Wednesday, January 26, 2011


My question of the day is: Can we succeed at developing renewable energy in spite of the Republicans trying to drag us down? When I keep seeing these stories day in and day out, sometimes I think we can. With President Obama's call for 80% renewables by 2035(!) in the SotU speech last night, the hope is we can get past the talking heads obsession with trivial issues such as gun control and the hand-wringing over the deficit and get the conversation focused on moving forward with this issue. Every little step we take will help, and here are just a few reported in the last couple of days:

  • The Mesick School District is looking to put 20 wind turbines on their 1440 acre property, and has entered preliminary talks with Michigan Energy on a five-year study for feasibility. The district currently relies on "forestry sales" for part of its income; while using 200 acres for turbines would reduce that figure by $5-$10,000 a year, turbines could bring in up to $200,000 a year.

  • Muskegon County Wastewater Management Systems has 11,000 acres near Lake Michigan and is currently seeking proposals from utility-scale wind developers. With continuous acreage, no homes on the land, and adjacent landowners believed to be interested in a wind project, the area looks prime for a major wind site. They are looking to do it soon to take advantage of the federal energy credits that passed Congress in December and will run through the end of this year.

  • A foundry project announced last year for Eaton Rapids is close to clearing the final hurdles needed to begin construction; Sweden's URV USA will produce castings for wind turbines and is expected to hire 280 people this year, with other local companies expanding to help them meet the demand (and this is why we recruit outside firms to locate here). The 7-story foundry will be an example of "clean" manufacturing; city officials claim that the building will have the environmental impact of "one McDonald's restaurant". Does that mean that seagulls will wait by your car for the occasional french fry tossed from the window?

  • DTE is getting in on the electric trash action; the Times Herald reports that DTE Energy and DTE Biomass have combined to create Blue Water Renewables, which will set up processors on the Smiths Creek Landfill to convert methane gas to electricity. St. Clair County will then sell the energy back to DTE; up to 3.2 MW is expected to be produced. DTE claims that this is "among the first commercial-scale gas-to-energy productions in the country". 

  • Former Michigan DELEG chief Skip Pruss gives a nice interview to the Metro Times today, explaining why he thinks that green energy has an unlimited market and will be "much more robust and of longer duration than the Internet revolution". And it's not a question of if, it's a question of when - it all depends on whether or not we are wise enough to take advantage of the opportunity.

  • Cone Drive Gearing Solutions of Traverse City will be adding 20 manufacturing employees thanks to landing a contract with BrightEnergy, who is currently working on the "world’s largest concentrated solar power complex" in the Mojave Desert in California. The jobs are expected to last through 2013, with hopes of further business down the line. 

  • LG Chem will pony up $20 million over 20 years to train workers for its advanced battery facility in Holland. The company struck a deal with Grand Rapids Community College through the Michigan New Jobs program to train an estimated 3,000 workers it will need for production over the course of the contract, with 400 jobs scheduled by 2013. The plant will initially produce batteries for the Chevy Volt. 

  • Depending on the outcome of an application for tax incentives from MEDC up for review next month, Redford Township will see Florida-based Mountain Valley Recycling hire up to 400 local workers for a new recycling facility that will begin operations "as soon as possible". The facility will recycle plastics from commercial sources, expanding into taking residential material over time. It will be located in the old Ford Parts Distribution Center.

  • CEO Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical is setting what he hopes will be a new standard for business; the company will partner with the Nature Conservancy on a $10 million project that will "put the impact of the environment on the forefront of every business decision". Calling the joint effort that will be developed from scientific models a "powerful approach to sustainability", Liveris has planned three pilot sites for the next five years, and hopes are the first site will be in the US. 

  • Green jobs? It's happening. Happening right now, everyday. Now imagine what could happen if we make the smart move and invest more...