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Auburn Hills wants to generate alternative energy use

The city of Auburn Hills is stepping up again in support of alternative energy use, this time by purchasing police cruisers and other city vehicles that run on propane and natural gas and also by passing a resolution to prevent fuel waste and support alternative fuel use in general.

The decision comes after the Ann Arbor-based Clean Energy Coalition provided the city with numerous recommendations spelled out in a Fuel Forward Fleet Study. It showed how the city could save money and reduce emissions by retrofitting city vehicles to be powered with natural gas or propane gas. It also made other recommendations such as reducing police car idling times and building an alternative fuel infrastructure.

The city council adopted the recommendations and also purchased eight propane auto gas units for the new 2013 Dodge Charger police pursuit vehicles, a fuel dispenser, a year's worth of propane fuel, and a jet and vacuum truck for street and sewer cleaning.

Ron Melchert, the city's director of public works, says about $4,000 will be saved over the 4.72 years, the average life of the police vehicles.

Melchert says the city will see a return on investment in two and a half years and reduce the city's reliance on foreign oil as well as decrease its greenhouse emissions by 13 percent.

The latest move follows the city's decision two years ago to promote  electric vehicles by encouraging and supporting the inclusion of electric vehicle plug-ins at local businesses and with contractors and builders.

The city's attempts to boost alternative energy has made it a model for other cities, Mark Rabinksy, project manager for Clean Energy Coalition, says in a statement.

“The city of Auburn Hills has shown time and again they are a leader in Michigan. No other city in the state has been more active in promoting the use of electric vehicles and now, by supporting the advancement of other forms of alternative fuels, the city is paving the way for other municipalities to do the same."

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Ron Melchert, director of public works, city of Auburn Hills

$1 million in redevelopment grants coming to Macomb County

The Environmental Protection Agency is sending $1 million Macomb County's way so that local economic development officials can redevelop brownfield property that may be contaminated.

A brownfield is land that can be difficult to redevelop, reuse or expand because of  pollution or perceived pollution. The upside is that brownfields let developers use municipal infrastructure that's already in place and also preserve open space.

“Brownfield sites create special challenges due to the expense involved with environmental cleanup,” says Stephen Cassin, executive director of Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. “These funds will help put some of our vacant properties back into new use while creating investment and new jobs in our key industrial areas.”

Macomb County and one of 240 communities nationwide, and the only county chosen in Michigan, to receive the grant from the EPA's Revolving Loan Fund.

In coming weeks and months, county officials will begin to identify and prioritize sites that have the most redevelopment promise.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Stephen Cassin, executive director, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development

Is "community solar" next frontier in alternative energy?

Research into ways of opening up opportunities to ordinary citizens and businesses interested in building solar energy generators is underway, thanks to a grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Think of it as the community garden of alternative energy. It lets shareholders or investors participate in a shared generation or renewable energy site in exchange for some benefit based on their investment, possibly savings on utility costs or profit. The concept is not a new one in cities such as Seattle and other parts of the Northwest.

“Renewable energy resources, such as community solar, offer many potential community, economic, environmental, national security, and societal benefits for the state,” MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney says in an announcement of the grant. “Through this study, we can identify ways to make community solar a growing solution for locally-owned clean energy.”

The $33,304 grant to the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association will be used to perform a Community Solar PV Garden Feasibility Study that will help the MEDC's Renewable Energy Demonstration Program determine what the barriers are to forming community solar projects.

Barriers include high up-front costs and lack of optimal places to install solar gardens.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Kathy Fagan, spokesperson, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Purchase of former Hyatt Dearborn by Adoba Eco Hotel & Suites near

The Hyatt Regency Dearborn's transformation into an eco-friendly hotel is closing in on completion as an Adoba Eco Hotel, a hotel brand working to make a name for itself as being "Green from the Ground Up."

The hotel is situated near national tourist attraction, The Henry Ford, and Ford Motor Co. with all of its business travelers. The postmodern, glass structure where the Hyatt operated for more than 30 years is at 600 Town Center Drive and is one of city's most prominent structures.

Adoba Dearborn began operations in November, and the final sale of the hotel is expected later this month.

The purchase saves about 300 jobs and also gives visitors to Dearborn another lodging option. It also brings to metro Detroit a business that is focused on sustainability in its operations, including the use of low flow toilets, water-saving shower heads and more.

The Colorado-based company started in 2010 and was based on building - or in Dearborn's case, renovating - hotels that are LEED-certified facilities. LEED buildings meet national standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for conservation.

Adoba owner, Atmosphere Hospitality, operates one other eco-hotel near Mount Rushmore in 2010. It opened in 2010 and has been named a top hotel for the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Once the purchase is complete, more involved LEED-focused renovations to the Dearborn hotel can begin and could take up to three years.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Adoba Eco Hotels & Suites and City of Dearborn

Come talk about Rapid transit along the Woodward Corridor

As regional transit authority legislation moves through Lansing, plans are going forward to bring rapid transit to the 27-mile stretch of the Woodward Avenue Corridor from Jefferson Avenue in Detroit to downtown Pontiac.

Several meetings will be hosted by the Woodward Avenue Action Association, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and are part of an "alternative analysis, the first step in the process of developing a transit system," says Richard Murphy, programs director Michigan Suburbs Alliance.

The meetings, especially the comments from attendees, will be folded in with technical data, cost and other considerations, he says, as decisions about the exact route, the technology to be used, the station locations as well as connections to the M-1 Rail Streetcar project, high speed rail service and Complete Streets are wrapped into an overall plan.

"We’ll be talking about the purpose and need for the project…What is it that we need transit to do on Woodward and laying out the roadmap for the rest of the work. Over the course of 2013, we’ll have
additional meetings around major steps in the process," Murphy says.

Upcoming meetings are:

Thursday, December 6, 5-7 p.m., Baldwin Public Library, 300 West Merrill Street, Birmingham.
Tuesday, December 11, 4-6 p.m., Detroit Palmer Park Police Station, 12th Precinct, 1441 W. Seven Mile Road.
Wednesday, December 12, 6-8 p.m., Ferndale Public Library, 222 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
Saturday, December 15, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Bowen Senior Center, 52 Bagley Street, Pontiac.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Richard Murphy, programs director, Michigan Suburbs Alliance

Woodward Ave. communities plan for sustainability amidst growth

The goal of the Woodward Sustainability 5 partnership is to brainstorm and plan for development and economic prosperity while being mindful of how to achieve those things with limited resources and without detrimental impacts on the environment and future generations.

The "5" refers to Berkley, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, all cities with Woodward as a common thoroughfare, and is an initiative of the Oakland County Planning & Economic Development department. The partnership is hosting public meetings, one tonight, Oct. 11, from 6-8 p.m. at the Pleasant Ridge Community Center.

It is one of several meetings that will culminate in a plan that will outline ways the communities can "work together and leverage resources for a sustainable future," Steve Huber, marketing and communications officer for the department of economic development and community affairs, says in a statement announcing the meeting.

A description of the initiative says, "the partnership seeks to engage a diverse cross-section of the community, including environmental, business, social services, health, and educational institutions. The goal of the group is to develop a plan which will help the communities work together and leverage shared resources for a sustainable future."

The final plan, which is being paid for with a $25,000 of in-kind services from the county and a $50,000 grand from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, should be completed by March 2013.

Writer: Kim North Shine
Source: Steve Huber, marketing and communications officer for Oakland County's Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs.

Opening day approaches for Lafayette Lofts in downtown Pontiac

The Lafayette Place Lofts, billed as an urban chic, environmentally conscious renovation and an ideal downtown residential-commercial development, are entering the final phase of construction.

Lafayette Place Lofts, which are now accepting tenant applications, fill in the 80,000-square-foot historic, vacant Sears building downtown and at $19.8 million it is the largest construction project to come to downtown Pontiac about 30 years.

When construction is complete in December, 46 one- and two-bedroom rental lofts ranging in price from $675 to $1,295 per month, will set atop a fresh food grocer and cafe and an Anytime Fitness.

The grocer, Lafayette Market, will open Nov. 17, in time for Thanksgiving.

The apartments are designed with exposed brick walls, bamboo floors, open floor plans, historic large pane windows, granite countertops and other high-end or urban styled amenities.

The building will be heated and cooled with a geothermal system that spares the environment and costs less. Other eco-conscious features, from materials used to energy efficient designs, have earned the Lafayeete Place Lofts LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Source: Corinne Petras, spokesperson, Lafayette Place Lofts
Writer: Kim North Shine

Fordson Island: from polluted eyesore to recreational destination

A Rouge River island with a deep history and a washed up appearance is looking better than it has in years, and though it's more industrial than natural its become a place of interest for recreational water users and environmentalists.

Fordson Island, an 8.4 acre piece of land born in the early 1920s when a channel was dug by the Army Corps of Engineers to increase shipping transportation, fell into decline in the 1970s after the water levels dropped, sediment rose and residents left.

Rundown homes, dozens of old and rusty boats and poor water quality were discovered years later, and a now two-three year old effort by several organizations, including AKT Peerless, an environmental and energy consulting firm; NOAA, the marine debris division National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority; and Friends of the Rouge have removed tons of debris, literally, which has resulted in an improvement in water quality.

Slowly, the island, although private, is starting to attract nature lovers and kayakers, along with fish and other wildlife. Hundreds of volunteers have removed many many cubic yards of junk and garbage, and water testing has shown an improvement in the amount of pollution.

Several goals have been set, including the return of fish once common to the area.

The island is about 3 miles inland from the Detroit River on the River Rouge owned by the city of Dearborn and accessible only by boat or a one-lane bridge from Detroit.

Source: Tim McGahey, regional manager of operations for Southeast Michigan at AKT Peerless
Writer: Kim North Shine

Innovative sculptures celebrating Woodward Ave to be unveiled in August

The artists behind the tribute sculptures planned for points along Woodward Avenue are putting the intricate finishing touches on the first two in the project: The Royal Oak Tribute and the Highland Park Tribute.

The 30-foot-tall lighted solar-powered glass and concrete interpretive sculptures, a project of the Woodward Avenue Action Association and the National Scenic Byways, will tell different stories at each location and honor the heritage of Woodward Avenue, which has been federally-designated as an All-American Road.

In Royal Oak, where organizers had hoped to unveil the sculpture in time for the Woodward Dream Cruise Aug. 16 - 18, the Royal Oak Tribute will honor the link to car cruising, drive-in theaters and such.

In Highland Park, says Lori Ella Miller, spokesperson for the Woodward Avenue Action Association, the tie-in will be Henry Ford and automobile innovation.

The Royal Oak sculpture will stand in the median at Woodward and 13 Mile and Highland Park's will be at the corner of Gerald and Woodward, but neither will be ready until mid-August, "more like late August," Miller says.

"You just want to be sure they're done right," she says.

"Iluminatinon events" will be held to unveil the sculptures.

"Our ultimate goal is to have eight to ten of these along Woodward," Miller says. "We hope to start working on a Detroit Tribute next."

The artists, Kyle Evans and his Royal Oak Tribute and Julie Jankowski and her Highland Park Tribute, are completing the concepts that link the past to the present. The $150,000 sculptures are paid for with federal grants and matching donations from  supporters such as businesses and nonprofits, and more contributions are needed, Miller says.

Source: Lori Ella Miller, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

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


Clinton River wins national contest for waterway improvement grant

A grant of $25,000 will go toward bank restoration, public access improvements and environmental awareness projects for the Clinton River in Rochester Hills.

The grant, which was awarded to the city and its grant applicant partner, the Clinton River Watershed Council, was the result of a national online vote hosted by MillerCoors and the River Network. The Clinton River project won by five votes.

The company and non-profit interested in promoting clean water gave away a total of $80,000 to water improvement projects.

The grant will pay to restore damage to the watershed and support more but responsible recreation of the waterway. it will also educate the public about how to protect the watershed, which connects to smaller and larger waterways around the state and beyond.

“We are excited to partner with the city on such a great project, and we appreciate all the hard work and help from our stakeholders in getting the word out to vote,” Michele Arquette-Palermo, the Clinton River Watershed Council's education and stewardship director, says in a statement announcing the grant.

Kim Marotta, director of corporate social responsibility for MillerCoors, says the MillerCoors/River Network grant competition has had more than 50,000 votes from around the world cast since the contest launch four years ago.

"MillerCoors depends on water to brew beer, and by partnering with organizations like River Network we believe we can help improve local watersheds,” Marotta says.

"We are excited to further engage communities on water issues that affect everyone, everywhere," she says.

Todd Ambs, president of the River Network, says: “Healthy rivers are vital to the health and future of our communities. Through this partnership, MillerCoors is supporting the protection and restoration of waterways across the country that will produce long-term benefits for people, fish and wildlife, and future generations. ”

Source: Michele Arquette-Palermo, education and stewardship director, Clinton River Watershed Council
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

Five Woodward Ave. communities partner on sustainability planning

Five southern Oakland County communities that share Woodward Avenue as their connector are partnering on a project to research how they might work together as one to save money, share services and care for the environment, among other goals.

Berkley, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Huntington Woods are participating in the collaboration with Oakland County called the South Oakland Multi-Community Sustainability Partnership.

"I applaud these Woodward 5 communities for undertaking this partnership," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says in a statement. "With limited economic resources at our disposal, it is more important than ever that communities find innovative ways to collaborate."

Community groups, environmental groups, businesses, social service providers, health and educational institutions will be involved in the partnership as members work to identify meaningful changes to be made by the cities as a whole.

The goal is to devise a plan to work together and leverage shared resources for a sustainable future. Sustainability refers to the ability of communities to thrive without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services will provide $25,000 of in-kind services to match a $50,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

This is the second collaboration of its kind for the county, says Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor for Oakland County.

The cities of Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, and Rochester make up the Tri-City Sustainability Partnership, which formed in January 2011 and may influence the latest partnership.

It has already identified potential changes, Rasegan says, and is working on designing ways to measure success. He says the five-city partnership became a part of the program because of its history of collaboration.

Source: Bret Rasegan, planning supervisor, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

$100,000 grant + $100,000 donation = 850 new trees in Oakland County

A grant of $100,000 and a donation of the same amount from ITC Holdings, a Novi company, are helping Oakland County green things up a bit.

Some 850 trees are being planted in 20 locations around Oakland County, part of a greening of the county master plan, says Bret Rasegan, supervisor, Oakland County Planning and Development.

"It's a way to support our green infrastructure vision," Rasegan says. A countywide inventory of greenspaces has been completed and used for a map that shows how a system could be interconnected, he says.

The grant, part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, comes through the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and will pay for the planting of trees along the Rouge Watershed in the cities of Novi, West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills.

ITC, or International Transmission Company, is the largest independently-owned electricity transmission company in the nation, and it decided to give a boost to the grant by pitching in a $100,000 contribution.

Because of the donation from ITC, the county can plant more than double the number of trees it had hoped to with the grant, Rasegan says.

The trees will be planted in parks, along roadways and roundabouts, at a dog park, golf course and municipal complexes.

Source: Bret Rasegan, supervisor, Oakland County Planning & Development
Writer: Kim North Shine
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