Using a natural gas-powered fuel cell, solar energy cells on the roof, nickel-hydride batteries for power storage, and sustainable design, the center is a self-sustaining facility with a mission to prove, develop and help commercialize alternative and renewable energy technologies. The center also serves as a business incubator for start-up companies involved in the renewable energy field.
“We have an opportunity to really make a difference,” Grand Valley State University President Mark Murray said last week at a VIP dedication of the center.
Grand Valley State developed the energy center under a partnership with the city of Muskegon in the Edison Landing high-tech business park planned along Muskegon Lake.
The 25,000-square-foot facility is an example of distributed energy, where power is generated on site rather than through connecting to the electric grid.
“Grand Valley State University has dared to imagine a 21st century energy vision,” said Imad Mahawili, executive director of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. “This is the dawning of the distributed energy age.”
At last week’s dedication, speakers touted the center for its potential to seed new economic centers in Muskegon — the development and production of products related to alternative and renewable energy — and help push renewable energy technologies and lessen the nation’s dependence on foreign oil in the future.
“This facility and its mission is absolutely key to the economic health of our state and the nation,” Michigan Public Service Commissioner Bob Nelson said. “This facility will serve as a beacon for those who want to help the country navigate the very rocky shores of future energy policy.”
The MPSC provided a $3 million grant to Grand Valley to develop the center.
While renewable and alternative energy sources aren’t seen as replacements to the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity, they can provide a strong complement, said Gary Nowakowski, regional team leader in renewable energy for the U.S. Department of Energy’s office in Chicago.
The department has been supporting initiatives designed to further the development of renewable and alternative energy technologies and the concept of distributed energy, Nowakowski said.
“It’s efforts like this which will really enable us to reach our vision,” he said of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. “It’s going to be interesting to see the kinds of things that are going to come from this center.”