Michigan. The Saudi Arabia of WIND energy
The first regional Wind Energy Conference, sponsored by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (www.glrea.org) took place at the Cobo Center in Detroit April 20 & 21st. Bringing together for the first time under one roof, the major players from government, utilities, universities, and private enterprise everyone had a chance to focus on what the experts had to say about the state of the art in wind energy production and the role it will play in the transformation of Michigan's economy.
A highlight of the intensive two day Michigan Wind Energy summit, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, in her keynote speech, stated that the goal of her efforts was to make Michigan the "Saudi Arabia of wind energy".
In her enthusiastic 'let's get serious' attitude about making change, Gov. Granholm reiterated that no one is hungrier for change and the jobs that 'going green' will create than Michigan. Term-limited out from another term as governor, Granholm wants her legacy to reflect Michigan as the "poster child state" for moving from the industrial age 'rust belt’ to the information age 'green belt'. Citing the strengths in educated workforce, high-tech infrastructure, strategic location, and the great lakes for supplying the wind and transportation, Granholm charts a path for transforming automotive technology and resources into the clean energy industries of wind, solar, geothermal.
Targeting development to the Great Lakes Bay Region, Granholm expects this area (the Saginaw Valley) to emerge as the 'silicon valley' of the clean energy industry. To do this she envisions centering the whole 'supply chain', from engineering, to manufacturing, to training and education in Michigan, and re-brand Michigan from the 'automotive state' to the 'clean energy state'.
Already over $100 million has been invested in the wind energy business in Michigan. As an example the Governor mentioned the alliance between Michigan based Dow Chemical and Oakridge Laboratories (Tennessee), in the development of low cost carbon fiber turbo wind blades that can be used for off shore wind farms that are under development. The cost of this composite blade material had been brought down to the 'China price', making for a huge competitive advantage even before factoring 'out' the cost of shipping.
In addition to the 'wind' initiatives, Michigan is also making progress in other areas of renewable energy production including the engineering and manufacture of high capacity batteries for PEV's (plug-in electric vehicles), another area that Governor Granholm is targeting.
At the conclusion of her address, Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association president, Howard Edelson, presented the governor with the first 'Leadership in Renewable Energy Award', that in the future will be known as the 'Granholm Award'
photo by Douglas Elbinger