By Erin Crowell
The best market for solar is out over parking lots, architect Robert
Noble said in a May 2010 Green Tech Media article. The founder of the
California-based company, Envision Solar, realized back in 2007 that
parking lot and carport roofs were ideal for collecting solar power.
The idea has been adopted on the roof of the new Old Town parking deck
in Traverse City. Currently under construction, the $7.9 million,
four-level structure will be home to one of the largest solar arrays
north of Muskegon.
This is a huge array, says Matthew Vajda, owner of Voltage Electric,
the Traverse City company which received the electrical bid on the
The 186-panel, 40.2 kilowatt array will provide close to 15% of the
structures total energy needs.
Residential solar systems typically run around 5 kilowatts, which is
still a pretty large system, Vajda says. The 40.2 kilowatt array is
the largest north of Grand Rapids. Theyre currently building a larger
system in Muskegon.
The Old Town parking deck project is managed by CWS Architects, the TC
firm responsible for such projects as the much-anticipated Grand
Traverse YMCA building on Silver Lake Road and the Cathedral Barn at
the Grand Traverse Commons.
Having worked on other projects with Voltage Electric, CWS architect
Ray Kendra was comfortable with using the company as the solar
installer. We are one of just a few local companies that won bids on
the parking deck, says Vajda. Its very exciting.
Vajda agrees that a parking deck is an optimal location for using solar.
For one thing, youve got the real estate. Youve got the roof a
space that you wouldnt use for anything else. Second, the electricity
is right where you need it, versus racks upon racks in the middle of a
field. Also, because its a LEED certified job (an economical and
environmental standard set by the U.S. Green Building Council), you
get more return on your investment doing solar, versus planting some
trees or shrubs, he adds.
Although solar is priceythis particular endeavor costing around
$240,000the return is about 20 years, a huge payback according to
Vajda, who also serves as a board member on the Home Builders
Currently, Michigan is limited in its solar incentives, but Vajda
believes that will change soon.
Green building is something Im strongly in favor of and we really
just want to be ahead of the curve, he adds.
Vajda anticipates solar array installation on the parking deck will be
completed sometime by the end of June, beginning of July.
Contact Voltage Electric at
231-946-3678 or visit them online at