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Posted on Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

Google, McKinley partner to install solar panels, build outdoor terrace at downtown Ann Arbor office building

By Nathan Bomey

Google Inc. is collaborating with real estate firm McKinley Inc. to install solar panels on the roof of the search engine's office building in downtown Ann Arbor.


Construction workers make preparations to install solar panels on the roof of Google's Ann Arbor office building, the McKinley Towne Centre.

Nathan Bomey |

Officials from both companies said they believe it to be the largest photovoltaic solar panel installation in Washtenaw County, though that could not be independently confirmed.

The companies are also collaborating to build a 4,800-square-foot outdoor deck above the Bar Louie restaurant on the southwest side of the 240,000-square-foot McKinley Towne Centre office building that Google employees will be able to access.

Executives from Google and Ann Arbor-based McKinley said they are sharing the costs of the upgrades, but they declined to offer details. They said they view their collaboration as an example of how companies can work together with landlords to adopt renewable energy technology to enhance the workplace.

"Our real emphasis is on making sure that (in) our partnership with McKinley, we are setting an example and being leaders in green," said Mike Miller, who leads Google's Ann Arbor office. "I think what you see when you talk to Googlers is they've got incredible passion about all things green and environmental concerns. It's important for us to show leadership both in the local office in Ann Arbor, Michigan and also on the global stage."

Miller said the solar panels would generate an estimated 22,000 kilowatt-hours of power over the course of a year, which is equivalent to about two to three homes.

The other tenants of McKinley Towne Centre will benefit from the energy savings from the solar panels, McKinley CEO Albert Berriz said. The building also houses economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK, law firm Bodman and TechArb, a student-led business incubator run by the University of Michigan.

"I think that without question McKinley Towne Centre is the preeminent office building" in the area, Berriz said.

Berriz said discussions about the upgrades started when McKinley and Google were discussing the company's lease renewal last year.

"We both really believed in this," he said.

Jake Parrillo, a Google spokesman, said the upgrades come as Google is making about 10 "green investments" globally right now. He said that outdoor spaces like the terrace being constructed at McKinley Towne Centre are something that most of the Google offices "have in common."

The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of May. According to permits filed with the city of Ann Arbor, Sunventrix LLC is installing the solar panels. Other companies involved in the renovation include Centimark Roofing Corp., Cornerstone Design Architects and George F. Wilbur Inc.

The renovations come as Google is saying that it will hire more new workers in 2011 than in any year in its history. The company has said it would add 6,000 by the end of the year, including some at the Ann Arbor sales office.

Google executives declined to offer details about their plans for hiring in Ann Arbor but said the company now has more than 250 workers here. In 2006, the company received a 5-year tax credit from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s Michigan Economic Growth Authority board after promising to hire 1,000 workers by 2011.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 11:39 a.m.

The Solar Current program from DTE is a great idea. Last month I completed a 2.7 KW array on a shed roof and attached pergola. The array consists of 11 modules each producing 245 watts. The pergola provides a nice area to sit and watch the world go by. If you install the system yourself as I did, the return on investment is only a few years compared to the normal 9 - 12 years. As already stated, with the incentives from DTE and the federal government, this makes perfect sense especially now with the rapid rise in commodities and the upcoming increase in electrical rates.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

Based on some of the posts above about credits and subidies, would one be correct in assuming that well over 30% of Google's solar adventure is effectively picked up by taxpayers and/or the other DTE energy consumers?

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 7:49 p.m.

I find the solar panels lack aesthetic differentiation with the roof-line, and are an unimaginative addition to the downtown vista. I am deeply disappointed. Signed, Ann Arbor Planning Commission.


Fri, Apr 29, 2011 : 8:18 a.m.


Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Very jealous of the new Google employee aristocracy :)


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

for BigMike: DTE residential Solar Currents program is at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> and for businesses it's <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> I just put a 9kW system on my house last year, so far it's working great. It's completely covering my daily usage and banking up enough energy credit to cover electric use overnight. The biggest factor is whether you have enough south facing exposure that will not be shaded.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 1:35 p.m.

I might add too that Wayne stated a 9-12 year payback; this depends in large part on which panels you choose. I had to balance between good efficiency, good warranty and price. If you buy Sunpower panels, you get awesome efficiency which is great for the long run (they have 19% efficient panels) but they cost nearly 2/3 more than what mine cost. So I chose lesser efficient panels, but they cost a lot less and still have the same warranty guarantee that Sunpower has and my projected payoff is actually about 5.5 years, after which I have 25 years under warranty.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

@Wayne, do you have a central source for the info on DTE policy re solar panels and the other great stuff you cited? With those incentives, a solar panel is in reach for a lot of businesses where it might not be otherwise. Thanks!

Wayne Appleyard

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

I certainly applaud Google and McKinley for installing the solar array. Just for the record. This may be the largest solar array within the City Limits(I'm not even sure of that), but DTE has a larger one in Scio Township(Scio Church Rd &amp; Wagner) which is about 60kW peak where this one is about 20kW. There is a similar sized one on the top of the building at the corner of William and Main. The size that qualifies for DTEs excellent Solar Currents program is limited to 20kW which is why most end up at that size or smaller. Solar Currents dramatically reduces the cost of an installed solar photovoltaic system by paying $2.4/peak watt(about 1/3 of the cost of the system) when it is installed, pays $.11/watthour for the REC(greenness value useful to DTE for reaching their Renewable Portfolio Standard(RPS) requirement for solar, and then lets you net meter, which allows you to get the value of the electricity itself. This, with the 30% federal tax credit allows one to acheive a simple payback of 9 to 12 years which is a relatively risk free investment and hedge against higher energy prices.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

Uh... &quot;by 2011&quot; doesn't mean at the end of 2011. Please hire the other 700+ workers asap to abide by your promise for the tax credit the citizens have provided your corporation.


Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

Pomp and circumstance. How about some wind turbines too while we're at it? Why not let everyone work from home instead? With Google's available technology this would easily be accomplished and be a much more cost effective, family oriented and green solution.

Andy Piper

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 : 10:13 a.m.

We are fortunate to have Google in downtown Ann Arbor. Google is a high profile tenant that adds a lot more than just 250 jobs to the area. I work with people moving to the area and it is very common for people to ask me &quot;Where is Google located?&quot;. Or, as my daughter says, &quot;Where is the Google house?&quot;.