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GLREA's Michigan Energy Fair Highlights Renewables

LUDINGTON (WWJ) -- Maybe it's gas once again jumping above $4 a gallon, or wind farms popping up across Michigan seemingly overnight, like so many 300-foot dandelions.

But the Michigan Energy Fair, sponsored by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and held again this year at the Mason County Fairgrounds along US-10 just east of Ludington, seems to have an increased sense of urgency this year.

Hundreds of people and three dozen exhibitors packed the fairgrounds' vintage exhibit halls Friday afternoon for five hour-long sessions geared toward the renewable energy professional -- contractors, installers, resellers of solar, wind and geothermal gear.

And the biggest exhibit hall was reserved for the companies selling that gear, from the state's top two utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, to electrical equipment distributors like McNaugton-McKay Electric Co. to renewable entrepreneurs like Maybee Wind Co., a Maybee-based installer of small wind turbines, and Current Motor Co., an Ann Arbor-developer of a gorgeous $11,000 small electric motorcycle with a 70-mile range and a 70-mph top speed.

Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon had a large exhibit, as did Novi-based ITC, the nation's largest independent electric transmission company.

Doug Houseman, vice president of technology and innovation at Nashville, Tenn.-based EnerNex, an electric power research and engineering firm, presented a futuristic look at how the typical electric customer will get their power in the year 2050.

That power, he said, will come from a much more diverse mix of sources than today's electricity, and some of it is likely to be home-generated from a home solar panel installation, a home-based wind turbine, or both.

ITC's Thomas Wrenbeck presented on his company's efforts to both modernize the Midwest's electric grid and make it more reliable, and to prepare it for huge new installations of wind and solar power in areas where there's not a lot of population -- and therefore not currently much of a grid.

Other presenters covered everything from trading renewable energy credits to special tips and programs for small businesses to zero-net-energy-use homes to Michigan's net metering law, which forced utilities to buy power back from home renewable installations.

There were also presentations on special renewable programs for places of worship and the Michigan Saves energy improvement financing program.

Saturday, the program gets more consumer-focused, with sessions on home energy audits, designing homes for passive solar gains to small home wind systems to presentations on various types of electric and hybrid vehicles. There will also be children's activities, a panel discussion of renewable energy activities from Michigan mayors, and a meeting of the Michigan chapter of Women of Wind Energy.

And save the date now -- GLREA has already scheduled the 2014 Michigan Energy Fair for June 27-29, 2014 at the Ingham County Fairgrounds in Mason, south of Lansing.

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