Michigan - Revitalization through Innovation

30 Apr, 2009

By: Jennifer M. Granholm

If you want to get your company in on the ground floor of the new alternative energy economy, go to Michigan. The Center for American Progress estimates that Michigan can create more than 60,000 jobs by investing in wind, solar, biofuels and energy efficiency.

The state’s continued support for innovation, commercialization and manufacturing diversification is creating opportunity for businesses in 21st century technologies. Supplementing the effort are five new Renaissance (virtually tax-free) Zones available for facilities dedicated to cellulosic biofuels along with tax incentives for purchase of biomass harvesting equipment and conversion of gas pumps for delivery of ethanol, biodiesel or other new fuels.

Michigan has adopted a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), mandating that 10 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2015. This enhances the state’s ability to attract investment from green energy manufacturers and venture capital firms.

Green energy manufacturing is considered to be a perfect fit for Michigan given the state’s superior tool and die, metal fabrication, and metalworking capabilities; manufacturing expertise and facilities that can be retrofitted to produce items such as wind turbines; a manufacturing supplier network that is already starting to supply green-tech manufacturers; tremendous research and development expertise in universities and corporate research centers; a world-class workforce; and an outstanding wind resource.

‘Advanced Battery Capital of the World’
Michigan is the first state to offer incentives for investment in electric vehicle engineering and battery research. They are offered to assure that the electric cars of the future and the batteries that power them will be developed and made in Michigan.

Ford Motor has received $55 million in refundable tax credits under the Michigan Advanced Battery Credits Initiative. It is accelerating plans to produce next-generation hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles. General Motors, which received $167 million under the program, will build a $43 million battery plant in Michigan, the first in the United States to be operated by a major automaker. It will be used for assembly of lithium-ion automotive batteries for the new electric Chevrolet Volt.

The commitment of these heavy hitters gives companies doing business here an advantage in competing for a share of $2 billion in U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy funds available for manufacturing advanced battery systems and components.

Michigan has two Centers of Energy Excellence pursing advanced battery technology. Boston-based A123 Systems is establishing a center in southeast Michigan focused on the manufacture of rechargeable lithium batteries with research assistance from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Ann Arbor-based Sakti3, in cooperation with University of Michigan, is focusing on next-generation lithium battery technologies and processes to enable the manufacture of battery cells in Michigan instead of overseas.

Solar Power Belt in Mid Michigan
A cluster of solar energy companies has grown in proximity to Midland-based Dow Chemical, the nation’s largest chemical company (gearing up to sell solar roof shingles by 2011), and Energy Conversion Devices, a pioneer in the solar power generation industry located in Rochester Hills (Oakland County). They are backed by the state’s extensive university research apparatus.

Hemlock Semiconductor, near Saginaw in Michigan’s Thumb, is the state’s largest company in the solar energy field, and the world’s largest manufacturer of the key raw material in the solar industry, ultra-pure silicon. Hemlock, with about 1,000 employees in Michigan, announced an expansion of up to $1 billion in December on the heels of a $1.5 billion expansion in 2007.

United Solar Ovonic, Auburn Hills (Oakland County), which makes thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, will invest $220 million to expand production capacity with a new Uni-Solar manufacturing facility in Battle Creek, with the option to invest another $220 million in a second plant in the mid-Michigan community. The new Battle Creek facility joins two Uni-Solar plants in Auburn Hills and two more in nearby Greenville. USO, a division of Energy Conversion Devices, has 883 employees in Michigan and more than 1,350 worldwide.

Auburn Hills-based Octillion Corp. is collaborating with Oakland University on development of the company’s innovative NanoPower Window technology which facilitates the collection of energy by placing chemicals in clear windows to generate electricity.

In Midland, Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar is building a $55 million factory to begin large-scale production of parts for solar panels utilizing its energy-efficient proprietary crystalline technology called String Ribbon TM.

Research Universities: Getting Down to Business
Michigan’s world-class research universities are partners with business and the state in advancing energy innovation. Six (so far) Centers of Energy Excellence have been created by the state, a $45 million investment, to match universities, for-profit companies and national labs to develop, grow and sustain alternative energy clusters throughout the state.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is launching a competition among Michigan’s universities to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for using the higher education system to maximize entrepreneurial activity.

Success Story
Adding further luster to the reputation of the state’s university system is the award of the FRIB – Facility for Rare Isotope Beams – to Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing. The U.S. Department of Energy was expected to choose the Argonne National Lab in Illinois.

The MSU campus has been home to the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), the nation’s leading rare isotope research facility, since 1963. The FRIB, described as a thousand times more powerful than the Cyclotron, could bring 400 jobs and $1 billion in economic activity to the region, attracting as many as 1,000 scientists from around the world. Today approximately 10 percent of U.S. nuclear science Ph.D.s are educated at NSCL.

Michigan Centers of Energy Excellence are working to accelerate commercialization of next-generation energy technologies in production of cellulosic ethanol from wood waste (Mascoma, Michigan State and Michigan Technological universities); making biodiesel fuel from municipal waste (Swedish Biogas International, City of Flint, Kettering University); refining high-value specialty and fine biochemicals and biofuels from natural feedstocks (Working Bugs, Michigan Technological University); and conversion of process waste effluent into cellulosic ethanol (American Process, Valero Energy, Decorative Panels International, Michigan Technological University).

Harnessing Wind Energy is a Wind-Win
With up to 8,000 precision parts in every wind turbine, the emergence of the global wind industry is a perfect fit for the state’s tried and tested engineering workforce. The U.S. Department of Energy finds that Michigan is one of only four states with the potential to create more than 30,000 manufacturing jobs in wind production alone. Wind turbine manufacturers are expanding all across Michigan, including Mariah Power in Manistee and Cascade Swift Turbine in Grand Rapids, both in West Michigan; Global Wind Systems in Novi (Southeast Michigan) and most recently, Great Lakes Turbine in Monroe, near the Ohio border.

The Upper Hand
Companies doing business in Michigan have access to innovative economic development tools, highly skilled workforce, world-class universities, beautiful communities and 21st century infrastructure. Visit www.MichiganAdvantage.org to learn how Michigan can give your business the Upper Hand.