Photo Courtesy of UM-Flint Outreach
Students from UM-Flint’s Entrepreneur Society have been working on a project aiming to save money for low-income residents.
To do so, they are in the works of building a renewable energy unit that can be installed on residents’ roofs.
“We researched similar, existing units and found that a unit that we desire does not exist at the price point we need,” said Todd Fridline, the project manager. “We also completed a full analysis of weather conditions in Flint based on data from 2018 and evaluated the potential efficiency and output of our proposed unit.”
The unit is a union of six solar panels and a wind turbine. The wind turbine would be about 5-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, standing vertical and rotating on its own axis. The solar panels, placed separately, would be about 3 feet by 2 feet.
The Flint Green team’s short-term goal for the project is to combine wind and solar energy to create an all-in-one unit for residents, which will cut costs from their energy bills.
“ … Right now, no one in this community is pursuing a solar wind energy [unit] on an urban application. If we can do that so that it makes sense financially, this would be a major accomplishment,” said Michael Witt, Entrepreneur Society advisor and founder. “ … we think it’s going to have a pretty significant impact on how we generate power for homes over the next 50 years.”
Within the team are four ES members: Fridline, Engineering Specialist Elijah Madar, Assistant Project Manager Carryn White and Marketing Specialist Elisabeth Hamilton.
The project is currently split into two phases. The first phase, which started in May and ended in September, was an evaluation period for the team to make sure the ideal unit was possible at a certain price point. The second phase is now underway, focusing on funding and production of the unit.
The team is searching for funding through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to complete this next part of the project, which entails building a prototype. They are hoping to receive at least $10,000 for the first unit, with some extra money in case of an emergency or needing additional parts.
“For the whole project, to do 30 plus solar panels and wind turbine units for 30 houses we’re looking to generate $300,000,” said Madar. “That’s the ideal scenario.”
The estimated cost of an installed unit would be $5,964. But, with available tax credits the net cost of the unit would be reduced to $2,814 for the consumer. Residents would have to file for the tax credits in order to receive the full benefits of the cut cost.
“This is drastically lower than the market average for a unit of this size. This is a cost effective unit that is also robust and can improve the lives of Flint residents,” Fridline said.
If the team receives funding and the units are installed and tested during phase two, they will then evaluate potential for a non-profit or company to be created in order to keep up the production of these units.
“This would create local jobs and a new startup company in Flint. This has already been discussed,” said Fridline.
The completion of phase two is estimated to take about eight months to a year, with the first few months being spent securing funding, sourcing parts, assembling and installing. Once the units are installed they will have to be tested in the targeted areas for a period of time yet to be determined.
“It is estimated to last several months for accurate measurement,” said Fridline.
While there is no set time for when the project will be completed, the team is proud of the progress they have made so far and are hoping to receive funding to complete the work they’re looking to accomplish in the future.
“We are extremely proud of the hard work our team put into this project. We were able to achieve our goal of an affordable wind and solar unit,” said Fridline. “Our projections for the unit indicate that it will reduce the energy bill of the average home in Flint [$84 a month] by 36% [or $30.24]. We hope that we are able to find funding for the next step of the project so we can implement the unit on homes in Flint and make an even greater impact on our community.”
This story originally appeared in the Nov. 11 print issue of The Michigan Times.