Search Stories: New energy for Ypsilanti, Michigan

9/21/11 | 11:00:00 AM

Labels:

Searches can become stories. Some are inspiring, some change the way we see the world, and some just put a smile on our face. This is the first in a series of posts about people who have used Google to discover or do something extraordinary. Have a story? Share it. - Ed.

Discovering stories about amazing people who use our products to do interesting (and often entertaining) things is one of the best parts of working on search at Google. Sometimes what people find changes their lives - and sometimes it changes their community or the world. It’s always fun to hear these stories, so we decided to share a few of our favorites with you.

Up first: Dave Strenski, whose curiosity about solar energy has driven the transformation of a small Michigan town. Dave is an engineer in Ypsilanti, near Detroit, who didn’t know a thing about solar technology six years ago. What began as a search for solar grants, turned into a search for ways to help his hometown turn increasingly solar and become the place to come for solar information. Now, Ypsilanti is a model for other communities and Dave has become a “solar guru.”


Dave began searching online when the manager of the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative expressed interest in putting solar panels on the roof of her store. Dave quickly found that all the information he needed was already on the Internet: grants available for solar installations, how to design a system, where to buy panels and the best way to put it all together.

As soon as they won their first grant, volunteers and friends rallied to help, and four solar panels were quickly mounted on the Coop’s roof. Since then, Dave has designed installations for Ypsilanti’s City Hall, River Street Bakery and the Adams School. To help monitor the economic impact of these installations, Dave and his volunteers invented an open-sourced program to track and visualize energy patterns.

Dave also began giving talks to educate the public on how solar power works, how it compares to other energy sources, metering, and the importance of efficiency. At every talk, he would be asked questions about topics he hadn’t yet explored. He would note them, go back to find the answers online, and be more knowledgeable for his next presentation.

When Dave began searching for all topics solar, the content he needed was spread across various sites. He has since collated and shared much of this information on SolarYpsi.com - creating a single source for others to discover and use. His wildest dream is to have a hundred locations in Ypsilanti running on solar power - all connected to SolarYpsi where their energy consumption is visualized in real-time. Because of Dave’s curiosity and determination to help his town, a snowy, cloudy corner of Michigan is becoming a solar destination.