Renewable Technology in Michigan

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2010 will be the year that Michigan reasserts itself as a leader in world manufacturing. Moving into a global economy no longer entirely dependent on the auto makers, Michigan will now showcase what Governor Granholm's energy advisor calls "The New Big Three".[1]

The New Big Three

The New Big three is Skip Prusse's designation for the emerging job creation industries in Michigan, wind, solar and advanced batteries.[2] Michigan has an enormous wind resource and the manufacturing potential to be a leader in the industry. Advanced battery production is jump starting employment with thousands of new jobs in a new field that will support the emerging electric and hybrid car market. And Michigan is already the leading producer of the high purity polycrystalline silicon that modern solar panels are made of.

Advanced Batteries

With the groundbreaking ceremony for a new manufacturing facility, Advanced Battery technology came to Mid-Michigan in june of 2010. Vice President Joe Biden officiated[3] at the ceremony for the new joint venture between Michigan chemical giant Dow, and TK Advanced Battery LLC.[4]

The plant will produce a new generation of "prismatic lithium-polymer batteries", which the company says will outperform competitors.[5]


In July, 2010, President Obama visited[6] the groundbreaking of a new advanced battery facility in Holland, MI.[7]

The President talked about jobs of the future and how the Holland facility is part of that future. "This is the ninth advanced battery plant to begin construction because of our economic plan - plants that will put thousands of people to work," said President Obama. "This includes folks working at a couple of facilities being built in Michigan by another battery technology company called A123."


GM's plug in hybrid

General Motors, fresh out of bankruptcy proceedings, has announced that the new Chevy Volt will be the centerpiece of a new line of plug-in hybrid cars.[8] The Volt, which is planned to run 40 miles in electric only mode, is rated at 230 mpg in the city, according to guidelines from the EPA.

In August 2009, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a new report] from Synapse Energy, a consulting firm, showing that Michigan can meet all of its energy needs "a combination of wind power, biomass, and other sources of renewable energy coupled with aggressive energy efficiency programs."[9][10]


On August 11, 2009, after months of secrecy, GM debuted its plans for a line of new electric vehicles.[11]

According to the Detroit Free Press, "The plans also include doubling the current size of Buick's showroom from three vehicles to six within 24 months. In addition to an SUV crossover hybrid announced last week, GM is preparing a small crossover SUV and midsize and compact sedans."[11]

In January, 2010, GM announced that it will begin making its own electric motors inhouse.[12]

The Ford Motor Company has now announced that it will be producing an electric version of the Ford Focus, and will manufacture it in Michigan. The company said it would invest $450 million to make it's facilities EV friendly.[13]

The clear, imminent switch to advanced battery technology as a core auto technology further jumpstarts the Michigan economy, as GM announced that battery packs for the Volt will be produced in Southeast Michigan.[14]

Bay City Michigan's Powertrain plant is awaiting the announcement of 37 million dollars in new investment to produce parts for the Volt. The Bay City Times reported "Preparations for the new work will begin at the plant as soon as mid-September and production will start late 2010."[15]

In March, 2010, plans were unveiled for a new advanced battery production facility in Holland, MI.[16] Korean battery maker LG Chem and its US subsidiary Compact Power today confirmed the plans to build a $303-million plant to make advanced batteries in the west Michigan community. The plant will produce powerpacks for electric vehicles, including the chevy volt.

The Volt announcement came in the wake of long awaited announcements of federal stimulus grants for advanced battery research and production in Michigan. About $1 billion in grants would go to companies and universities based in Michigan -- the largest share of grant funding going to any one st, according to UPI.[17]

Companies benefiting from the grants included A123[18], which will supply batteries for Chrysler, Johnson Controls[19] and Dow Chemical.

The conservative Saginaw News editorialized that the new battery ventures were part of a ""seismic shift" in the state's economic future"[20] The paper wrote[21] that "A large part of that future for the state, it turns out, will be in alternative energy.

In a blog entry published on The Huffington Post, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm declared, "You can feel the electricity in the air", and "That Michigan got such a large share of the battery grants was not by happenstance. We competed for it; we fought for it; and we won."[22] The first large-scale wind turbine farms sprouted several years ago in the Thumb to lead the way in that clean energy. Ethanol is produced from corn at a plant in Caro.

Delta Community College, located not far from the new Dow advanced Battery facility, has announced plans for a program to train workers for the new plant.[23]

Delta College hopes to create an education program to help prepare people to work at an advanced battery manufacturing plant the Dow Chemical Co. plans to build in Midland.

The Bay County college already has a successful chemical process technology program that trains people to work at Dow, as well as chemical-industry employers Dow Corning Corp. and Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. Now, the college is exploring what it can offer to help Dow Chemical fill jobs at the new battery factory

Dow Corning Corp., based at the intersection of Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties at US-10 and M-47, chose its Thomas Township plant for two of three expansions in its Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. production of polycrystalline silicon. used mostly for computer chips before, the silicon forms the basis for building solar energy devices."

Granholm Hails Dow Renewable Initiative, Jobs

Governor Jennifer Granholm visited[24] the Midland Headquarters of the Dow Chemical Company in late february, 2010, and lauded the company's efforts in renewable energy. In particular, Granholm cited the new launch of an advanced battery facility in Midland, which will support the growing commitment to electric vehicles by Michigan Automakers, and Dow's innovative "Solar Shingle" technology. "It's a solar panel that looks like a shingle," she said.

Granholm pointed out that the new initiatives by Dow alone may bring as many as 6900 new jobs to the state.[25]

In recent months, the Governor has singled out a number of Michigan innovations in renewable energy, and declared that renewable technologies were the best hope for recovery in Michigan's economy and manufacturing sector.[26] Recently, Granholm designated a "Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone" in Alpena, which will be home to the Alpena Prototype Biorefinery (APB), a partnership of Atlanta-based American Process Inc. and San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and the largest refiner in North America.[27]

The Governor blogged on the Huffington Post, that, Dow's programs, along with 9 other new renewable initiatives, would create more than 17,000 new jobs in the state.[28]

Ford Plant to be Reconfigured

The Detroit Free Press has reported[29] that newly proposed incentives could bring Renewable Manufacturers to the state in a rehabilitated Ford assembly plant at Wixom, MI.[30]

According to the Free Press, "Investment in the proposed project would initially be $725 million to create 4,300 direct jobs, growing eventually to about $1 billion altogether. The two firms would use about half of the 4.7 million square feet of buildings on the 320-acre site, and recruit other firms to join them."[31]

Under the proposal, Ford would sell the facility to Xtreme Power of Austin, Texas, a grid storage battery maker, and Clairvoyant Energy, a solar panel maker, of Santa Barbara, California. The Associated Press reported [32] that the facility had "the potential to create another 10,000 supplier-related jobs -- 1,500 at or near the plant."

Training and Testing Center Proposed

The Grand Rapids Press reports that several universities and community colleges throughout Michigan have been cooperating on a proposal to bring a renewable energy training and testing center to Michigan, at a site envisioned for Allegan County. According to the Press, "Grand Rapids Community College, encouraged by The Right Place economic development group, has succeeded in getting eight West Michigan community colleges -- from Traverse City all the way down to Kalamazoo, Saint Joseph and Battle Creek -- to cooperate on one big idea to promote wind energy in West Michigan. Grand Valley State and Ferris State universities are also on board.....The center would train skilled workers to service the turbines and wind farms that are popping up like summer sunflowers throughout the country."[33]

A local economic development group, The Right Place is a prime mover in bringing the educational institutions together on the project. "Right Place President Birgit Klohs estimates there's a window of just a few years for West Michigan to prove itself a player in the wind market.." according to the story. "Within just a few years, Michigan may have 1,000 wind turbines turning to meet demands of the state's renewable portfolio standards, rules that require electric suppliers by 2015 to get 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources."[33]

Delta Community College, one of the nation's leading community colleges, has announced a training program for Alternative Energy/Wind Turbine Technologists. The two year program will include math and physics training, along with the mechanics of turbine blades and generators. Students will learn how to trouble shoot complex wind systems, and to work as a team. The course description notes, "Working about 250 feet above the ground requires this professional to set aside any fears of heights."

Small Hydro in Michigan

Michigan has there are more than 2,500 dams, many of them old and in poor repair -- with little consensus on what to do with them.

Some observers feel that dams should be removed, allowing Rivers to run free, and restoring fisheries and habitat. Removing dams would also lower the threat of dam failure on downstream communities. In the Ionia County community of Lyons, a battle is being waged between two views of whether a local dam should be upgraded, or removed.[34]

The small dam, built in 1857 to power a flour mill, generated electrical power between 1913 and 1959. A California entrepreneur says he wants to rehabilitate the dam and produce enough power to light 250 homes. Others in the community disagree, pitting one "green" option against another.

Energy Efficiency Program Off to Strong Start

Consumer Energy's new efficiency program has exceeded the company's expectations, quickly becoming one of the utilities most popular programs. [35] Two popular options that are part of the program are replacing light bulbs with newer, more energy efficient models - at lower cost - which has generated sales of 750,000 bulbs for retailers around the state. Original projections were that 2000 customers would take advantage of incentives for new, more efficient appliances. The program has drawn 12,000 applicants. The six-year goal is to reduce electric usage by 6 percent and gas usage by 4 percent. In an interview with the Jackson Citizen Patriot, Consumer's spokesman Terry Mierzwa, executive manager of marketing, energy efficiency and research said the company has exceeded its targets so far.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Our New Big Three"Skip Pruss, Michigan Land Use Institute, February 22, 2010"
  2. Michigan Drives For A Battery-Powered Recovery"Alan Greenblatt,NPR, June 16, 2010"
  3. Battery site work starts at Dow Kokam in Midland"Jewel Gopwani, Detroit Free Press, June 22, 2010"
  4. Dow Kokam breaks ground on advanced battery plant in Michigan"Eric Loveday, AutoBlogGreen, June 23, 2010"
  5. Li-ion Polymer Battery Maker Kokam America Is Partner of Choice for Smith Electric Vehicles US; Kokam JV With Dow Targeted at Scaling Up Production"Greencar Congress, April 17, 2009"
  6. Some Have Mixed Emotions Over Tax incentives that made Battery plant possible"Shandra Martinez, The Grand Rapids Press, July 15, 2010"
  7. President Takes a Jab at critics, including Holland's Hoekstra"Chris Flescar, WZZM, July 15, 2010"
  8. General Motors, "GM Announces Brand New Compact Buick Crossover Plug-in Hybrid", Media Release, August 6th, 2009.
  9. Synapse Energy Economics, "Energy Future: a Greener alternative for Michigan", Natural Resources Defense Council, undated, accessed August 2009.
  10. "Report: Renewables and Energy Efficiency Are Enough to Power the State", Great Lakes IT Report, August 12, 2009"
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tim Higgins, GM previews models, says Volt may get 230-m.p.g. rating", Detroit Free Press, August 12, 2009.
  12. GM to make its own electric motors"Dee-Ann Durbin, AP Automotive, January 26, 2010"
  13. Ford Focus Electric to be Built in Michigan"Auto-Evolution, January 12, 2009"
  14. David Goodman, "GM to assemble Volt battery packs in Michigan", Associated Press, August 13, 2009"
  15. Kathryn Lynch-Morin, "GM Powertrain plant in Bay City to receive $37 million investment to produce Volt parts", The Bay City Times, August 28, 2009"
  16. Plan unveiled for battery plant in Holland"Jewel Gopwani, Detroit Free Press, March 12, 2010"
  17. "Michigan to receive $3B in energy grants", UPI, August 5, 2009.
  18. Josie Garthwaite, "Tipping Point: A123Systems’ Road to the Battery Slam Dunk",, August 6, 2009"
  19. BRIEF-Johnson Controls, A123 among big winners of U.S. auto battery grants"CNBC, August 5, 2009"
  20. Midland battery plant plans rock our world"Saginaw News, August 13, 2009
  21. Midland battery plant plans rock our world"Saginaw News, August 13, 2009
  22. Jennifer Granholm, "You can Feel the Electricity in the Air", The Huffington Post, August 17, 2009.
  23. Eric English, "Charging Up", Bay City Times, August 31, 2009.
  24. Granholm Highlights Midland Visit in Radio Address"Jeff Kart, The Bay City Times, February 26, 2010"
  25. Granholm Hails Dow Plans for Billion Dollar Clean-Energy Expansions in Michigan"Megan Brown, Office of the Governor, February 25, 2010"
  26. Renewables Best Hope for Michigan Jobs"Eartha Melzer, Michigan Messenger, january 30, 2010"
  27. Granholm Announces Renewable Energy Renaissance Zone in Alpena"Bridget Beckman, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, June 24, 2009"
  28. Governor Granholm announces more than 17000 new jobs for state"Bridget Beckmen, Office of the Governor, Feb. 25, 2010"
  29. Tom Walsh, "Wixom deal would be big win for state"", Detroit Free Press, August 26, 2009.
  30. Dave Eggert, "Alternative Energy Companies Want to Convert Shuttered Ford Plant", Associated Press, August 26, 2009.
  31. Tom Walsh, "Wixom deal would be big win for state: New life, 4,300 jobs for Wixom plant",, August 25, 2009.
  32. Officials: Energy Companies Want Closed Ford Plant"The Associated Press, August 26, 2009"
  33. 33.0 33.1 "Going with the wind", Editorial, The Grand Rapids Press, August 26, 2009.
  34. Jim Harger, "Ionia County village of Lyons torn over whether to tear down dam and let river run free or harness it for electricity", The Grand Rapids Press, August 29, 2009.
  35. Consumers Energy statnds to reap a 5.7 million doallr reward for energy efficiency programs"Chris Gautz, Jackson Citizen-Patriot, March 8, 2010"

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