Category Archives: Green Technology

Solar energy jobs in Michigan jump 48% in 2016

LANSING – The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a trade association for renewable energy companies, announced Monday that a new report from the Solar Foundation found that jobs in Michigan’s solar industry jumped by an impressive 48 percent from 2015 to 2016.

During that time, Michigan solar companies added more than 1,300 jobs, for a total Michigan solar workforce of 4,118.

This positions Michigan second in the Midwest both in terms of growth rate and number of individuals employed in the solar industry, Nationally, Michigan now ranks 15th in the number of solar jobs, up three spots since 2015. (Ohio leads the Great Lakes are with 5,831 solar jobs, and employment grew there 21 percent in 2016. Indiana had the fastest growth rate, 72 percent, but has the smallest number of solar jobs in the region, 2,700.)

Nationally, the Solar Jobs Census 2016 reported that solar employment has nearly tripled since 2010 and was up 25 percent over 2015, with the industry adding more than 21,000 jobs in 2015 for a total of more than 260,000 solar workers nationally. This is the fourth consecutive year of more than 20 percent national solar job growth. Last year, one out of every 50 jobs created in the United States was in the solar industry. Notably, solar now employs twice as many people as the entire U.S. coal industry, and the same number as work in natural gas.

The Michigan EIBC represents companies across the full range of the advanced energy sector, including advanced materials, biomass and biofuels, energy efficiency, energy storage, lighting, smart grid, solar, transportation, and wind.

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Plug In For Renewable Energy

HOUGHTON — Support for solar energy is vast. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 79 percent of Americans want the US to put more emphasis on developing solar power. Most of the same people, unfortunately, can’t afford to install solar energy systems in their homes. Even after federal tax credits, installing solar panels to cover all of a family’s electricity needs can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For others, a home solar system isn’t a consideration because they rent, or move frequently.

But Michigan Technological University’s Joshua Pearce says he knows the solution: plug and play solar.

“Plug and play systems are affordable, easy to install, and portable,” said Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical and computer engineering. “The average American consumer can buy and install them with no training.”

In a study funded by the Conway Fellowship and published in Renewable Energy (DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2016.11.034), Pearce and researchers Aishwarya Mundada and Emily Prehoda estimate that plug and play solar could provide 57 gigawatts of renewable energy – enough to power the cities of New York and Detroit – with potentially $14.3 to $71.7 billion in sales for retailers and $13 billion a year in cost savings for energy users.

Sounds great, right? Well, there’s one problem: in many parts of the United States, electrical regulations don’t allow consumers to plug and play.

Small investment, big return

Plug and play solar panels connect to an ordinary electrical outlet. You’re still on the grid, but you’ve become a “prosumer” — a consumer of energy who also produces it. The panels range in wattage and are relatively affordable, with some costing just a couple of hundred dollars. A prosumer can start small, with just one panel, and slowly build up over time to a system that produces 1 kilowatt of energy, the equivalent of powering 10 100-watt light bulbs.

The panels are also portable. So, for example, if a college student buys one 250-watt plug and play panel each year for four years, reaching 1 kilowatt of energy by senior year, that student can unplug the four panels when she graduates and take them to her next destination.

Pearce estimated that plug and play systems could generate more than four times the amount of electricity generated from all of U.S. solar last year.

“The vast majority of this energy never leaves the home,” Pearce said. “It’s the equivalent of handling a hair dryer load. We’re talking about almost nothing on the electrical grid – but that nothing adds up. It’s an appliance with a high rate of return.”

Safe, simple — and largely prohibited

In the U.S., a patchwork of local jurisdictions and regulations make it difficult to figure out if and where plug and play panels are allowed.

“You can buy the panels, but you might not be able to plug them in, depending on your utility,” Pearce said.

In a paper published earlier this year in Solar Energy (DOI: 10.1016/j.solener.2016.06.002), Pearce, Mundada and researcher Yuenyong Nilsiam reviewed all regulations in the U.S. that would apply to plug and play systems. They found no safety or technical issues with the equipment on the market.

“This is an area where less regulation could really help renewable energy,” Pearce said. “We know that the technology is safe, and the law should reflect that.”

The risk, according to Pearce, is putting too much current on one circuit, so he recommends that homeowners keep their plug and play systems to a kilowatt or less. Simple precautions make this easy — if a panel is plugged into an outdoor outlet, for example, safety plugs on all other outdoor outlets on that circuit can prevent overload.

While some jurisdictions have recognized that there are no major safety or technical issues with plug and play panels, paperwork holds up the process. Potential prosumers often have to fill out complicated forms to fulfill utility requirements, and the paperwork and associated fees vary by utility. To simplify the process, Pearce and colleagues automated it, by writing open-source computer code that fills out every possible technical requirement. Utilities can easily use the free code on their websites.

“Some utilities have embraced plug and play, and some have ignored it because they think it’s a pittance,” Pearce says. “But plug and play solar is something that can help most Americans.”

Maryland Firm Gets Energy Savings Deal For Michigan Federal Buildings

BETHESDA, Md. — Energy efficiency upgrades to 13 U.S. General Services Administration buildings in Michigan will generate more than $3.9 million in savings to taxpayers, as part of a federal contract awarded to Bethesda, Md.-based Green Generation Solutions LLC, a specialist in implementing energy efficiency upgrades in commercial properties.

The contract with the federal General Services Administration, valued at more than $1 million, provides for the design and implementation of energy conservation measures and ongoing energy management services at federal buildings in seven Michigan locations, including Saginaw, Ann Arbor, Flint, and four locations in Detroit.

Continue reading Maryland Firm Gets Energy Savings Deal For Michigan Federal Buildings

Stopping urban flooding and pollution: experts talk stormwater management at LTU

SOUTHFIELD – What does Michigan do with the extra water that comes from heavy rainfall events that now seem to flood the area every few years?

Nearly 300 government officials, engineers and infrastructure experts gathered Friday at Lawrence Technological University to continue the effort to figure that out.

The fourth annual Regional Stormwater Summit, presented by LTU, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office and the nonprofit group Pure Oakland Water, had no easy answers, but speakers at the event said green infrastructure will be a key part of the solution.

Continue reading Stopping urban flooding and pollution: experts talk stormwater management at LTU

Ford Exec To Keynote Clean Energy Industry Gala

LANSING — The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council announced that John J. Viera, global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters at Ford Motor Co., will give the keynote address at the fourth Annual Michigan Energy Innovators Gala, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 10 in East Lansing.

The gala will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University, 219 S. Harrison Road in East Lansing. Tickets are $150 for EIBC members and $185 for non-members. For tickets, visit this link.

Continue reading Ford Exec To Keynote Clean Energy Industry Gala

M2 TechCast: LTU’s Carpenter Explains How Green Infrastructure Can Clean Water Runoff Mother Nature’s Way

ROYAL OAK – Don Carpenter, water expert from Lawrence Technological University, discusses green water infrastructure and what it could mean for cities like Flint in this episode of M2 TechCast.

Green infrastructure is nature’s way of handling storm water runoff. If lakes, streams, and oceans do not realize we have developed the land adjacent to them, that’s the gold standard of storm water management, Carpenter said. Examples of green infrastructure include green roofs, green walls, rain gardens, and urban agriculture.

One of the barriers to entry is most engineers don’t have the design tools to deal with storm water runoff in a green way, he said.  Also, home owners need to get past the idea that they need green lush lawns. If they planted natural grasses and flowers, it would be much lower maintenance and much better for the environment, he said.

To hear the rest how green infrastructure can provide us with cleaner water, click on

The M2 TechCast airs live on the internet from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern time each Monday at And you can listen to past episodes by clicking on

The M2 TechCast is hosted by Mike Brennan, founder and publisher of Michigan Technology News,, and Matt Roush, director of the university news bureau at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield. Both have covered high-tech in Michigan as journalists for more than 20 years.

The M2 TechCast is part of Podcast Detroit, a network of more than 50 locally produced podcasts on a wide variety of topics, anchored by IT in the D. the nation’s No. 1 tech podcast, which regularly draws more than 500,000 listeners a week. IT in the D airs live Monday nights from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

New Plan Aims to Boost Clean Energy Employment In Michigan

LANSING — The Michigan Agency for Energy Tuesday has issued a
Clean Energy Manufacturing Roadmap, a collaborative effort of the state of Michigan and officials in northeast Ohio to boost jobs in the “energy efficient building technology” industry.

“For Michigan, this roadmap demonstrates the opportunities that lie in strengthening clean energy manufacturing to diversify and strengthen the economy,” said MAE Executive Director Valerie Brader.

Continue reading New Plan Aims to Boost Clean Energy Employment In Michigan

Melvindale Wins ESD’s Engineering SMArT Michigan At LTU

SOUTHFIELD – A team of students from Melvindale High School took first place – and $18,000 college scholarships – in The Engineering Society of Detroit’s Engineering SMArT Michigan competition, held Wednesday at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.

Engineering SMArT Michigan – the name is an acronym for Science, Mathematics, Architecture and Technology — challenges students to design an energy-efficient single-family home. The designs presented Wednesday by students from Detroit, Southfield, Oak Park and Melvindale featured the latest in solar and wind generation technologies, and advanced heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical systems.

Melvindale’s “Goon Crew” won first place, which included an $18,000, four-year scholarship offer from Lawrence Tech for every team member, as well as Amazon gift cards.

Taking second place was the “Guardians of Energy” team from Oak Park High School. Third place went to “Team Intelligence” from the Southfield Regional Academic Center. Members of these teams received Target gift cards.

Eleven teams from Melvindale High School, Oak Park High School, SRAC, and Cody Detroit Institute of Technology competed in the event.

The teams’ designs were judged Wednesday morning by volunteer ESD engineers, architects and scientists. Three finalists were selected to make presentations to a panel of architectural and energy experts – Michael F. Cooper, president and managing principal at the Southfield office of architects Harley Ellis Devereaux; Malik R. Goodwin, president and managing member, Goodwin Management Group LLC; Sue Littles, lead architectural designer and computer aided design administrator, DTE Energy; David A. Lomas, principal engineer and associate at the engineering and environmental services firm NTH Consultants, Ltd.; and Robert P. Washer, managing general partner, BW Consulting Services LLC.

Engineering SMArT Michigan is funded by the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The event’s sponsors are the auto supplier Denso, Lawrence Tech, the 3D printing technology provider Voxeljet, and the engineering firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.


Dow Increases Clean Energy Targets

MIDLAND — Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) Tuesday announced an increase in its clean energy target from 400 megawatts to 750 megawatts by 2025.

The company said it was able to meet the original target within one year of its announcement in 2015, so the target is going up.

Continue reading Dow Increases Clean Energy Targets

Energy Business Group Sets May 4 Member Meeting

LANSING — The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council says new panelists are confirmed for its fourth annual member meeting, to be held Wednesday, May 4 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing.

Non-members may also attend the meeting. Tickets are still available at this link. Tickets are $100 for EIBC members and $175 for non-members. There is also a $50 government rate.

The meeting will feature an opening dialogue with Patricia Poppe, who will become president and CEO of Jackson-based Consumers Energy on July 1, and Sally Talberg, chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission.

This full-day conference provides attendees an opportunity to network, learn about innovations in advanced energy, and get an overview on the latest policy developments in Lansing.

Panel discussions during the day will include:
* Innovations in Transportation: Electrification, Lightweighting, and Connected Vehicles
* Taking Advantage of the ITC/PTC: What Are the Next Five Years for Renewable Energy
* Media Perspectives Panel: Discussion of All Things Energy Related -Political Landscape, Legislation, and 2016 Elections
* How to Think Big in Small Places: Energy Innovations in Rural Communities, Industrial Parks, and Downtowns
* The Changing Landscape of Energy Efficiency: Demand Response, ESCOs, and Where We Go From Here

A partial lists of scheduled panelists includes:
* Andy Balaskovitz, reporting fellow at Midwest Energy News, Grand Rapids
* Mathias Bell, manager of market development and regulatory affairs at the Minneapolis utility software developer Opower
* Lawrence E. Brown, executive director of the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute
* Myles Burnsed, director of business development at Oakland, N.J.-based groSolar
* Liesl Eichler Clark, president, Michigan EIBC
* Lawrence Drzal, director, Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, Michigan State University
* Mattnew Felan, president and CEO of the Bay City-based Great Lakes Bay Region Alliance
* Scott Ferguson, project executive, director of sustainability, Rockford Construction, Grand Rapids
* Zachary Gorchow, editor, Gongwer News Service, Lansing
* Robert Jackson, loan and renewable energy program manager, Michigan Energy Office
* Emily Lawler, capitol and business reporter, MLive, Lansing
* Andrew S. Levin, founder and managing partner, Levin Energy Partners LLC, Detroit
*  Marc Lewis, vice president, regulatory and external affairs, AEP Indiana Michigan Power, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
* Doug Luciani, CEO, TraverseConnect, the parent company of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the multi-county economic development corporation Venture North
* Tim Mahler, vice president of operations, ClearResult, an Austin, Texas-based designer of energy efficiency programs and a provider of other services for utilities.
* Melanie McCoy, superintendent of the municipal utility Sebawaing Light and Water
* Kyle Melinn, news editor, Michigan Informaton and Research Service Inc. (MIRS), Lansing
* David W. Palsrok, government policy advisor, Dykema, Lansing
* Jim Saber, vice president, business and technology development, NextEnergy, the state of Michigan’s advanced energy industry accelerator
* J.R. Tolbert, senior director of state policy at the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Advanced Energy Economy
* Shane VanCise, energy solutions account executive, Johnson Controls Inc., Saginaw

Sponsorship opportunities are also still available, and most come with the opportunity to exhibit at the event. Please contact Nicole Forward at for more information.

Sponsors of the event include Consumers Energy, CleaResult, Invenergy, ITC Holdings Inc. and the Michigan Agency for Energy.