MAREC to demonstrate states energy technology

March 20, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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The first annual Made-in-Michigan Renewable Energy Technology Show at GVSU’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon will run March 21-23 and will be open to the public.

Targeted for installers, dealers, distributors, contractors and other businesses, as well as the general public, Made-in-Michigan seeks to bridge the gap between vendors and customers. It also seeks to raise awareness about Michigan’s growing role in building and supplying the “green” economy.

West Michigan businesses and entrepreneurs curious about the sustainable technology being created in Michigan will be able to see products and meet people from Flint-based Sunsiaray and Saginaw-based Global Watt. A representative of the Michigan Bureau of Energy Systems will make a presentation at the technology show.

Sunsiaray, located in Davison, was founded in 1982 to manufacture equipment for collecting solar-heated air and hot water for home use. In 1984, the company expanded into commercial and agricultural products, and received its SRCC certification in 1986. SRCC is the national standard for rating solar energy devices. Sunsiaray founders have been involved with industrial heating and ventilation since 1964.

GlobalWatt is based in San Jose, Cal., but is setting up a $177 million solar parts production facility in a vacant automotive plant in Saginaw, expected to create about 400 direct jobs by 2016.

At noon March 23, Mark H. Clevey from the State of Michigan Bureau of Energy Systems will discuss how the BES supports renewable energy technologies and products in Michigan.

“I’m going to give a snapshot of what’s going on in Michigan in renewable energy, and who the BES is,” said Clevey, noting that BES has been part of Michigan government for more than 20 years and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, which funds an energy office like it in each state.

Clevey said the Michigan BES works to encourage the use and production of renewable energy systems with a broad approach that includes programs “in all sectors.”

He said there are several centers that demonstrate alternative energy technology, but MAREC is different in that it also is an actual incubator for companies starting up in development of new technologies that capture energy from solar, wind and biomass.

Clevey said he will be back at MAREC in a couple of months to lead a seminar for businesses that want to learn how to prepare for and write applications for federal research grants that can assist them in the invention of new alternative energy technologies.

For existing companies, some of those research-and-development grants are “in the million dollar range,” according to Clevey. There is a broad range of qualified technologies, from wind turbine blades to electronic controllers and batteries.

Clevey mentioned he just had a conversation with a company that will seek a grant to help it develop software for operating a controller to adjust wind turbine direction for optimal collection of energy. If that grant is made, it would probably come from the National Science Foundation, he said.

Products that result from it would be made in Michigan and sold worldwide, he said. “That’s how we win this game (in escalating conventional energy cost) and that’s why MAREC is so important.”

Just urging consumers to buy energy-efficient CFL light bulbs “isn’t going to do it,” he said, noting that those bulbs are made in China. Michigan’s total energy cost for retail electricity, natural gas, gasoline, diesel and LPG was estimated at $37 billion in 2007, compared to $22 billion in 2002.

BES also works with organizations and local governments, such as the establishment of zoning to allow commercial wind farms.

The BES had been part of the large Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, which has been split up by Governor Rick Snyder. DELEG has been renamed the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and the Bureau of Energy Systems has been moved into the Department of Environmental Quality.

The Made-in-Michigan Show will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 21-23. MAREC is located at 200 Viridian Drive in Muskegon. Donations will be accepted and will go toward supporting the 2011 Renewable Energy Technology Science Fair for high school and community college students in the spring.

For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/marec or call (616) 331-6900.

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