'Solar Tour' where they bus folks around to check out all the exciting implementations of solar power in the vicinity.  Their site also features a section on Solar power, among other alternative energy sources.

Who is in the solar community in NEO

I know a few people in Cleveland interested in solar. I'm interested to know the scope of the community right now, and what are the best opportunities for the future, in this region. Anyone have insight about this?

local solar interest

Check the Green Building Coalition, Green Energy Ohio, Entrepreneurs for Sustainability, and the Green Party, just for a start.  And don't forget Blue Sky - maybe that's not the exact name of Gary Cole's company.  Michael Stephens has done solar installations, but has been working on passive solar greenhouses lately.  Coit Road Farmers' Market would eventually like solar.  I think there's also a link to a solar interest group on the Kucinich website, too, but am only positive that there is one for wind power.  East Cleveland's Chambers Elementary has solar, as does the African-American History Museum.

Is the African American History Museum open?

Thanks, Pat. You mention the African American History Museum - is that open these days?

I would think the Office of

I would think the Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) in the State of Ohio needs to continue to evolve their incentives and programming to continue to nudge the adaptation of this technology along.   A link to our states incentives for Energy Efficiency can be found here:


I understand that one of Clevelands sustainability based nonprofit organizations employes a former highranking official from Ohio's OEE.  I believe she may a former director.  If that is accurate perhaps we can invite her here to shed some light (pun intended) and help folks interested in solar on the north coast to connect with folks at the state level.


On June 12th 2006 the California Solar Initiative was passed by the California Public Utilties Commission.   The initiative is an unprecidented $3.2 billion solar incentive program spread accross 11 years that aims to deploy 3 gigawatts of solar energy or the equvalent of one million solar powered homes.     As usual Cali is leading the pack.  For more info about this states approach click here

We could learn alot from the left coasters ! 



Solar (and stellar) thoughts


thanks.. the Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) sounds like a great leverage point.  That link is much appreciated. We should determine the best channels to network with and contact them, and your suggestion to identify a local inroad to that organization sounds like a great start. For far too long, we have maintained disconnects with state authorities - education is a perfect example where this has been the case.  We really need to raise awareness of these sustainability issues with our state representatives and congresspeople.  Eric Fingerhut has recently moved his headquarters to the building I work in, and there is distinct opportunity if a future governor (for example)  were exposed to some of these topics and gained appreciation for these major sustainability initiatives. We should strive to connect with all our potential and current civic leaders to effectively inform them of the critical nature of these issues.

The California model you've mentioned could be a great model for our region to benchmark against and follow.  Again the link is appreciated.

These are very interesting and relevant comments John, thanks so much and as always, your perspectives are valued.  We'll be in touch soon,


I am with you Norm. I also

I am with you Norm.  I also know several folks interested in Solar and I am personally interested in getting more up to speed as far as who is doing what locally.   I think I know just the person for the task... I will send an email invite to Erika Weliczko to come in here and perhaps drop some solar science on us.  


Erika is the propriator of a fine locally owned and locally operated solar  and wind firm RePower Solutions online at::


To me solar is an ultra hip green energy source that seems to becoming more and more mainstream and affordable.  Honda just announced in the last few weeks that it will begin opening up PV manufacturing facilities in Japan in the very near future.  Their target is the home owner.. when they put their minds to something that company is capable of doing it right.

Click here for Honda's press release:


I really love the idea of having a home array.  With one of those on hand, virtually anything you plug into it becomes greener a bit ay?  As soon as I get one set up I am going to go to, buy one, plug it in.. and give myself a more sustainable haircut.  Sounds crazy but I might just be giving myself the greenest haircut available. Or at least the greenest cut that uses clippers. Obviously human powered scissors would have lower embodied energy and decreased lifecycle impacts...until you factored in the chromium plating on the scissors and of course your stylist could have flown in from some exotic location... but I think scissors may still win.  Grrrr.    I wonder if anyone in NE Ohio has a copy of some lifecycle assessment modeling software I could borrow to run the numbers.





(c) bsi 2004 -taken near the Harp on the West Shoreway May 2004 Cleveland, Ohio.  Used with permission from:

Let's create more home-grown solar awareness

Definitely get in touch with your solar and wind friend and have her post insight and contact info here. It would be very cool to learn more and see how solar fits into NEO resident (and business) lifestyles.

At the industrial level, I know Sustainable Cleveland is working on large scale renewable best practices, if you know anyone into that have them share insight here as well.

energy foot print

Grist had a link to a website that allows people to compute their own "footprint."  You can probably find it by searching their website, but I'll see whether I can trace it in my folders.

solar in NEO

One of the most common questions I get is "Does solar work in Cleveland?"

Well, yes. But we are not California, sun-wise or legislatively.

The Solar Tour is a good thing to check out to see real systems.

The American Solar Energy Society is having the annual conference here in Cleveland in 2007. This will be great for Cleveland and Ohio.

Federal tax credits and state grant dollars are attracting attention.

That is the quick update on solar happenings in NEO as I see it.


Thanks Erika for the brief

Thanks Erika for the brief overview. 


What are the benifits of shopping locally for this sort of gear vs. fetching the PV from any old ebayer etc?  Do locally purchased PV panels come with tech support or vouchers for sunny days?  ;-)

SOLAR not $ in OHIO


Hello ZM,

For the past several years Dr. Philip Taylor and his wife Sarah have gratiously opened their home in Cleveland Heights for tour during the alternative energy week end sponsored by GEO.  Dr. and Mrs. Taylor made a serious investment in PV - about $10,000.00.  It produces, and runs their meter in reverse to almost cancel their bills, but considering their investment, is not a money winner. (depreciation, interest lost on investment, etc)

Solar in Ohio is not for making money (yet) but for showing your ideals and guts and helping mature the industry.  The state has weak incentives and the sun is low and the sky cloudy, and there is no direct money payment for PV's lack of negative externalities (pollution).  

However, this is an industrial legacy area where one could make PV panels (FIRST SOLAR, near Toledo is a PV manufacturer) and solar tracking mechanisms for panels (which generally double the panels output).  

 I will bet that if you put the same amount of money(as one was intending to sink into PV)  into additional insulation and improved efficiency boiler and lighting - the return on investment would be greater (but not as interesting) than PV.

I'm all for smart energy - but you have to pick your fights!

sure, but . . .

First one insulates, turns the heat down, gets a point of use water heater, converts to SCF lightbulbs, etc.  That is extremely cost effective.  Geothermal heating and cooling is also extremely cost-effective, paying for itself in 0 - 6 years, according to Jim MacMillan of Karpinsky Engineering.  [Jim was the first LEED certified engineer in the state of Ohio.]  That 6 years was computed using last year's energy prices, though, and may be much faster now.  Solar comes later.  Remember to figure in the advantages re decreased air pollution, decreased incentive to use hazardous nuclear power, etc.   These all have both personal and societal costs that are rarely figured into our cost/benefit analyses.

sunny days

Here in cleveland we are about 50/50 cloudy not cloudy days, based on 25 or so years of weather data. We have an average of 4 FULL sun hours every day on an annual basis.  Germany has less sun than we do but is forging ahead with aggressive solar installations - all driven by policy.

Solar is not the panacea for any region of the world, it is one of a number of technology options that can play a role. Here in Cleveland, our sun is comparable to Boston and Chicago. I believe this is another area where Cleveland needs to get over its inferiority complex.

As far as economic feasibility, we do not buy cars with the intent of using them as money makers. Energy systems can be treated as an investment like stocks and bonds. There have been some studies that show the investment in solar can be equal to or better than investments in something like bonds. The important question is what is valued and how do you assign a value? (pollution, independence, security, fixed costs, local control) See Home Power magazine for one example.






How do you begin using renewable energy

I think you make excellent points. Assuming I am sold on investing in renewable energy for my home, where do I begin the process of learning the options, planning a strategy and budget, buying the equipment and getting it up and running... seems Spring would be a good time of year to make the investment.

Repower Solutions is a place to start

Actually, I can answer my own question with one set of FAQ I just found at the Repower Solutions website, at

There, it also says they conduct workshops - nothing scheduled... that could be interesting.

Any other suggestions? 

Progressive Policies - solar in scotland

while i understand that innovative solar applications in scotland are a result of innovative policy, I think that a project like the ECTP could (or already has) leverage the funding needed to do a project being done in scotland which takes light poles an turns them into solar powered wi-fi, led lightpoles. in cloudy scotland no less. the redesign of Euclid would have benefitted from something like this since lighting and wi-fi were priorities and the $$ was already there. we only lack the policy or perhaps the educated populace to act as the incentive.

scotland innovation here >

Now that we're educated, is it too late?

That's cool. Add this to the sustainability best practice opportunity database for NEO - perhaps it isn't too late for the corridor, and there are plenty of other huge urban improvement opportunities coming up, and we need to know all we can do to enhance the outcomes.


I believe we have the knowledge here to do smart things like this if we work openly together.

other solar technology

People seem to be commenting primarily on the more traditional rigid crystalline panels, which perform much better when carefully aimed because they essentially turn off when they are in shade.  The newer, thin (and often flexible) panels are more effective in partial light and are claimed to be much better for NE Ohio's overcast days.  The company in Ohio that makes them has been bought-out by a German firm, and they are currently back-ordered everywhere I look, as are the comparable ones made elsewhere.

Responding to the questions/comments about the former OEE director, I believe people are referring to Elaine Barnes, the executive director of the Green Building Coalition, which is housed in the Environmental Center on W. 25th Street.  I'm sure she would be happy to address the group.  Her email address is:  <elaine [at] clevelandgbc [dot] org>

Solar Wind Hybrid Systems equate to zoning a war party

Not wanting to get to into the weeds on an overly technical tip... I understand that thin film / flexi panels come at a significantly higher price point than the more widely available rigid panels... on a price per watt basis.   Thus far I have only seen the flexi deployed in field type applications where ruggederization to a military specification is a norm.


On the flip side, around a year ago I pulled together a proposal for a client to take his business off the grid.  Energy and intellectual property were his core business inputs, his outputs were 1's and 0's (programming) so this made sense for him.  Anyway after doing the initial metering to obtain his energy consumption per machine... and looking at solar exposure of his property and cleveland in general.... it became abundantly clear that he would need a hybrid solar / wind system in order to be most cost effective.  In the winter we have more wind than sun.  Ironically, though he lives down the street from Brush Highschool (named after the inventor of the first electricity generating windmill in the world), after legal research we determined my client would be precluded from taking the hybrid approach because a windmill would be regulated (zoned) just like a cell phone tower.  Not in my back yard.    So he is currently looking for a new home for his business... with zoning in mind.


Really fascinating - where can one build personal wind?

Your story of a programmer who wants to move off the grid is very cool.

As one follow-up, do you know where one is already allowed to install personal wind power generation capacity and what are the restrictions?

Also, I was thinking about our business, which I believe uses very little "power" (also a high tech company) and how it may move off the grid. We're in the Caxton Building in downtown Cleveland, which I suspect could have good wind and sun resources - if the building owner is willing, could we install wind and solar here? Where would we begin to look at the possibilities?



It seems to me that a frequent hang up with alternative energy production - ie wind&sun - is the assumption  that the physical production equipment needs to be located on the building where one works or lives - where you feel you are "using" the energy.  This is a shortsighted assumption.   If you have money to invest in a wind turbine, don't fight residential zoning laws - or commit to putting the equipment at a less than optimal site (eg Great Lakes Sciene Center turbine)  - look to the best regional placement and production location.

Anywhere you locate a wind turbine on the CPP grid, it will have the same environmental benefit as if it were installed on the Caxton Bldg.  So why not look for a site where the use and height of a wind turbine are already approved by zoning - the owner of that site can credit you for your investment against the savings (allowed under the Ohio net metering program) which the site owner obtains. 

As an example, the Cleveland FoodBank warehouse next to 90 in east Cleveland has a good wind exposure and great public exposure from the highway.   Why not invest in a machine there - or somewhere similar - rather than fight putting one up in Shaker Heights or downtown Cleveland?  You will most likely have better electrical production, lower installation costs, and no regulatory hassles. 

The best solution would be to create a "smart energy zone" thoughout appropriate commercial and industrial areas in Cleveland where permits were pre-approved for wind and solar and biomass.  Then, anyone in Ohio,  or from where-ever,  could with certainty purchase and install a turbine/tower and have it connected to CPP grid.  Maybe Dear Peter would want to fund a machine or fund a new type of wind or solar equipment. 

Such a zone would create unique value in NEO and help create the type of innovation cluster that I-Open keeps pounding away about.  Or we could fund a casino or convention center*. 

[*Joe, after 20 odd years of same-ole same-ole, what about Greater Cleveland Partnership funding a Smart Energy Park? Now that WOULD bring visitors to Cleveland.]


Distributed generation is

Distributed generation is great in my opinion... especially if your a power company and you need to install dozens of turbines, 1000's of pv panels, etc, to green your grid... and environmental impact assessments mandated under the National Enviornmental Policy Act (NEPA) limit the size of your installations (say in western states where states actually will enforce federal enviro laws).   


On the other hand I have several industrial and governmental clients who employ a boat load of alternitive power generation strategies... from fuel cells to wind turbines... and they typically install at their site.  Whether it is because their site is ideally located, or perhaps as more often is the case, they are willing to spend a little more to install a system that is not ideally placed in order to be able to obtain the 'soft benifits' from an alternitive energy generation project.  Soft benifits include things like people talking about how great so and so is on online forums because of their new roof top PV installation that powers their forums (aka Green PR).  Soft benifits should not be marginalized because its the educational and PR / marketing benifits that push other 'for profits' into thinking about doing what their competitors are doing.  If RealNeo dropped the loot on PV system install in the AZ desert... it still goes into the grid... only the distance make it harder for the folks that spent the money, to point to it, show it off, use it as a learning tool etc.    

How to make East Cleveland eco-friendly?

A group of people are coming together to help East Cleveland develop a sustainability strategy, which will of course include renewable energy and conservation. As this forum has lots of good ideas and expertise, can any of you suggest some ways East Cleveland could leverage renewable energy in particular. In making suggestions, consider the realities of the East Cleveland location (on a bluff near the lake) and large amounts of open space (Forrest Hills Park, McGregor, land bank, etc.) and the large amount of public attention and money being pumped into turning the community around - and the presence of GE Lighting there - what can be done there to make the community more sustainable and eco-friendly?

Possible ideas / steps for RealNeo to get unplugged!

Norm,  I would venture a guess that it has alot to do with zoning laws.  Not to say that wind would be out of the question for your roof... there are plenty of buildings with microturbines on them that should not make the zoning police excited at all.  Granted, I am sure it will take just a few days for us to be told how inefficient those sort of systems are.    There are pro's and cons with every selection.   The Resort Municipality of Whistler, BC for instance wanted greener power.. but there was no way the local enviros would stand for large scale hydro in that neck of the woods.  Whistler now has microhydro turbines (over 10 of em last I was up there) installed.  In place of 1 big ol dam, they have 10 little ponds.  You could do the same with wind.


To begin to look at the possibilities I would get up the curve first and also begin metering your usage (if your landlord does not have you submetered), and start contemplating strategy.  

Do you want to make this whole distributed collaboration forum project greener by taking these forums off the grid, or perhaps your entire office?

I think grid tied, scalable PV, & micro wind would be very nice on your roof.  Right beside a green roof garden... but that really depends on roof access.  It would be cool.  Let me know if I can be of any assistance!

Viable renewable energy project?

Now we are getting somewhere. The Caxton Building, where REALNEO resides, is a great NEO historic landmark and the owner manages it very well. He has already installed some sophisticated energy management technologies and would certainly be receptive to more. If he could help take REALNEO and anything else with his building off the grid, he will jump at the opportunity.

The nice thing about doing this here, at the Caxton, is we have many very powerful comunity leaders in and around this building so the region will be well aware of any initiatives we do there. Also, we are in a high visibility location near the Q, Jake and site of the future County government complex.

Long story short, I will arrange a meeting with the owner of the Caxton and schedule next steps to audit renewable energy opportunities for the building. Anyone who wants to help figure this out, watch this forum or email nrom [at] realinks [dot] us

Green Building strategy for Caxton?

Okay - I spoke with the owner of the Caxton Building and he is fully supportive of analyzing the green building opportunties for this historic landmark... for a brief time, the tallest building in Cleveland.

So, whoever is into this, let's get together next week at the Caxton for a walk through... let's shoot for a nice day, as we'll be hitting the roof. Who's interested? 

ZM is way down.. but out of town until Thursday

Norm... I am way pumped your landlord is willing to explore the greening of such a historic building and would mos def enjoy collaborative visioneering of a green building strat for your landlord.  I will be out of town Thurs of this week thru EOB wednesday of next week.  If at all possible, I would vote for scheduling this in around 3 on Friday March 3rd.   Please email me directly if this gets set up.. or ring me (SR has the digits).. as I will be in remote areas of the high Wasatch Range recharging nature batteries and away from the computer for most of the time out of town.    Again grande kudos for charging ahead!    

Greening the Caxton: March 3

Zebra Mussel is leading the charge on this one - I'm the network weaver. We want to put together a green plan for the historic Caxton Building. The owner is a smart guy who has already installed sensors and timers on lights, etc. - and he is very interested in other realistic plans to make his building better. So, if you want to help, post on your ideas and interest here - we will plan to survey the property March 3 at 3PM.

it would be benificial if...

Weaver beaver... it would be benificial if we had a list of what he has done some point.


You have mentioned sensors (are they motion for lights or Co2 sensors for HVAC?). If we are going to do it, we should grab what all he has so far... and think about establishing baselines for comparisons.


Of course 'hard cost' baselines and metrics like NG usage or kwH are easier to quantify/develop as opposed to soft cost metrics/ baselines like pledging to use only zero voc paint in the future to promote improved indoor air quality.   Like hard costs...soft costs are an incredably worth while investment I feel.    Other leading areas of soft cost research w/respect to green building include access to natural light and art.  Can you believe it, folks are starting to quantify employee retention with and without access to natural light. 

Makes sense that natural light makes a better worker bee.. especially up here in the cold grey north (the land of seasonal affective disorder).

If possible, perhaps we can start at one end of the Caxton and work to the other.  Lets see the roof, lets see the basement...  any rodenticiding or insecticiding going on down there (food service equals bugs)... well then lets talk about Integrated Pest Managment (IPM).. ..and often overlooked area of holistic green building managment.   I mean sure chemical controls are a part of the equation.. but only a part... and I think they are best consdiered after structural, mechanical, and predatory controls have been exhausted.

Top to bottom

The Caxton has motion sensors - not sure what else, but we can go from the roof to the basement, talk with the owner and maintenance team, etc. This will be interesting and the findings will apply to lots of properties in the area, I'm sure.

Double pane glazing first

I will place a small bet on new double pane glazing as the most efficatious expenditure for energy saving at Caxton.  Not very sexy, but the change that will do the most to reduce global warming.  Anyway....

double or triple

depends on the gas purge.  argon is hot these days.. not very thermally conductive.. but considering its location I sort of assumed Caxton is heated off the steam grid right?     Flipping coal burning dirty dog.   I need to look into how they are doing on their air permit compliance over there.  I heard Mr Waterson was thinking of doing something greener than coal.  Perhaps some PR for any noncompliances could help drive the wheels of change... but I digress. 

I believe it is on the steam grid

Paul Alsenas pointed out to me that the little power plant along the Cuyahoga, right below the Jake, is a steam plant that feeds the area - the Caxton has a sign that it was originally heated by that grid - I don't know if that is still the case, but we'll find out.

Historic landmark with original functional windows

Keep in mind the Caxton is on the National Register as a historic landmark, and so has the original wood windows, which open (and there are lots of them, and they are huge). As a tennant I can say we like having functional windows.

today at 3

looking forward to Greening the caxton at 3 today!

 lets plan to head over to Green drinks at sarava on shaker square via the Green line afterwards.


3 o'clock on 3/3

im with ZM on the time as my schedule just happens to be open at that time as well!


i'm also interested in learning how we can remedy the bldg owner's resistance to  allowing the city to place a recycling dumpster on his property.  it could be a model that other downtown bar districts to follow, which i suppose is part of the problem.  no one wants to be the guinea pig for a new idea.


regardless, count me in!  

Greening the Caxton

I am really excited to see the development on this thread.  Norm, ZM, I'm with you 100% - count me in for the meeting on the 3rd.  This will fit nicely with the recycling and composting plans that are in the works.  I've wanted to learn more about the specific strategies that can be implemented to drive greater eco-efficiency in buildings, and as Norm mentioned the applications we successfully implement and tie metrics to at 'home' would be useful models to apply in areas of great opportunity like East Cleveland.

These are exciting times! 

Caxton Green Vision

    Count me in too for rooftop visioning. See you at 3 on 3/3.

Blogging by "LED Solar Yard Light" Light During Earth Hour

I am sitting here typing by the light of my solar LED yard lights that I brought into the house about 1/2 an hour ago, at the beginning of Earth Hour.

Most people don't realize that the solar yard lights are a complete self-contained solar power system, including a solar panel, batteries, a photocell, and some charge control circuitry to keep the solar cell from over charging the battery.

...and, they are much safer to have in the house than candles. I just have the tops of the lights (the working part) sitting on the top of drinking glasses, which helps to reflect the light in different directions.

I had read a post somewhere on line that one could use the solar yard lights in a power outage situation, but Earth Hour gave me a chance to take the idea for a "test drive".



By refusing to deal honorably with others, you dishonor yourself.