view from the states
Michigan Moves from manufacturing to RpS
A tradition of research and development in solar and wind
pays off in plans for aggressive carbon reduction.
By JENNIFER ALVARADO
Jennifer Alvarado has
worked with the Great
Lakes Renewable Energy
Association (GLREA) since
2002 and became the
director in 2004. An ASES
chapter, GLREA hosts the
Michigan Energy Fair,
founded the Michigan
Go Solar program and is
the largest membership-based renewable energy
organization in the state.
inadequate and was fully subscribed in just four months.
Beginning in 2002, MEO provided two or three grants
annually to colleges, nonprofits, local governments and
schools to install 10-k W PV systems.
In 2005, MEO started its most recent solar incentive
program, which pays a 50 percent rebate for residential
domestic water-heating systems. That year, $290,000 was
awarded for 117 systems.
That same year, the Great Lakes Renewable Energy
Association (GLREA), with funding through a state grant,
began a residential aggregated solar purchasing program in
Ann Arbor. The program promoted efficiency of scale by
subsidizing a standard system. Installers were able to buy
components in bulk and thereby offer system installations
in a given locality at a significant discount. The program
has expanded to four regions in the state. The state also
provided funding for GLREA and seven other demonstration centers across Michigan to provide education about
energy-efficiency measures and renewable energy systems.
Where You Live
Manufacturing is the backbone of Michigan’s economy, so it’s not surprising that the renewables
manufacturing sector took root here long before
the state became interested in reducing its fossil-fuel use.
Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. ( hscpoly.com) and United
Solar Ovonics (Uni-Solar) have provided economic development leadership for the state’s solar sector. Uni-Solar (
uni-solar.com) has produced photovoltaic (PV) laminates since
1990. In 2002, Hemlock began producing polycrystalline
silicon for solar panels and has expanded steadily.
NextEnergy ( nextenergy.org) was founded in Detroit
in 2002, with state funding, and serves as a nonprofit
resource to universities, entrepreneurs, federal and state
agencies, manufacturers and suppliers in the renewable
energy sector. In partnership with the Michigan Economic
Development Corp. and the Department of Labor and
Economic Growth, it’s a champion in developing wind
This focus is no w bearing fruit. On April 20, Gov. Jennifer
Granholm cut a ribbon to open the Mariah Wind Power
( mariahpower.com) manufacturing facility in Manistee.
The plant, a project of Mariah and Mastech Inc., builds the
1.2-kilowatt (kW) Windspire turbine and could employ
up to 120 people within three years. Cascade Engineering
( cascadeng.com) in Grand Rapids manufactures the
1.5-k W Swift wind turbine for residential and commercial
markets. Global Wind Systems Inc. (globalwindsystems.
net) of Novi plans to invest $32 million to manufacture
1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbines.
State Ramps Up Distributed Energy incentives
As early as 2001, the Michigan Energy Office (MEO)
offered an incentive program for small PV and wind systems at $3 per watt. The rebate budget of $300,000 proved
public Act 295 Creates State RpS
After two years of focused effort by advocates and
Granholm, Public Act 295, which calls for 10 percent
of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015,
passed last October. Owners of distributed systems receive
two credits for each solar-generated renewable energy credit (REC). Generation (other than wind) during
peak demand time receives an additional fifth of a credit.
The act gives the Michigan Public Service Commission
(MPSC) authority to determine the conditions for receiving an additional tenth of a REC each for electricity
generated using systems containing Michigan-made components or that have been installed using a workforce of
Great Lakes Wind
• At the end of 2008, Michigan had about 130 megawatts (MW) of
wind turbines in operation, including 122 MW built over the past two
years by John Deere Co. in Huron County. The state had just 734 kilowatts (k W) of installed solar capacity.
• In March, DTE Energy filed with the Michigan Public Service
Commission to build 1,200 MW of renewable energy production,
including 20 m W of solar projects. The rest would come from wind
turbines on 40,000 acres already permitted by the utility company.
• Start-up wind technology companies include Accio Energy (accio
energy.com), which extracts energy from wind electronically,
with no moving parts. Another start-up, Danotek motion
Technologies ( danotekmotion.com) is working on generators and
power conditioning circuitry. And FlexSys ( flxsys.com) produces
adaptive-airfoil turbine blades.
• The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates Michigan’s
onshore wind capacity is 16 gigawatts (GW), which could provide
about half the state’s current electricity needs.
• Offshore capacity, however, is about 332 GW, or about 10 times the
state’s entire requirement. Shallow-water capacity — at water depths
less than 30 meters (100 feet) — is estimated at 55 GW.