Troy’s celebrated solar house left in dark
Facility touted as next big thing still shut
Shawn D. Lewis / The Detroit News
Troy — It was supposed to be a shining example of the green movement — a completely independent solar-powered house with no gas or electrical hookups.
Seven months ago, officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the $900,000 house owned by the city of Troy that was to be used as an educational tool and meeting spot.
But it never opened to the public. And it remains closed.
Frozen pipes during the winter caused $16,000 in damage to floors, and city officials aren’t sure when the house at the Troy Community Center will open.
“It’s not safe right now, and there’s no estimated opening time because it depends on when we can get funding,” said Carol Anderson, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
That surprised the Oakland County Planning and Economic Development Department, which advertised tours of the house for its Tuesday Oakland County Green Summit.
“No, I didn’t know anything about it,” said Steve Huber, spokesman for county planning.
Bret Rasegnan, planning supervisor for the department, said the solar tours have been removed from the finalized agenda for the summit.
“It is disappointing that we can’t tour, but the summit will still be of great value. I don’t think it’s reflective of the technology.”
Lawrence Technological University, with help from DTE, mostly paid for the building. Its students built the 800-square-foot home, which was supposed to be livable year-round, free from the grid and churn out enough solar power to support a home-based business and electric vehicle.
So what caused the flood?
The city says it was a mechanical problem. University officials heard it differently.
Jeff Biegler, superintendent of parks for the city, said the flooding occurred from a glitch in the heater.
“The system was designed to kick a heater on to keep water from freezing,” Biegler said.
“The heater drew all reserve power out of the battery causing the system to back down and the pipes froze.”
Joe Veryser, an associate dean of architecture at the university, said he heard otherwise.
“What I heard repeatedly was that somebody turned off the breaker during the winter and forgot to turn it back on, which caused the pipes to freeze and then break.”