Just as President Barack Obama visited Holland last week to learn more about the advanced energy storage industry, students at Grand Valley State University are learning about the technology and how they can support the growing global industry.

Over the next several years, it is estimated that more than $5 billion will be targeted at advanced energy storage projects to launch cell, battery and materials manufacturing facilities. Located in West Michigan, Johnson Controls SAFT and LG Chem will develop the greatest concentration of lithium-ion cell manufacturing facilities for electrified vehicles in North America.

Grand Valley is responding to the expansion of the industry by developing AES-specific courses and curriculum.

“Our approach is not to introduce an entire major that focuses on AES, but to leverage our current programs by incorporating AES courses. We’ve found that companies are looking for people with a well-rounded background in engineering and a specialty in AES,” said Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

Collaboration and creating a unified relationship with the community is essential, said Arn Boezaart, director of Grand Valley’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy  Center. “We have started to approach these AES manufacturers like Johnson Controls and simply ask, ‘How can we be helpful?’ We want Grand Valley to be involved in this new opportunity for West Michigan,” he said.

Looking ahead, Boezaart said there is a bigger, more long-term opportunity for the area. “With access to a long coastline along Lake Michigan, there is opportunity to utilize AES technology for renewable energies like solar and wind. AES is not limited to automotive use.”


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