Street Talk: Winds of change


The largest solar energy project in Michigan might be coming to Muskegon.

The Muskegon County Board of Public Works recently agreed to ratify, approve and confirm previously executed solar lease, easement and real estate purchase option agreements with Muskegon County Solar Project LLC, a subsidiary of Tradewind Energy, Inc. This action will allow the company to assign the agreements to Consumers Energy, which is considering moving forward with the solar project.

Kansas-based Tradewind Energy and Muskegon County originally entered into a solar lease agreement in August 2016. The lease granted them the right to develop a solar farm on the wastewater plant property south of Apple Avenue. Tradewind received the necessary permitting and negotiated terms with Consumers Energy to purchase land lease options for the 1,900-acre site. Tradewind estimated the solar project would create 125 megawatts of electricity, which would make it the largest solar project in Michigan.

“The past few years of planning, regulations, securing contracts, government and environmental regulations have finally led to this contract being finalized and the project moving forward”, said Susie Hughes, chair of the Muskegon BPW.

“Muskegon County fully supports a future solar project and appreciates the collaborative efforts of Tradewind Energy and Consumers Energy,” added Benjamin Cross, chair of the county board.

Consumers Energy, which has solar projects at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University, indicated its plans to add more than 5,000 MW of solar power to its portfolio in the coming decades. Details of the project still are being completed, including a construction timeline.

This is water

Students from Calvin College played an integral role in a research project this summer that could lead to profound public health advancements on a global scale.

In partnership with Florida-based Sawyer International and Texas-based The Last Well, five Calvin College students collected, analyzed and mapped data that shows the distribution of Sawyer PointONE water filter systems in Liberian households is drastically improving the health of nearly a million people in Liberia. The three-pronged partnership is part of the team that aims to bring safe, clean water to the entire country of Liberia by 2020.

The partners are distributing nearly 120,000 water filter systems in communities and rural areas in Liberia. They also are teaching Liberians how to use and clean the filters, and tracking the results through the geographic information system. When the mission is complete in two years, they hope Liberia will be the first developing country with clean water from one border to another.

“We are grateful for the partnership with Calvin College and the Clean Water Institute of Calvin College and appreciate the dedication and hard work the students and professors there have put into this project,” said Darrel Larson, international director of Sawyer Products. “The work they are doing to help us in our clean water endeavor could potentially have a profound global effect beyond Liberia’s borders.”

Since the effort began in 2009, there have been over 45,000 filters funded and placed in Liberia households within five of the country’s 15 counties. Another 33,000 filters have been funded and are ready to be placed in homes this year, while the remaining 40,000 or more filters still need funding for placement in 2019 and 2020.

The program is on its way to ensuring everyone in Liberia is within a 15-minute walking distance to a clean water source by 2020.

“Water is an extremely important resource. It is necessary for life and if it is not clean, it can strike you with disease,” said Jamison Koeman, a Calvin senior studying public health. “I use a lot of water on a daily basis, often times without thinking. Thinking back on my daily use of water, I can't fathom what it would be like to have to think about how I was going to get my water each day, and, if it would get me sick.”

Koeman is among the group of Calvin students — majoring in public health, mathematics and statistics, and geography — selected to conduct research for the cause. The college’s geography students worked on a GIS mapping application for Sawyer, which illustrates the locations of the water filters, health effects in the distribution area and basic demographic information, while the mathematics and statistics team acted as data detectives and analyzed the data, and the public health team interpreted the data and deciphered how it correlates to the health of Liberians.

As part of the project, Koeman wrote a case study with Calvin College associate professor and research mentor Kristen Alford about how the partnership between Sawyer, The Last Well and the college has been beneficial for the project’s mission in Liberia, and how this approach can lead to changes globally. It will be submitted for publication in the Christian Journal for Global Health.

“These partnerships hold potential for sustainable work that can provide lasting change in alleviating population health problems,” he said. “But partnership work in global health also holds the potential for detrimental change if sustainability is not accounted for.”

Alford said she was astounded by the health improvements they have reported from the water filtration distribution in Liberia.

Based on surveys from 24,600 Liberian households, 12 percent of children under 5 years old experienced diarrhea before receiving the water filters. In addition, 10 percent of those 5-17 years old and 11 percent of those 18 and over also exhibited similar symptoms.

After using the water filter for six to eight weeks, preliminary findings reveal diarrhea was reduced significantly in those households.

“What’s exciting to us is seeing that these kids in Liberia who wouldn’t have these opportunities to grow and thrive, are now having these opportunities,” Alford said. “Anytime you see a child not only being able to live, but to live well because of something that seems pretty simple, like the distribution of one water filter to their household, that’s exciting. This is going to be a major change for the world.”

New toys

Anderson Technologies of Grand Haven added three new injection molding machines to its fleet of machinery, expanding the company’s capabilities and capacity in an evolving industry.

The new equipment includes an Engel victory 180, an Engel duo 500 and an Engel duo 720.

“It is important to remain committed to investing in new machinery and technology,” said company president and owner Glenn Anderson. “Anderson Technologies is ready to embrace Industry 4.0 technology as we continue to offer injection molding services on the cutting edge.”

This year, Anderson Technologies has invested close to $2.5 million on capital equipment and process improvement technology between both of its facilities.

The new machinery offers energy savings of up to 50 percent, thanks to its hydraulic pump technology, which is in line with Anderson Technologies’ commitment to sustainability.

With higher injection pressure (exceeding 30,000 pounds per square inch), the new machinery allows for the production of thinner wall products and a better control process.

Anderson conducted a recent cost analysis that showed a 9-by-13-inch part with a 0.135-inch wall, when changed to a 0.063-inch wall in a higher cost material, will yield a reduction in cost while doubling the production volume.

With its newly expanded capability, Anderson Technologies increases its ability to produce clear polycarbonate products.

The new machinery already is in use at Anderson Technologies’ Grand Haven plant, an 80,000-square-foot facility with 90 employees.

The facility manufactures products for the automotive; office furniture; lighting; medical and dental equipment; food service equipment; and household appliance industries.

The new Engel machinery at Anderson Technologies was manufactured in Austria and assembled in the United States.

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