I was appointed as the Executive Director of the Muskegon, Michigan SmartZone. There were eleven SmartZones created to boost the economy of the State of Michigan. The Muskegon SmartZone was a collaborative effort between the City of Muskegon and Grand Valley State College (GVSU). This SmartZone was to be focused entirely on alternative and renewable energy technologies and education. With the effort of significant number of professionals at GVSU, the City of Muskegon, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Public Service Commission, and the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce I was able to complete the establishment of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Center(MAREC) in the heart of the Muskegon SmartZone in the Spring of 2004.
The objective of MAREC was to select and demonstrate the technical viability and economic performance of renewable and alternative energy technologies. It was also an incubating center for new energy companies and planned to offer wide range of educational programs.
A 250 kW Fuel Cell Energy molten carbonate fuel cell was installed for electric base load while a combined heat/power micro turbine was used to supply up to 30 kW of dynamic power. The heat recovered from these technologies was utilized to augment the facility’s heating boilers and a sidewalk ice melt system. A 10,000 square feet Unisolar photovoltaic panel covered most of MAREC’s roof and produced up to 30 kW of power. A nickel metal hydride battery system was integrated for energy storage. At a later date I installed and integrated a 1.8 kW Skystream wind turbine with the rest of alternative and renewable energy technologies.
I also interconnected MAREC ‘s integrated power generating systems with the local utility, Consumers Energy, via MAREC’s computer controlled switch board. MAREC’s Interconnect Agreement stipulates that the power MAREC consumes from the utility is purchased at the negotiated electric rate which was around 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, MAREC only received 2.1 cents per kilowatt-hour when electricity was exported to the utility. The excess power that MAREC generated could nott be economically exported under this existing policy, not until a Renewable Portfolio Standard with more favorable feed-in tariffs are implemented in the State of Michigan. The entire interconnect agreement and the economics of buy/sell became a critical public awareness component of the many seminars I gave within the State of Michigan. Consequently I participated in the very large and diverse group of professionals that helped usher in the Michigan Portfolio Standard (RPS): In October 2008, the State of Michigan enacted the Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act, Public Act 295, requiring the state's investor-owned utilities, alternative retail suppliers, electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities to generate 10% of their retail electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2015.
Above is a collage of photographs of each of the alternative and renewable energy technologies that were selected and integrated at MAREC. All these systems were integrated in accordance to the power connection agreement with Consumers Energy of the State of Michigan. Far left is a photograph of the 360 MW coal fired plant that was approximately one half mile away from the MAREC facility. MAREC had the capability to produce some 200 kWh in excess of it peak power demand. However the buy-sell agreement stipulated that MAREC buys it electricity at 12.5¢ per kWh and sells excess power to the grid at 2.1¢ per kWh. It was very clear that Michigan needed to improve these buy/sell agreements to usher in alternative energy and make a positive impact on the environment.
I established MAREC’s Energy Audit program. MAREC personnel were certified in energy efficiency measurements for commercial buildings. Computer programs were selected to be the analytical tools for light distribution and air flow distribution measurements. Custom recommendations for light system, air flow, and HVAC changes were then made to optimize the return of investment for each customer
I worked with Grand Valley State University management to establish the Grand Valley Research Corporation (GVRC). GVRC’s key objective was to work with entrepreneurs from within GVSU and those that might have affiliation through its SmartZones.
Several companies were incubated at MAREC including E-Net, LLC which I founded and raised private seed money to prove the basic concept of an advanced wind turbine technology. WindTronics, LLC licensed the E-Net, LLC wind turbine technology for business commercialization in 2009.
I was selected to Chair the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Committee in the World Renewable Energy Conference IX in Florence, Italy, August 2006.