The Michigan Public Service Commission announced this week that it will be the first state energy agency in the country to use Property Assessed Clean Energy financing for efficiency projects at its new headquarters.
The agency will lease the building from a private owner, who has agreed to finance just under $500,000 for LED lighting, a 20 kW solar array and variable speed motors for heating and cooling.
The property owner, Saginaw Plaza Ltd., will receive a 20-year fixed-rate loan that will be paid for through the MPSC’s energy savings. It’s anticipated that the building will save more in reduced energy consumption than the cost of the loan.
“The commission thought it would be a good idea to set an example when it comes to energy efficiency,” MPSC spokeswoman Judy Palnau said.
Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas are split across different MISO resource zones. Some state officials want to unify the state into a single zone. (Image via MISO)
Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas are distinct regions in many ways — from geography to accents to preference for sports teams (“Yoopers” tend to favor the Green Bay Packers, downstaters root for the Detroit Lions).
Michigan also is essentially two states when it comes to energy markets. The U.P. depends heavily on electricity generated in Wisconsin (simply because of geography) with Wisconsin ratepayers picking up part of the tab for powering mining operations and other needs in Michigan.
But the expansion of mining and the uncertain future of the region’s largest coal-fired power plant have lit a new fire under a long-simmering debate about potentially uniting the Upper and Lower peninsulas into one power market and distribution system within the Mid-Continent Independent System Operator (MISO) regional transmission organization.
Currently the two peninsulas are in separate “local resource zones” within MISO, which are used to calculate adequate reliability across MISO’s footprint.
Moving the U.P. into the same zone as the Lower Peninsula could help clarify the state’s energy future and address a brewing energy crisis in the U.P.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell speaks at a benefit in 2009. (Photo by Steven Depolo via Creative Commons)
Grand Rapids, Michigan Mayor George Heartwell is counting down the days until he has to leave office: “419 days, seven hours and 20 minutes,” he smiled at the end of an interview last week.
But it’s not for a desire to leave — in a local election this month, voters approved term limits for citywide elected officials, leaving Heartwell as a lame duck in 2015. He will have served 12 years on the job.
Heartwell, 65, sat down with Midwest Energy News to talk about his time in the mayor’s office, a part-time job in a weak-mayor system that gives most policy control to a board of commissioners.
Yet Heartwell has elevated the city as a model for sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency. It includes an aggressive 100-percent renewable energy goal by 2020 (it’s at 25 percent now) and an entire city lighting system comprised of LEDs.
During his time in office, the United Nations recognized the city as a “Regional Center of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development” (one of two in the U.S.) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce named it the most sustainable city in the country in 2010.
A postcard from the now-closed K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Michigan, which will be home to a new biomass plant. (Image by Donald Harrison via Creative Commons)
Developers from metro Detroit have plans to build a $100 million, 34 MW biomass plant in the central Upper Peninsula, about 20 miles south of an aging coal plant that is the ongoing focus of the region’s energy crisis.
The company building the plant, Marquette Green Energy LLC, says it would run on a combination of biomass and tire-derived fuels and a smaller amount of natural gas to start. The developers say it’s a step forward as the region scrambles to figure out how to avoid major rate increases in the short term and build new generation for the long term.
“I call it stealth development,” said Barry Bahrman, a partner in the project and a fifth-generation Upper Peninsula native. “It’s developed to a point now when we can let people know there’s part of an answer in place. … Local generation is what the U.P. needs.”
©2014 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Jeffrey Tomich
Wisconsin Energy Corp.’s chief executive said the company is “willing to be an investor” in a new power plant to help alleviate a generation capacity shortfall in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
CEO Gale Klappa made the comment Wednesday during an earnings conference call in answer to questions about whether the unfolding crisis in upper Michigan could affect Wisconsin Energy’s ability to win approval from Michigan regulators for the buyout of Integrys Energy Group.
Klappa said that the company remains engaged in talks with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and state Attorney General Bill Schuette on a “global solution” to the Upper Peninsula’s energy woes, and that a solution could be agreed on within 60 to 90 days.
Valerie Brader, an advisor to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, addresses the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette. (Photo by Shawn Malone for Midwest Energy News)
MARQUETTE — Let Michigan decide its own energy future. That’s the message industry leaders and state officials drove home Tuesday at the Upper Peninsula Energy Summit in Marquette, Michigan.
The message was set against a backdrop of federal regulatory decisions that could drastically increase electricity bills for Upper Peninsula ratepayers. More than 20 proceedings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission involve the fate of the coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant here and how much ratepayers in Michigan — or Wisconsin, where plant owner We Energies is located — should pay.
“The fact that the federal government controls our destiny … does make it a tough situation when you have variables coming in and trying to dictate what we have to do,” state Sen. Mike Nofs, who chairs the Senate Energy and Technology Committee, told the audience of over 300.
Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy advisor for Gov. Rick Snyder, said earlier in the day that the crisis “is an example of what happens when the federal government makes [energy] decisions for you.”
A logging train on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (Photo by J.C. Burns via Creative Commons)
As stakeholders gather today in Marquette, Michigan to discuss the Upper Peninsula’s energy future, the extent to which renewable energy — particularly, woody biomass — plays a role will be a central topic.
Experts say it’s a dependable source that can be dispatched when needed, a sort of base upon which to expand wind and solar. Moreover, the U.P. is rich with forest waste products that are already widely deployed as a way to heat and cool buildings there.
“There is wind potential, there is low-quality solar potential,” said Jeremiah Johnson, a researcher at the University of Michigan’s School for Natural Resources and Environment. “But those don’t really solve the problem of reliability concerns with the Presque Isle [power plant] retirement. You need a firm resource to do that. A firm source is biomass.
Sheerwind’s demonstration project in Minnesota. (Photo by Rwsweene via Creative Commons)
Cross-posted from the Great Lakes Echo.
By Qing Zhang
The Michigan National Guard is spending $1.5 million on two new machines to generate electricity from wind at Camp Grayling near Grayling and the Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek.
Unlike traditional windmills, the system captures wind from all directions, concentrating and accelerating it before sending it through a turbine on the ground, according to its designer, Chaska, Minnesota-based Sheerwind Co.
Sheerwind calls the design INVELOX, which stands for INcreased VELocity. The company says that the system generates six times more electrical energy than conventional wind turbines and can work at wind speeds as low as 2 mph. And it’s cheaper to build and operate.
Some wind power experts say that’s too good to be true.
Abandoned mine shafts, like this one near Painesdale, Michigan, could provide a source of geothermal energy. (Photo by Joel Dinda via Creative Commons)
As Michigan’s Upper Peninsula grapples with a looming electricity crisis, the region’s copper-mining past could play a role in its energy future.
“Mineshaft geothermal” is gaining attention here as researchers investigate the energy potential stored hundreds of feet below the ground. The water in these abandoned and flooded mines, which expand throughout the U.P., is just now starting to be used to heat and cool buildings.
“Wherever anyone has a mineshaft and access to it, the potential is there,” said Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. Meldrum and his team are investigating the potential of more than 30 mineshafts in the historic village of Calumet, population around 700.
“Everyone is interested because of the cost of energy, even though this is used for heating and not electricity,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out whether it’s feasible or not.”
Rail cars carry taconite from Cliffs Natural Resources mines past the Presque Isle power plant in Marquette, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Ross via Creative Commons)
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories leading up to the U.P. Energy Summit on Oct. 28.
Part 1: Michigan’s U.P. goes head-to-head with its energy future.
What started in 2008 as one lawmaker’s intent to retain mining jobs in his Upper Peninsula community has evolved into a flashpoint of controversy that some say has jeopardized that very region’s energy future.
Mike Prusi represented several counties throughout the U.P. in the state legislature from 1995 to 2010 and served his last year as Senate Minority Leader. In 2008, he was able to get a specific provision inserted into Michigan’s energy choice law — which caps choice for customers at 10 percent of a utility’s load — that exempts U.P. iron ore mining or processing facilities.
It was a clear exemption for a major company he, his family and friends had worked for over generations.