Fund Blanks Energy Proposals

July 28, 2006
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MUSKEGON — Imad Mahawili said he was puzzled and disappointed when he saw the list of 179 proposals accepted by the Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization Board for the 21st Century Jobs Fund, chiefly because of the lack of alternative energy proposals — including two with which he is involved.

“I’m very disappointed that renewable energy programs that can create jobs very soon in our state have been put aside,” said Mahawili, executive director of GrandValleyStateUniversity’s Michigan Alternative and RenewableEnergyCenter

Though two proposals he collaborated on were accepted to move on to the next level, Mahawili said the two that were not accepted had greater potential for renewable energy and alternative resources.

A $1.5 million proposal for a renewable combined heat power generator using forest waste woods and a $1 million proposal for a stand-alone electric grid at Muskegon’s SmartZone, Edison Landing, did not make it to the interview round of the fund competition.

“I think those two proposals are close to me and I would like to see them funded, because I think they would help our state,” he said.

Mahawili said both proposals were important because of their potential for job creation and for solving the problem of wasted wood and connecting renewable power to a traditional electric grid, respectively.

In order to connect the renewable resources and alternative energy to the grid, there need to be test cases where data is collected in order to know how each source would work, Mahawili said.

“Edison Landing could be a good test case for the state,” he said. “Anybody anywhere in the state that’s going to generate electricity will have to deal with that interface.”

Despite the funding setback, Mahawili said he will keep trying to find resources for the project, and he’s not yet giving up on the 21st Century Jobs Fund.

“I’m going to see if we can get a mechanism where we can appeal,” he said.

Mahawili said he also did not see any comparable programs on the list, which makes him wonder about the feasibility of making a renewable energy plan work.

“There are no other programs like them that I see heading toward job creation,” he said.

The two that were accepted for the interview round of the competition were collaborative efforts for a technology network with the Michigan Small Business and TechnologyDevelopmentCenter and a proposal involving all 11 of the state’s SmartZones, including Edison Landing.

The technology support networks would provide effective business counsel for Michigan’s Competitive Edge Technology Companies, while the SmartZone proposal, under the auspices of Ann Arbor Spark, asks for pre-seed funds to provide a pool of start-up capital for businesses that want to locate in the SmartZones.    

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