Leading the charge for renewable energy

When it comes to creating a greener earth some people re-use, some people recycle and some people start their own nonprofit dedicated renewable energy.

Daniel R. Doehrman established Green Earth Michigan in 2010 and since then has been working to make Kalamazoo a friendlier place for electric vehicles. He says it's only through providing the right infrastructure for the vehicles that their use will become widepsread.

He readily acknowledges some environmental issues with plug-ins, but he takes a long view. First get rid of the carbon spewing from gasoline driven cars, then deal with the lithium battery issue. And to those who suggest that the coal burned to generate the electricity that is charging electric vehicles, that too can be overcome, Doehrman says.

Right now his organization, which is very close to finishing the detailed process needed to obtain official nonprofit status, is working to help get more electric vehicle charging stations installed around the city of Kalamazoo. He's helped get stations in the Rave parking ramp on Portage Road downtown and at Fourth Coast on Westnedge Avenue and two more stations are coming. (WMU has four stations but Green Earth Michigan was not part of those installations.)

So what drives a 26-year-old to establish a nonprofit focused on renewable energy projects? At age 15, Doehrman learned about the life and experiences of Nikola Tesla. Doerhman can tell you about Tesla's search in South America for the right filament for Thomas Edison's light bulb, his work with alternating current, his towers to power far-flung cities and his plans for electric cars.

The keen interest Doerhman experienced as a teen learning about the Austrian inventor who came to do research and work in America and who is considered one of the major contributors to commercial electrical power led to Doerhman's passion for pursuing renewable resources today.

Doerhman was born and grew up in Kalamazoo and studied business management and nonprofit leadership at Western Michigan University. He brings to the enterprise his organizational experience in a previous nonprofit he established that dealt with people who had lost their driver's license. His current organization is more closely aligned with matters that thoroughly engage him, he says.

Doehrman works with ChargePoint America to connect various businesses with the funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Federal Department of Energy is promoting the use of electric vehicles by making the funds available through the Transportation Electrification Initiative.

In turn, ChargePoint America and Coulomb Technologies are working to provide 5,000 charging stations across the county at no cost to participating communities. Carmakers have responded saying they will sell their electric vehicles in communities where there charging stations are readily available. The Chevrolet Volt, Ford Transit Connect, Ford Focus BEV and Smart Fortwo Electric Drive are some of the vehicles that car makers are rolling out.

Locally, Doehman's spread the word about the program riding across town on his moped, although he says it might be an easier sell if he had an electric vehicle to demonstrate to people how it works.

For the downtown Kalamazoo installation, Doehrman informed city officials about plug-in readiness, its legalities, and coordinated installations between all parties involved -- the City of Kalamazoo Downtown Kalamazoo Inc., Central City Parking, ChargePoint America, Consumers Energy, and Webster Electric.

His work with Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. led him to be appointed to a committee at the state level that deals with policy issues for plug-in electric vehicles where he is meeting high-level car company officials and statewide energy leaders.

Doerhman envisions a city where charging stations are available at every parking space. But he warns that soon the funding for the charging stations will no longer be available. The program is set to expire in October and funds could run out by September.

When that program ends there still is a lot of work to be done, says the man who describes himself as a climate hawk--someone who understands that climate change is a threat to our safety and security and favors taking aggressive action to neutralize the threat. For Doehrman that work is intended to make sure a disaster never happens again like the 800,000 gallon oil spill into the Kalamazoo River when a pipe owned by Enbridge Energy ruptured a year ago.

On his nonprofit's website the organization is gathering signatures of those willing to come together and help one another in find a solution to bring 100 percent Renewable Energy to Michigan in our lifetime.

Doerhman says it will take a lot of education and the job won't be easy, but it is entirely doable.

Kathy Jennings is the Editor of Second Wave Media. She is a freelance writer and editor.

Photos by Erik Holladay.

Daniel R. Doehrman at the Rave parking ramp on Portage Road with a charging station for a plug-in electric vehicle.

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