DEARBORN — Hundreds gathered at Henry Ford Community College Friday for the fifth annual Alternative Energy Summit to hear the latest on renewable energy and the sustainability of modern civilization on planet Earth.
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) kicked off the event by reminding the crowd that “renewable energy is part of our responsibility to leave the world a better place to those who will follow us … The history of this country and the world is clear before us — and that is, if you waste, you are going to want. And if you are not farsighted in what you do, you are going to pay, or someone is going to pay, for your mistakes.”
Dingell noted that “everything from the lights over our heads to the shoes on our feet are dependent on energy and the wise use of energy, and prodigious waste of energy goes on in this country.”
Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly pointed out his city’s efforts in sustainability, including a full-time sustainability director fo the city, Dave Norwood. He noted Dearborn’s LEED-certified city parking garage with electric vehicle charging stations. And he touted the city’s efforts to clean up the Rouge River, and the fact that both salmon and trout are now observed in it. “I’m not sure they’re platable yet,” he joked.
Norwood, for his part, led several breakout sessions on both Dearborn’s studies of waste-to-energy programs and its participation in the Royal Oak-based National Adopt-A-Watt program.
That program, modeled on the national Adopt-A-Highway program, has hundreds of businesses signed up to pay for and maintain renewable energy equipment for cash-strapped municipalities, in exchange for plaques on the equipment thanking them for their donation.
O’Reilly also noted that the city will install more than 300 LED street lights this year.
“We all have to make sure that, even if we may be moving slowly, that we’re moving on the right course,” O’Reilly said.
Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report editor Matt Roush provided the opening keynote, “Michigan’s Renewable Entrepreneurs,” an overview of startup renewable energy businesses in the state, their growth, and recent setbacks, like the bankruptcies of solar panel builder Energy Conversion Devices Inc. and hybrid and electric truck power train developer Azure Dynamics.
Jeff Rednour of Wayne State University spoke on WSU’s participation in the EcoCar 2 federal program, in which 30 collegiate teams are “hybridizing” Chevrolet Malibus for maximum MPG while retaining American standards of acceleration, drivability and comfort.
Mark Cryderman of Brighton-based Green Panel Inc. presented on his company’s large-scale solar installations, including one on a parking garage at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
About a dozen businesses and exhibitors also provided tabletop displays, including the Sierra Club, which was gathering signatures on petitions to force a ballot question on whether Michigan’s utilities should be required to produce 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The current state mandate is 10 percent renewables by 2015. The Michigan Environmental Council also argued for the expanded standard.