Energy :Development News

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Stimulus helps weatherize hundreds of homes in Macomb County

Weather stripping, adding insulation, and replacing light bulbs can all make a difference in a home's energy costs, and a Roseville residence recently showed off exactly how.

The weatherization assistance program, federally funded through the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program, is managed in Macomb County through its Community Services Agency. The program has been in existence since 1977, explains Joe Cooke, community operations coordinator for the Macomb County Community Services Agency, but it got more publicity last year after receiving stimulus funding.

The agency used to weatherize about 200 homes a year; now it's closer to 900. Staffing has been doubled to keep up with the demands that came from the increased funding.

To show off the work, agency representatives picked a house that had been weatherized in the past and brought the contractors and inspectors back to talk about some of the things they'd done. "One of the reasons for the demonstration house is to show people their stimulus dollars at work," Cooke says.

Weatherizing actions usually consist of caulking, weather stripping, insulating, new light bulbs, and replacing refrigerators and furnaces that aren't energy-efficient. The fixes are dependent on
available funds, so, Cooke explains, a pre-inspection is done on the house to see where energy is being wasted. Then a computer program reports what can be done to the house to tighten it up.

The stimulus funds, an $8.7 million boost for weatherizing homes in Macomb County alone, are available through March of 2012. Cooke says he already has about a year's worth of work lined up.

It's important to concentrate on the homes of those living on a lower income because on average, they spend a greater percentage of their income on utility bills. Weatherization can reduce those costs by about a third. "That's money they can use for food, shelter or other items," he says.

Source: Joe Cooke, community operations coordinator for Macomb County Community Services Agency
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

DTE's SolarCurrents program hits $1M mark

DTE Energy's SolarCurrents program is hitting significant milestones, meaning more solar panels going up all over Metro Detroit.

The program, which started in September, has provided more than $1 million to customers who want to help cut the costs of installing solar panels. That means 55 installations worth about 250 kilowatts of renewable electric capacity. Another 200 applications under review would add another 1,300 kilowatts.

"We have dedicated $25 million toward SolarCurrents," says Scott Simons, a spokesman for DTE Energy. "There is a lot of opportunity for our customers to take advantage of it."

The idea behind the program is to make these systems more affordable for customers and to help DTE meet Michigan's new Renewable Portfolio Standard. Those taking advantage of the program receive 50 percent of both the value of the Renewable Energy Credits upon installation and the remaining RECs as a credit on their bills for the next 20 years.

This program combined with federal tax credits and incentives covers more than half of the installation costs for solar panel systems. For more information, click here.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman for DTE Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Brownstown Middle School plans green projects

Brownstown Middle School is going for the green building trifecta by installing a wind turbine, solar panels, and a green roof.

The Woodhaven-Brownstown School District received $670,000 in federal grants to install the three sustainability projects this summer that will help generate clean energy for the school and teach its students about science, biology, and environmental issues. The green roof promises to be the biggest teaching tool.

"They are putting a football field-sized green roof on top of the building," says Andrew Clark, the assistant principal at Brownstown Middle School who is helping organize the project with Ann Arbor-based Energy Works Michigan. "There will be five different types of grass."

Those types will range from resilient vegetation that grows year-round to plants that flourish during the warm months of the year. Next to that will be six solar panels that will generate electricity for the school.
Students will monitor and study the power generation.

A 60-foot tall wind turbine will be installed in front of the school. The school's staff will also use it as a teaching tool for students who want to learn about wind energy. Clark says the turbine will create minimal noise that won't impact the surrounding neighborhood.

"They assured us that the noise it would generate would be less than the ambient noise that the wind makes," Clark says.

The projects are expected to begin construction after school lets out this summer and be ready to go in time for classes this fall.

Source: Andrew Clark, the assistant principal at Brownstown Middle School
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor aims to switch 75% of streetlights to LEDs by 2011

Some cities aim to one day have LED street lights. Ann Arbor aims to convert 75 percent of its street lights to LED. By next year. The city is also planning to install them in a number of its buildings this summer, so it can serve as a municipal showcase of their virtues.


LED lights are already a staple in downtown Ann Arbor's streetlights, but the next generation of energy efficient lighting is about to become the go-to municipal light bulb in Tree Town.

The City Council has approved a $218,000 contract to install 88 LEDs in the ornamental streetlights along West Stadium Boulevard. The city is also inline to take advantage of a state grant that will allow it to replace many of the high-powered lights at its buildings throughout the city, such as the garage lights in fire stations and the lights at the Mack Pool.

"It's going beyond streetlights," says Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for the city of Ann Arbor. "This is the new frontier."

Read the rest of the story here.

Dearborn explores waste-to-energy plant feasibility

The city of Dearborn is soliciting proposals to explore the feasibility of a waste-to-energy plant.

The project is part of the city's efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Other recent initiatives are moving toward single-stream recycling and considering LED streetlights.
Local officials see the waste-to-energy plant as another feather in the city's tree-hugging hat.

"Do we have enough waste to create enough energy to support the industrial facilities in the city?" says David Norwood, sustainability coordinator for the city of Dearborn.

The waste-to-energy plant isn't your normal dirty Detroit-style incinerator. Dearborn is looking at gasification plans that don't actually burn the refuse. The city is also looking at an anerobic digestor for its sludge waste.

The proposals are due by May 24 (more information here) and a decision on the feasibility of this idea is expected to be made before the end of the year.

Source: David Norwood, sustainability coordinator for the city of Dearborn
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland Schools Technical Campus adds solar, wind systems

The Oakland Schools Technical Campus in Clarkston is going for a twofer in alternative energy, installing both a solar- and a wind-power system.

Over the last year, Oak Electric has been working with the school to get approvals for permits and to sort out engineering issues. The foundations for the solar panels and the wind turbine have been poured and installation of the actual equipment will begin next week. Both systems should be up and running by the end of May.

The school district is spending $36,000 to install a two-kilowatt ground-mount solar system, which will be installed first. Next is a 2.4 kilowatt Skystream wind turbine that will stand 45 feet tall.

Both systems will be used to power the campus. They will also be used as teaching tools for students to learn about the ins and out of alternative energy.

Source: Gary Pipia, president of Oak Electric
Writer: Jon Zemke

Oakland, Macomb counties push forward green programs

Oakland and Macomb counties are pushing toward a more sustainable government with a recent spate of announcements for environmentally friendly programs. Those programs include a website dedicated to information activities on sustainability, cutting energy costs through efficiency improvements, and challenging local residents and businesses to cut energy use by 10 percent within the next two years.

That last one is called the OakGreen Challenge and was issued by Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson just before the county's second annual Green Summit in mid-May.

The program is similar to Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje's Green Energy Challenge. That initiative, announced in 2005, calls for Ann Arbor to use 20 percent green energy by 2010 for municipal operations and by 2015 for the whole city. The city is now on a path to reach 30 percent green energy usage by the end of the year.

Not to be left out of the energy efficiency fun is Macomb County, which recently announced that it has saved taxpayers $44,400 in energy costs through implementing energy efficient improvements. Those savings took place in the first two months of contracting electrical power from First Energy for nine buildings that draw power from its main powerhouse, plus the Administration Building. The savings are projected to hit $600,000 over the next two years.

Macomb County also recently launched Green Macomb, a website dedicated to green initiatives and information. Think of the efforts being undertaken to create everything from energy efficiencies to clean water initiatives.

Source: Oakland and Macomb counties
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ann Arbor green lights LED streetlight pilot project

Energy-efficient LED streetlights are multiplying throughout Ann Arbor, thanks to a new partnership between the city and DTE Energy.


LED street lights are starting to spread from downtown Ann Arbor into the city's neighborhoods.

The city has recently partnered with DTE Energy to perform a pilot project for neighborhood LED streetlights. The two institutions will split the $44,800 bill to install 58 cobrahead LED streetlights in the student-housing-dominated neighborhood just south of the University of Michigan.

"Some students had previously raised concerns about the quality of streetlighting," says Andrew Brix, energy programs manager for the city of Ann Arbor. "We had been looking for an opportunity to try out LEDs in an area where DTE owned the lights. This worked out perfect."

Read the rest of the story here.

Karmanos and Crittenton open new cancer center

Karmanos Cancer Center and Crittenton Hospital Medical Center have opened a new shared facility in Rochester Hills that boasts a bevy of green features.

The new $16 million building features 30,000 square feet of state-of-the-art cancer treatment space. Patients will be able to receive advanced radiation treatment, chemotherapy, diagnostic imaging, and on-site laboratory testing. Seventeen employees staff the facility and that number is expected to grow later this year.

The center also has a number of sustainable features such as a white roof, occupancy sensors, and energy-efficient lights. All of these features were designed by Albert Kahn Associates and installed by Barton Malow, including the daylight harvesting system.

"The lobby has a lot of glass so you get a lot of natural light," says Larry Dziedzic, senior project manager for Barton Malow. "As the day gets brighter the daylight harvesting system shuts down the lights you don't need."

Source: Larry Dziedzic, senior project manager for Barton Malow
Writer: Jon Zemke

Birmingham installs LED lights in parking garage

Birmingham plans to launch its first LED light project this year when it installs the ultra-efficient bulbs in the Pierce Street Parking Garage.

The city plans to spend $350,000 switching out the old high-pressure sodium bulbs with LEDs, starting late this summer and finishing before the winter arrives. The parking garage has 227 light fixtures that were installed in 1986.

"They're pretty close to the end of their useful life," says Brendan Cousino, assistant city engineer for Birmingham.

LED lights use a fraction of the electricity of normal light bulbs because 95 percent of the energy they use creates light the human eye can see. In comparison, only 50 to 60 percent of energy used by regular bulbs makes visible light. LEDs also last several years longer than normal street lights.

The city of Birmingham expects to save $18,000 in electricity annually, plus thousands more dollars in maintenance costs. Other Metro Detroit cities are already enjoying similar benefits from their LED projects, including Pontiac and Auburn Hills. Ann Arbor is close to being finished with replacing all of its street lights with LEDs.

Bids for the project are expected to go out midway through the summer. About $125,000 in federal stimulus funds are helping to pay for the project.

Source: Brendan Cousino, assistant city engineer for Birmingham
Writer: Jon Zemke

Plymouth looks at geothermal for Cultural Center

Plymouth is expecting significant cost savings through implementing a big-ticket green item in one of its facilities.

The city is considering switching its heating and cooling system from natural gas to geothermal at its Cultural Center. The facility houses an ice rink, meeting rooms, banquet rooms, and its recreation department offices.

It would cost about $1 million to remove the existing mechanisms and install the geothermal units. Geothermal is seen as the top-of-the-line energy efficient heating and cooling system. The city expects to make its investment back within 8-12 years and then enjoy significant savings after that.

"The energy savings is what does it for us," says Paul Sincock, city manager for Plymouth.

The circa-1972 building at 525 Farmer Road is served by a boiler that runs on natural gas and electricity for heating. It also uses three 100-ton compressors for the refrigeration system to keep the ice sink cool.

The city expects to make a decision on the project by April 19.

Source: Paul Sincock, city manager for Plymouth
Writer: Jon Zemke

DTE Energy looks for participants for SolarCurrents program

Solar power might not seem like the obvious alternative energy play in precipitation-happy Michigan, but it's one DTE Energy is going for with its SolarCurrents program.

The Detroit-based utility is looking for businesses and educational institutions with large rooftops or ground area to host solar energy installations. The idea is to help DTE meet Michigan's new Renewable Portfolio Standard while lowering energy bills.

"We do realize that solar might not be economically viable today in Michigan, but it may become so in the future," says Irene Dimitry, director of renewable energy for DTE. "There are reasons we are investing solar."

She adds that the costs of solar have been dropping recently thanks to a combination of increased competition, rising economies of scale, and a reduction in the price of materials. Dimitry also points out that Germany generates 3.5 percent of its energy from solar, and that country is not as solar friendly as Michigan.

"They are frequently referred to as one of the success stories," Dimitry says.

DTE hopes to harness photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property so it can generate 15 megawatts of renewable energy in Southeast Michigan over the next five years. It plans to invest $100 million in the program.

SolarCurrents requires customers to participate for 20 years. The solar energy systems will be owned, installed, operated, and maintained by the utility. In return, customers will get an annual credit on their energy bill based on the system size, as well as a one-time, upfront construction payment to cover any inconvenience during installation.

DTE is accepting applications until April 29. Interested participants should own a facility with 15,000 square feet of unobstructed roof in good condition or a similarly sized area on the ground.

So far 150 applications have been received. Of those, 80 percent have been from residential properties.

Source: Irene Dimitry, director of renewable energy for DTE Energy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Auburn Hills sets sustainable example; green roof on police dept

Auburn Hills city leaders are making the effort to talk the sustainability talk and walk a greener walk.

The city has incorporated a number of environmentally friendly features in its facilities as a way of showing potential investors that green building has plenty of benefits. That has led to a number of privately funded sustainable-oriented projects that wouldn't have necessarily been, such as Metro Detroit's first LEED certified dental office.

"We're really surprised that a lot of developers and engineers are not aware of them," says Pete Auger, city manager for Auburn Hills.

Storm water management is one of the principal green features on Auburn Hills' municipal campus. The 57-acre parcel has seven rain gardens, a couple of filtration ditches, and a bioswell, all of which absorb large amounts of water. The Auburn Hills Police Dept's shooting range also has a green roof to soak up the rain water runoff.

The city has also installed LED street lights on its municipal campus. LED lights are seen as the gold standard for energy efficient lighting.

"We had a five-year payback on that," Auger says. "It's been quite successful for us."

Source: Pete Auger, city manager for Auburn Hills
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ford shrinks carbon footprint, saves $16M to date

Ford is pushing green building forward by lowering the energy consumption of its computer systems.

The Dearborn-based automaker has implemented the PC Power Management program, which centrally manages the settings on Windows laptops and desktop computers. An estimated 60 percent of employees don't power down their computers when they leave at night, so the program does it for them.
It is also expected to increase worker efficiency by running software updates during off-peak hours.

Ford is implementing the system in its North American offices this year and its world-wide offices in 2011. The move is expected to save the company $1.2 million annually in power costs alone, equivalent to reducing its carbon footprint by an estimated 16,000 to 25,000 metric tons annually.

This initiative is part of Ford's ongoing process of making its buildings, both office and manufacturing, more energy efficient. That policy has allowed it to earn the EPA's ENERGY STAR Award for five straight years. The company has accomplished this with simple solutions, such as switching to CFL bulbs and installing electronic thermostats.

Ford has reduced its energy consumption by 5 percent, saving $16
million, since 2008. Energy use has fallen by 35 percent since 2000.

Source: Ford
Writer: Jon Zemke

Ypsilanti City Hall solar panels flip switch on electricity

A small group of people are making a bigger and bigger impact on alternative energy in Ypsilanti, one solar panel at a time.


The meters are spinning in the right direction at Ypsilanti's City Hall, now that the new solar panels on the south side of the building are generating electricity. Local officials and volunteers who made the project happen flipped the switch last weekend.

That not only turned on the 12 solar panels that adorn the downtown building, but concluded an ambitious grass roots project, Solar Ypsi, that continues to spread its roots throughout Ypsilanti.

Read the rest of the story here.
125 Energy Articles | Page: | Show All