State Names 'Center of Energy Excellence'

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Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm and Michigan Economic Development Corp. president and CEO Greg Main announced a new Centers of Energy Excellence designation for a wind-energy collaboration based in Eaton Rapids and led by URV USA, a subsidiary of a Finnish supplier of cast-iron wind turbine components.

“The wind energy sector offers a tremendous opportunity for job creation and economic growth in Michigan,” Granholm said.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board Tuesday approved a COEE designation and $3.5 million in funding for URV USA, which will collaborate with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support a foundry in Eaton Rapids to develop a next-generation casting process to produce large, utility-scale wind turbine components. 

Michigan Technological University will assist with alloy development, casting gating system design and solidification simulation. 

The project will receive $4 million in matching funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“This project further demonstrates how Michigan’s core strength in advanced manufacturing can be utilized to bring innovation and cost-competitiveness to the wind-energy sector,” Main said. “The Centers of Energy Excellence program fosters the kind of public-private partnerships that leverage our strengths in research and development, our highly-skilled workforce and our manufacturing infrastructure.”

Astraeus Wind Energy, a cooperative venture between MAG Industrial Automation System and Dowding Machining, has already committed to purchasing a large portion of URV USA’s initial output to fulfill existing and projected orders for machining large, utility-scale hubs and bedplates. 

North America is facing a severe shortage of large-cast wind turbine components, with supplies now coming mostly from out-of-date foundries in Europe and Asia. With its new technology, URV USA will have a clear cost advantage in supplying hub and bedplate castings compared to traditional foundries.

Said Ari Lehtonen, URV USA president and CEO: “We have greatly appreciated the strong support and guidance that all of the related agencies have provided us on the planning of our new North American operations.”

In 2008, the MSF board awarded up to $43 million to six designated Centers of Energy Excellence. At the end of 2009, Granholm signed legislation which established a second phase of the COEE program, allowing for up to $30 million to fund additional centers. The second round was
launched in January 2010.
 
In total, there are 11 Centers of Energy Excellence including the one announced today: A123Systems Inc., Adaptive Materials and Sakti3 in Ann Arbor; Working Bugs LLC in East Lansing; American Process Inc. in Alpena; Swedish Biogas International in Flint; Mascoma Corporation in Kinross; Energetx Composites in Holland; Astraeus Wind Energy in Eaton Rapids, and Dow Chemical in Midland.

For complete details on how companies can apply for funding, including eligibility requirements, proposal format and the application process, please visit www.MichiganAdvantage.org/COEE.

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.

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