Saturday, June 28, 2008

Michigan Energy Fair 2008

Michigan Energy Fair Sign

Everyone needs to go to Manistee once this summer. Except for the Michael McManus signs that litter the beautiful countryside, the area is absolutely gorgeous. So, go. Go before you can't afford to drive there anymore.

I took my shot yesterday to attend the third annual Michigan Energy Fair, brought to you by the folks from the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. It's held on the Manistee County Fairgrounds - a place complete with an old grandstand with a dirt oval track, food vendors, barns for exhibition space, music, and entertainment for the kids. Your typical Midwestern small-town setting for a summer fair, except instead of livestock auctions or car races, this fair had home energy vendors and both citizen and government energy organizations, dedicated to promoting/selling alternative and renewable energy.

Ready to outfit your home to curb rising energy costs? This is the place to be.

"What we have is a huge frustration of the average homeowner with the rising costs of energy prices," said Allan O'Shea, chairman of the Manistee County Board of Commissioners, an event sponsor. "They need to be around some energy experts to give them some focus."

Dozens of workshops will feature experts on wind and solar power, indoor air quality, green building techniques, recycling, biodiesel fuel and ethanol, water conservation and home canning. Legislation and energy policy updates will be available, as well as seminars on investing in green energy.

Yesterday was the initial set-up. I didn’t notice any workshops or seminars going on in the tents set-up for that purpose; I believe those are mostly taking place today and tomorrow. Governor Granholm was on hand to give a speech to kick off the fair, which tied in very nicely with yesterday's announcement that Mascoma is going to open the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant here in Michigan.

“Michigan is on the cusp of a new energy revolution,” said Granholm to a crowd of fair attendees. “The sky’s the limit.”

Friday morning Granholm announced that Mascoma Corp., a Massachusetts-based company, will build its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Chippewa County in the Upper Peninsula. She said the project is worth $250 million and would bring more than 500 jobs.

“It helps to re-brand Michigan,” she said about the announcement.

From major corporation announcements such as this, down to selling simple home solar/wind/efficiency improvement ideas, there is a huge economic upside there for the taking.

Bauer Power

Bauer Power out of Wayland. Mlive has a great article about them - started by home builder Mark Bauer, they are working with Cascade Engineering setting up solar and wind power for commercial and residential use.

The biggest application of Bauer Power to date is at Elzinga's Greenhouse near Kalamazoo. Its 26-mile continuous-loop geothermal system combined with solar panels heats and lights four acres of greenhouses, Bauer said. It is the largest combined geothermal and solar installation in the Midwest, he said.

"Americans have a choice. (Renewable power generation) is more expensive than fossil fuels, but it leaves a legacy of no detriment to the environment, and it's sustainable for years and years. Renewable is about the big picture."

Solar Works

Solar Works from Whitmore Lake. They put solar, wind and "green growing" together in one mobile unit - the pole in the back is a small wind turbine. Had a nice conversation with owner Damon Dotson - real nice guy, go say "hi" if you are in need of a small system. They come already assembled and ready to go.

Skystream Wind Turbine

A bunch of vendors sell Skystream turbines for residential use.

Garn Wood Boiler

Garn Wood Boiler. This obviously is for home heating, other vendors had smaller indoor/outdoor wood stoves - including one stove that runs on biodiesel.

US Department of Energy

The US Department of Energy had a huge display about their "Clean Cities" program. Other government representatives - the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth, the State of Michigan Energy Office, the Department of Environmental Quality - am I forgetting anyone? Major corporations such as DTE and Consumers were there as well.

Montcalm Community College

Montcalm Community College is training people to work at Uni-Solar in Greenville.

Coal Protesters

Coal Protesters. Chatted with the very nice lady from the Sierra Club - they had a booth set up to gather signatures to protest the planned building of eight coal plants in the state. Now, I don't think that is going to happen - these things cost an absolute fortune to build, and with the price of coal skyrocketing, I believe that if these are indeed planned, they will be put on hold. There is also talk of capping emissions on the federal level - if that happens, the price of coal use will become prohibitive.

This is where the efficiency portion of the legislation that was just passed last night comes into play. According to the original AP article on that portion of the energy package, we will need four coal plants in Michigan soon to keep up with growing demand. If we enact efficiency and cut that demand, we can knock that down to one. And if renewables can take off, we can move away from coal altogether in the future. This is why the legislation is so important - it's not enough to say "no coal", we have to get power from somewhere, and we need to start moving down the road to clean energy right now.

And I can't wait until we try to tell the Chinese to cut emissions - that is going to be another huge problem. We can address global warming here in America, but we will be able to persuade other growing economies to go along?

Crowd Before the Speech

The crowd gathers in the grandstand for the governor's speech. Notice the very small space from the wall to the seats-

Granholm 5364

Governor Granholm. Little photography lesson for you - if your subject has a strong light behind them, you have to either use a flash (which looked horrible in this situation) or zoom in closer, or your subject will appear dark in your pictures due to the backlight. As a result, I couldn't get any wider shots of this speech, but I managed to get some real nice close-ups - so that was cool.

She talked to the crowd about the importance of the RPS, asked them to call their Senators - little did she know what the night would hold. She also told them about the Mascoma announcement and her trip to Sweden, telling them how Michigan has the same qualities that could make us a national leader in alternative energy use and development due to our geography, manufacuring capabilities and workforce. Companies are starting to look at Michigan and we have had some victories such as Mascoma, but we need a strong renewable portfolio standard to attract the major investment that a GE, for example, would bring.

Granholm Talks to the Crowd

Governor talks to the crowd after the speech.

There are a few more vendor/governor pictures in the Flickr set, take a look if you are so inclined. I realize I'm publishing this late on Saturday - if you are in the area, try to get there tomorrow, if not, make some plans for next year. Very educational experience, and you can't beat the surroundings!