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Oakland U's new dorm a study in energy efficiency

Oakland University's year-old student housing complex is a study in environmentally-conscious design and operation.

The university's achievements in preventing waste and lowering impact on the environment resulted in the $30-million Oak View Hall being awarded gold certification status in LEED - or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The U.S. Green Building Council certifies projects based on categories such as sustainability, energy and atmosphere, indoor environmental quality, and others.

The nearly 165,000-square-foot, 500-bed residence was built to drastically lower the amount of waste typically generated during construction. Ninety-five percent of the construction waste was recoiled and 15 perencet of construction materials came from recycled products. In addition 20 percent of construction materials were made regionally, eliminating environmental damage from transportation.

The operation of the dorm includes dual-flush toilets, low-flow bathroom fixtures and shower heads, and 18-percent less energy use than typical dorm buildings.

Bike racks, preferred parking for low-emission vehicles, and shielded light fixtures helped the project secure gold LEED status.

Source: Eric Reikowski, spokesperson, Oakland University
Writer: Kim North Shine

Oakland U tapping Chevron Energy Services for cheap, clean energy

Oakland University and Chevron Energy Solutions are partnering on the construction and operation of a clean, cost-saving energy source for electricity and hot water.

The Combined Heat & Power, or CHP, is an emerging and growing way to provide energy to large facilities. A natural gas turbine provides the energy rather than traditional electricity.

The university will lease and operate the system, and Chevron Energy Solutions, a division of Chevron Oil & Gas, will build the system at the campus' central heating plant.

Overall, says Siraj Khan, the director of engineering for OU Facilities Management, the new system will save money on energy costs, reduce OU's carbon footprint and also become a teaching tool for students.

"CHP is a proven technology, and is becoming more and more popular in the wake of sustainability culture on higher education campuses all around United States to reduce carbon footprint and to produce clean energy," Khan says. "The operation of the CHP, real-time energy monitoring, data for energy savings and reduction of emissions will be a learning tool for students and a valuable educational experience."

Source: Siraj Khan, director of engineering for OU Facilities Management
Writer: Kim North Shine

Age-friendly, plug-in ready neighborhood planned for Auburn Hills

A residential development in Auburn Hills is planned to be much more than another new subdivision.

The Parkways, a project of The Moceri Companies, is meant to create public use spaces, become an entry into the city's emerging downtown district, promote alternative electric vehicle usage and offer specially-designed multi-generational housing in one neighborhood.

City officials say the mix of housing styles and design of the neighborhood keep in mind the city's goals of offering more "age-friendly" and senior living options and promoting the inclusion of alternative energy technology in new construction.

The Parkways is also believed to be the largest residential development in Michigan to wire all property with electric vehicle plug-ins.

"This project was intentionally designed to meet Auburn Hills’ formal commitment to become an Age-Friendly Community with a variety of housing opportunities, parks, sidewalks and complete street considerations,” says Steven Cohen, director of community development for the city of Auburn Hills. “This private investment by The Moceri Companies to build a multi-generational development is a huge victory for the city.  It’s a game changer for Downtown Auburn Hills.”

As for electric vehicle wiring, Cohen says, "If considered when a project is first built, preparing for electric vehicles is very easy and inexpensive.  By prepping these garages with proper wiring, new residents within this development will only need to add a charging station on the wall if they buy or lease an electric vehicle.  It’s like adding a garage door opener and the costs are now very similar.  Having proper infrastructure in place will help this technology succeed. It just takes forward thinking.”

The Parkways will be made up of 76 townhouse, 72 stacked, flat units and a three-story 160-unit senior care complex.

The market value of The Parkways, which will be built on 21.5 acres of property west of Adams road and north of the Clinton River Trail, is expected to be $75 million. Previous plans for a major housing development by another company foundered during the recession, and the property went into foreclosure and then back into the city's hands.

A partnership with the city and Moceri means part of the land will become a two-acre public park and the major road through the property will be designed as a boulevard an eastern gateway into downtown Auburn Hills, where major projects such as student housing, will be completed soon.

Construction on the first of five phases is scheduled to being in the spring of 2014 and be completed by the end of 2017.

Source: City of Auburn Hills
Writer: Kim North Shine

Metro Detroit towns, groups get grants for tree plantings

About 15 metro Detroit cities, schools and community groups are sharing in tree-planting grants awarded by DTE and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

A total of 34 grants were awarded statewide. The amount of grants totaled $75,610 and will lead to the planting of more than 1,000 trees. Locally, communities such as Lincoln Park, Warren, Grosse Pointe Park and Pleasant Ridge will plant trees in the fall and spring.

Schools such as Commerce Elementary in Oakland County and Romeo Community Schools in Macomb County, as well as community groups such as the International Wildlife Refuge, Jefferson East Business Association and Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education, all in Wayne County, are also receiving grants.

The program is intended to increase the number of proper tree species and encourage properly planted trees and to also help reverse the loss of tree canopy in urban areas.

In the 15 years since the Michigan program began more than 20 million trees have been planted throughout the state, according to the DNR.

“The trees planted through this program will help to improve public areas in communities throughout the state,” said Kevin Sayers, coordinator of the DNR’s Urban Forestry Program. “This program also helps raise awareness about the importance of planting the right tree in the right location to avoid utility and tree conflicts.”

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Scott Simons, DTE Energy and Madhu Oberoi, executive director, Lincoln Park Downtown Development Authority

Solar power array atop IKEA in Canton is Michigan's largest

Michigan's largest solar power array is soaking up rays and generating power from the rooftop of the IKEA in Canton.

The massive, 122,000-square-foot, 4,160-panel photovoltaic array was plugged in last week week and will produce about 1.1 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity.

IKEA's announcement of the project says it will reduce its carbon dioxide output by 769 tons and eliminate emissions equal to the annual output of 151 cars or 96 homes.

The completion of Canton's PV array, which is owned by IKEA rather than being leased, as is typical, is the 20th such project for Sweden-based IKEA in the U.S. Chicago-based SoCore Energy, one of the largest commercial solar developers in the Midwest, oversaw the installation.

"We are thrilled at how this solar energy system furthers our commitment to sustainability at IKEA Canton,” Anton van Dongen, store manager, says in a statement. “IKEA has a never-ending job where most things remain to be done that encourages us always to ask ourselves how we can improve what we do today for a better tomorrow. We appreciate the support of the Canton Township, Detroit Edison and SoCore Energy, our partners in this project.”

Source: Amanda Preston, spokesperson, IKEA
Writer: Kim North Shine

Wyandotte turns up the heat on solar power

It's more than ironic that a coal pile lies within view of a new solar power system in the city of Wyandotte.

The city, which operates its own utility, Municipal Electric, has made a major commitment to moving away from traditional forms of energy and toward alternatives such as solar and geothermal.

One of several projects underway in Wyandotte is the recent completion of two solar-power producing arrays that will take the load off the traditional power generators.

Other projects include changes to LED lighting on city streets and buildings and a free program to provide every Wyandotte property owner with a free energy audit, which includes freebies such as energy-savings light bulbs (as a way to encourage the energy-efficient changes to properties). The program also offers 1.99 percent interest loans.

The object is to create less demand - and strain - on the utility, saving everyone money, says Melanie McCoy, Wyandotte's Municipal Services general manager.

The solar power project came in two parts. One is a larger array built on a city water department settling basin. The other, a smaller solar garden, was placed across the street from Bishop Park.

"This little solar garden is very visual," McCoy says. "The kids at the park can see it. People in the community see it."

She says there are plans to install a kiosk and plaque explaining what the solar garden and the city's alternative energy program is about.

The solar power project, which was made possible by a $3.8 million Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant, is the latest in a series of changes showing the city's commitment to alternative energy, many of those changes prompted by government grants and tax incentives.

McCoy says the changes will eventually pay for themselves, and already they've created jobs - some temporary, some permanent, from consultants and contractors to energy and financial managers. Those jobs in turn have generated spending at local businesses, she says.

It has the ability to generate 212 kilowatts of solar power, enough for about 50 homes, she says. She says it will take about 16 percent of the load off the coal fire generation the city puts out. She says the irony of the new generation of power overshadowing the old school power source of coal - Wyandotte also uses gas to generate power for its residents - is not lost on city officials.

"This is bringing good things to our city," she says. "This has been a great thing for us."

Source: Melanie McCoy, Wyandotte Municipal Services general manager
Writer: Kim North Shine

DTE reports big energy savings from conservation programs

Some 200,000 metro Detroiters accumulated a total of $50 million in energy savings in 2011 by participating in DTE Energy's efficiency programs.

The $50 million savings came through programs such as home energy audits that show residents and business owners how to prevent energy waste or add energy efficient features to their homes. Programs such as appliance recycling, low income weatherization assistance and rebates and discounts on energy efficient lighting, thermostats and appliances, says DTE spokesman Alejandro Bodipo-Memba.

DTE Energy launched many of the programs in 2009 - as have all utilities - as the federal government enacted measures in 2008 to promote clean, affordable energy.

"Customer response to our energy efficiency programs continues to be overwhelmingly positive," Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president, Marketing & Renewables, says in a statement announcing the savings. "More than 200,000 of our customers took control of their energy use through these programs and saved millions of dollars as a result."

The breakdown for DTE's metro Detroit power users who participated went something like this:
* More than 76,000 apartments made more energy efficient
* More than 23,000 appliances recycled
* More than 50,0000 home energy audits/consultations completed
* More than 4.5 million discounted Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and 22,000 energy efficiency kits distributed to customers.
* More than 7,000 businesses installed 6,000-plus thermostats, 600 boiler tune-ups and took other energy saving steps.

"We're very proud of the role our energy efficiency programs have played in helping customers save money," Lauer says.
Source: Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

New and renovated homes sprouting in place of foreclosures in Pontiac

About 100 abandoned and foreclosed houses in Pontiac are being demolished and replaced with new or renovated homes as part of a major revitalization program organizers say could become a model of local urban renewal.

More than 100 homes have been demolished and nearly 20 renovated or rebuilt in the Unity Park district and throughout other parts of the city since May. The goal is to sell a record number of foreclosed homes and restore or replace them with homes featuring amenities that "defy the perception of abandoned homes." Prices range from $45,000 to $75,000 to eligible buyers.

Every home is being made energy efficient and true to the style of the city's old neighborhoods.

Home Renewal Systems, a Farmington Hills company that specializes in urban development and revitalization, is part of a broad collaboration on the project that's funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Other players include governmental bodies such as the city of Pontiac, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Oakland County Land Bank. Nonprofits such as the Community Housing Network and Oakland County Habitat for Humanity are also involved, as are the Michigan Association of Home Builders and the Michigan Association of Realtors. It was part of an Open House tour held recently and touted as an unprecedented showcase of homes in the city. A family relocating to Pontiac for one of the homes was part of the media event kicking off the tour.

"The great part of the program is we specifically look for local companies…and engage local developers," says Shannon Morgan, senior vice president of Home Renewal Systems.

Besides acquiring property and working as a developer or finding developers and facilitating the collaborative effort, Home Renewal Systems works to educate and prepare buyers to be lasting homeowners. The company is working on urban renewal projects in 15 other communities, Morgan says.

"There have been blight removal efforts through the years, but never to this level."

She says the extent of cooperation, the speed of the process and the interest from potential buyers has been astounding.
"It really is a model for everyone to follow. You've got a lot of great agencies involved and it is showing which initiatives work and what are the best practices...

"This is truly about a partnership that has worked unbelievably well," she says.

Some homes, including a historic renovation property powered by a geothermal well, were pre-brought, Morgan says.

"We were under a tremendous amount of pressure…We were told by many agencies that we would not be able to find buyers…Pontiac has shown it can be done."

Source: Shannon Morgan, senior vice president, Home Renewal Systems
Writer: Kim North Shine

Energy efficiency for every Wyandotte homeowner, plus new jobs

Every home in Wyandotte is eligible for free energy inspections as well as grants, discounts and low-interest loans to residents interested in making energy efficient changes to their homes.

Just over $4 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of MIchigan was awarded to Wyandotte's municipal services department to carry out its "Save a Watt" program in Wyandotte.

Franklin Energy Services, a Wisconsin company with an office in Detroit, was hired by the city to carry out the program.

Every single home, whether owned or rented, is eligible for free energy audits. The results of those audits determine what, if any, improvements are needed, and money and discounts are available to help pay for them.

"We're shooting for at least 2,000 homes. That's a good chunk of the homes in the city," says Pam Tierney, who is the energy services program manager for Wyandotte Municipal Services. She calls the grant a jackpot for the city.

"This is a chance for our residents to get a huge helping hand toward making their homes greener and more comfortable while saving money," she says.

Besides saving the city and residents money the program is a job creator, Tierney says.

"We have marketing consultants, quality control people, the five contractors that are doing work and their subcontractors," says Tierney, adding that local merchants are benefiting by selling needed supplies.

Already 600 homes have received audits, she says. Once 1,000 residents participate, the city will be eligible for funding to install a solar panel project on Wyandotte’s Bacon Memorial District Library. The Better Buildings for Michigan program will pay for the library rooftop panels.

“Whether you want to make your home more comfortable, your library more energy efficient or the planet greener---this is a great program to at last get it done!” Mayor Joseph R. Peterson says in a statement. “We’re hoping every resident in our city recognizes this great opportunity and signs up now.”

Sign up by calling 1-855-674-9926.

Source: Pam Tierney, energy services program manager for Wyandotte Municipal Services
Writer: Kim North Shine

Alternative energy in metro Detroit not so alternative in 2011

Go Green! In 2011 metro Detroit municipalities increasingly saw a win-win in implementing energy-saving practices and policies. Businesses, schools and homeowners got in on the alternative energy game too, in large part inspired by grants, tax breaks and incentives offered by the federal and state governments and DTE. The result: saving money and possibly the earth.

It was a year that saw the landscape changed by green rooftops, solar installations, wind farms, geothermal-powered facilities, electric car charging stations and in Auburn Hills, for example, a plan to assist builders in building alternative-energy-based homes and businesses of the future.

Auburn Hills prepares for wave of electric vehicles

Auburn Hills makes energy efficiency a priority

Rochester Fire Department goes solar-powered

DTE adds 16 new electric car-charging stations to growing network

Macomb County breaks 100-mark in schools state certified as green

State grants enable dozens of Michigan schools to turn up solar and wind power

The story at Ferndale library is about going green

Metro Detroit's institutes of greener learning

Oakland County Airport first LEED-certified terminal in Michigan

Propane vehicles deliver for Wright & Fillippis
Interest in DTE's Solar Currents program so hot it's reached its goal

Downtown Royal Oak parking meters go solar

Sign of the times: Southgate hotel goes solar

By Kim North Shine

Incentives available for energy efficient upgrades to multifamily housing

While utilities often target energy efficiency programs directly towards easier-to-reach individual residential customers, multifamily housing properties have typically been slow adopters. But those programs are out there. In 2010 DTE Energy outfitted almost 38,000 apartments and other multi-family housing properties with CFL bulbs, faucet aerators, and low-flow showerheads.

And through the end of 2011, Consumers Energy is offering a no-charge energy assessment and rebate program for multifamily properties at least five units in size that are serviced by Consumers Energy.

The Consumers Energy Savings Solutions program is offering free energy assessments of lighting, heating, cooling, and water heating systems in common areas, as well as complimentary installations of CFLs, energy-efficient showerheads, and faucet aerators in individual living quarters. Rebates include, among other things: $1.50 per lightbulb change, $18 for a furnace tune-up, and $75 per water heater replacement.

"Owners and managers will see an overhead savings as well as savings for their tenants' utility bills because tenants typically pay for their electric," says Thomas Glendening, program manager for multifamily at ICF International, the contractor for Consumers Energy efficiency programs.

There's also room for inventiveness in energy savings options. "Folks can come to the table with custom energy-efficiency ideas, and as long as they can show us savings through calculations that we can all agree upon, we rebate for a portion of the energy that's saved," Glendening says. The utility is offering incentives up to $100,000 on the gas side and up to $25,000 on the electric side per facility.

Total funds available under the program are capped, Glendening says, so property owners and managers should apply well before year-end.

Source: Thomas Glendening, program manager for multifamily at ICF International; DTE Energy
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar

5 Metro Detroit cities share in $1.06M grant for new lighting tech

Light bulbs that are part of a million-dollar-plus investment from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation could flip the switch on job creation, energy savings and environmental protection.

Through the MEDC's Advanced Lighting Technology Demonstration grants, 14 Michigan communities are sharing the $1,066,429 pool. They're committing to updating their bulbs to higher tech, energy saving designs and, when possible, to buying them from Michigan manufacturers. The object is to save money (taxpayer dollars) on energy costs, prevent greenhouse gases by replacing old-style inefficient bulbs and create jobs that involve the nuts and bolts of updating, replacing and maintaining the new bulbs.

Melanie McCoy, general manager of Wyandotte's municipal services department, says the LED project will be completed in tandem with a solar panel installation on city buildings.

"What we're going to do is actually a fabulous project," she says.

The $100,000 grant will pay for part of a project to replace existing street lamps and pedestrian walkway lights along a path that leads from the public library, down Biddle Avenue through downtown and up Eureka Road for several blocks to the high school.

The project, which will go out to bid as soon as the city searches for Michigan companies that can benefit, will be completed by next July. At the same time the city will use its own funds to add solar power generators to the library and a water department building.

"This is a combination of a renewable energy project together with an energy efficiency project," McCoy says.

MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney says in a statement announcing the award of the grants that "the energy and cost savings benefits plus the maintenance savings due to the longer life of the lamps are impressive with the newer technology lighting that's now available. These benefits are more important than ever to local governments in reducing operating expenses."
"In addition, manufacturing of advanced lighting technologies is a growing industry in Michigan and has the potential to create a new source of jobs and investment for local and state economies."

The types of lighting to be used in the government facilities and on public transportation vehicles include LEDs, or light emitting diodes, AKA solid state lighting; induction lighting, and plasma lighting.

The recipients of the grants must collect data and report their energy savings, cost savings, jobs created. The Michigan Energy Office will require that funded grantees regularly collect, track, and report metrics data related to energy savings, cost savings, jobs created and emissions reductions.

Besides Wyandotte, other metro Detroit recipients are Roseville, $81,074; Hazel Park, $50,150; Farmington Hills, $81,405; and Detroit, $100,000.

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Melanie McCoy, city of Wyandotte
Writer: Kim North Shine

DTE adds 16 new electric car charging stations to growing network

It's getting easier to park and plug in electric cars as more charging stations open across metro Detroit.

DTE Energy is adding 16 plug-in electric vehicle charging stations, or PEVs, to the mix, including four at Detroit Metro Airport. They will be located in the two main parking decks at the airport – two on the eighth floor of the McNamara Terminal and two on the fourth floor of the Big Blue Deck by the North Terminal. There will be no cost for PEV drivers to use the charging stations, and they're scheduled to be operational within one to two weeks, DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons says.

Of the 12 other stations which are installed or soon to be installed, two each are in Ferndale, Mt. Clemens, Rochester, the Village of Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills. Saline and Automation Alley in Troy have one apiece.

These latest PEVs join several electric vehicle chargers at DTE's downtown headquarters.

The installations are part of a General Motors Corp. project with the Department of Energy to build a system of charging stations to support the move away from oil reliance and toward alternative energy for automobiles. The project is supported by grants being shared with DTE and four other utilities across the U.S., Simons says. DTE received $400,000 and is matching with $400,000, he says.

"The more infrastructure there is, the more there will be an impetus for people to buy electric vehicles,"  Simons says. "The more infrastructure that's built in the country…the more people will see that this is as a viable option. Hopefully this will be the start of the nation's acceptance of electric vehicles and, going forward, being an environmentally-conscious country."

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Solar farm coming to a Farmington Hills HS

DTE Energy's fifth solar farm will be fired up this fall at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills.

The roof-top photovoltaic system will be installed on 125,000 square feet of rooftop at the all-girls Catholic school on 11 Mile and Middlebelt Roads, within view of passersby. The cost of the project is $2.5 million and is part of DTE's SolarCurrents program, which promotes the use of alternative energy. DTE plans to spend more than $100 million on the SolarCurrents program, which has several facets.

The program aims to meet a state mandate for "ten percent of our generation to come from renewable sources by 2015," says DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons.

"We're pleased that Mercy High School will be the first private high school to participate in SolarCurrents, which is one of the largest distributed solar programs in the country," Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy's vice president of marketing and renewables, says in a statement. "We're seeing that the program has encouraged the development of new renewable energy projects by providing financial incentives to nonresidential customers interested in solar energy."

Mercy, which has been designated a Green School, joins other solar farms at Blue Cross Blue Shield, Ford Motor Corp, General Motors Corp., and Monroe Community College, Simons says. They all are expected to participate in the program for 20 years. In return they receive discounts on their utility bills and payment to cover the inconvenience of construction.

Besides solar, DTE is building wind farms and creating sources of biomass and other forms for power. The utility is expecting to spend nearly $2 billion to do that.

The power generated will go into DTE's grid for all its customers to use, he says.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine

Auburn Hills prepares for wave of electric vehicles

Auburn Hills is preparing for a world where electric vehicle chargers are commonplace in new construction, where they're as prevalent in parking lots as handicapped spots and where there will be an interconnected network of charging stations similar to the cell phone towers that have made communication so instant.

The city that's home to Chrysler Group has passed an ordinance, believed to be the first in Michigan and patterned off the best practices of communities in other states, that will encourage developers, builders, home owners and business owners, to make electric car charging stations a regular part of construction.

The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Ordinance passed on July 11th will also offer guidance during construction and ideally save time now and money in the future, says Steven Cohen, director of community development for Auburn Hills.

"Our main goal was to raise awareness about the infrastructure that's needed to support electric vehicles," Cohen says. "We want to share with homeowners, developers and also with municipal planners throughout the state that this is something that's coming.  We want to support this technological innovation in the auto industry."

He says an ordinance like this one encourages, but does not require, property owners to "rough in" their home garages or parking lots for future charging station installations. It cuts red tape and makes them easy to install. Making an electric charging station part of a home garage is simple and similar to the electric lines and circuits needed to power something like a refrigerator or air conditioning unit, but is much cheaper to install when the home is being built.

"The electric vehicle is not going to take over the market, but there's going to be a sizable segment of motorists that will demand a convenient network of charging stations.  Michigan communities will need to prepare for this anticipated consumer demand and be ready when it comes," Cohen says.

By 2015, all automakers will offer electric vehicles as the federal government encourages alternative forms of energy in an effort to lessen America's reliance on gasoline, Cohen says.

"This innovation is good for Detroit, good for Michigan, and good for America," Cohen says. "We encourage Michigan communities to proactively plan for and adapt to this paradigm shift in how vehicles will be refueled. Thousands of electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, will be on the road before we know it. It is very exciting."

Source: Steven Cohen, director of community development, city of Auburn Hills

Writer: Kim North Shine
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