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Solar Cities Program

 Solar America Cities logo

In 2007, Ann Arbor was designated by the US Department of Energy (DOE) as a Solar America City. The resulting Ann Arbor Solar City Partnership received $200,000 in DOE funding and an additional $200,000 in technical assistance. Add in $232,000 in matching funds from partners and Solar Cities is a two-year, $632,000 project to integrate solar energy throughout the Ann Arbor community.

Ann Arbor Solar America Cities Partnership

If Ann Arbor, a city known more for clouds than sunshine, can become a ʺSolar Cityʺ and demonstrate that solar energy can provide a positive contribution to the community in jobs and clean, renewable energy, then any city in the US can follow our lead.
   Solar America Cities Sign at Farmers Market
10 kW solar panels at the Farmers Market

Accomplishments to Date

Thanks to the Solar America City Partnership, our residents can now look up information about their propertyʹs solar access and estimated solar energy production on the cityʹs website. The database was built with help from University of Michigan students.

Also helping to get the word out to residents about solar energy is a new 10 kW photovoltaic (PV) system at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, which serves as a flagship installation for the community, visible to thousands of market‐goers every Saturday and during week hours. Installed in 2008, the system was funded by local matching funds from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and supplies about one-third of the energy needs of the market office and vendor stalls.


The panels are Unisolar brand laminant PV that rolls directly onto the green standing seem roofs above the vendor stalls. The Energy Office is working with the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to create a computerized kiosk display that reads off the electrical generation data and other facts about the solar installation to bring even greater visibility to the project. You can view data now at the Sunny Portal link here or at right. The Farmers Market system is about 2.5 to 5 times the size of a system that a typical home would require.  See this How to Go Solar brochure if you are interested in installing a solar PV system on your home and learn about DTE's great new Solar Currents rebate program that can potentially halve the costs and pay you for the electricity you generate.


And making sure we continue to lead by example, Ann Arbor utilized technical assistance from Sandia National Labs and CH2M‐Hill, to assess the feasibility of installing solar energy—both PV and thermal—at five city facilities.

During the assessments, a local nonprofit energy auditor was trained in the assessment process to build local capacity and complete future assessments at a reduced cost. The city facility assessments will be used to make a decision regarding the location of the cityʹs next major solar demonstration project. Additionally, our project partner Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association held solar energy informational workshops, continued the Go Solar Ann Arbor aggregate purchasing program, and trained Ann Arbor teachers on solar energy curricula. These education and outreach efforts are vital to increasing the awareness and acceptance of solar energy use in Ann Arbor.
Finally, another project partner, Clean Energy Coalition, has been conducting market research, including focus groups, interviews of key market actors, and a review of the relevant literature to provide background for the city of Ann Arbor Solar Plan (2.6 MB). 

Future Plans 

All of our work to date points to the need to continue offering assistance—both financial and technical—to residents and businesses to encourage the use of solar energy. There is still work to be done in education and outreach, and there is still a financing gap that must be covered before solar can go mainstream. We are beginning to develop financing strategies that can assist our residents, but we will have great difficulty in following a program through to completion without assistance above and beyond the existing Solar America Cities program. 

Solar City Partners

Partner Commitment

Ann Arbor District Library

Provide meeting space, set up displays at libraries

City of Ann Arbor - Community Development

Explore use of solar in green affordable housing

City of Ann Arbor - Emergency Preparedness

Explore solar for use in emergency management

City of Ann Arbor - Energy Fund

Develop solar energy at City-owned facilities

City of Ann Arbor - Energy Office

Grant management and project coordination

Clean Energy Coalition

Solar plan development; financial management and bookkeeping

Downtown Development Authority

Explore solar potential at DDA facilities

Ecology Center

Publicize program in newsletter, on website

Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association

Installer training; consumer education

Hands on Museum

Donating staff time to develop solar exhibits

Michigan Energy Office

$10,000 in additional funding

Next Energy

Provide demonstration technologies for pilot tests

U of M Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute

Solar Plan review, multi-disciplinary student project

United Solar Ovonic

Discounts on solar collectors

Washtenaw County

Project promotion, explore solar at County facilities




Check Out
What's New!

US Department of Energy: Ann Arbor Solar Cities profile


Ann Arbor Solar Plan: Final Draft
 (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Executive Summary


Solar Data from the Farmers Market!
Check out the
Sunny Portal to find out how much electricity the solar panels at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market produce. Sunny Portal Screenshot

See the new Leslie Science Center website and learn about their solar project at the Nature House, click here! 



How to Go Solar
in Ann Arbor (PDF)

Farmers Market Goes Solar Brochure (PDF)

Solar Energy Green Sheet (PDF)

Solar City Project Summary (PDF)

Site Assessment of City Facilities (PDF, 3 MB)


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