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Clean transportation nonprofit Calstart to open office in Troy

Excerpt: 

Calstart, a national nonprofit organization based in California that focuses on growing the clean transportation technology industry, has announced it is opening an office in Troy.

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Ferndale’s environmental sustainability planner position is ‘dream job’ for Erin Quetell

There's a new role in the city of Ferndale, and it's all about being green.

Erin Quetell is Ferndale’s environmental sustainability planner, a new role for the city of Ferndale. The position came out of the master plan update released in January 2017, and sustainability was one of the core principles of the update. Quetell says that's not so common when it comes to city master plans.
 

Ferndale, at 4 square miles with a population of 20,000 people, is limited in space, especially green, open space, Quetell says. And with the city's proximity to other communities, it’s important for it to do everything it can to better manage stormwater, conserve energy, and reduce waste.

But it's also about more than the environment.

“Although the environmental part of the triple bottom line is really important, sustainability also covers the social and economic sides of society," Quetell says. "A healthy environment creates a healthy society where a healthy economy can thrive. Improving processes in our businesses that are more efficient and sustainable lessen the impacts on the environment, creating a healthier environment for people to live. A healthy society makes better decisions and choices that relate to a healthier environment and economy. They are all interconnected.”

The environmental sustainability planner position is a “dream job,” for Quetell. “I have always wanted to work in government," she says. "I specifically went to Columbia to obtain my Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy to be able to work in government sustainability. When I saw this opening, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to apply. It is so important to have science-minded folks in government.”

Prior to taking on the position, she worked in the nonprofit sector with Greening of Detroit and OHM Advisors, an architecture, engineering, and planning firm.

Quetell answered a few questions about the role, Ferndale’s sustainability plans, and tips on how residents can play their part. This interview has been edited for length.

How does Ferndale stack up in terms of environmental sustainability initiatives compared to other Michigan cities and other cities nationwide?

Although sustainability is relatively new in Ferndale, I think that the community is certainly ahead of other communities in Michigan by simply having a dedicated sustainability staff member. So, for Michigan, Ferndale is a big deal. Throughout the nation, and certainly in other countries, sustainability is very much part of city management. The Midwest is always a little behind of the coasts, but we are getting there.

What are some of the environmental sustainability initiatives Ferndale is currently implementing?

Some of the items I have been working on in my short time with Ferndale include improving our Planned Natural Landscape program, where residents and community members can install native plants in their yards, compared to typical turfgrass, to help mitigate stormwater runoff and promote healthy pollinator populations. I have been working with University of Michigan Information Technology students to help create better citizen interaction with the program (i.e. better website, improved signage and communication etc.). I have also been working on Ferndale’s waste—thinking about how we can improve our recycling rates, reduce what we send off to the landfill, and how to better manage our organic waste.

There is a lot that is still under development, but I am excited about the progress we have made thus far.

Additionally, I have been looking at our energy use throughout city-owned buildings and facilities. I have been working with EcoWorks to develop a community energy management plan. I am also in the process of improving our community forestry program, which includes updating our ordinances, improving our tree purchasing program for community members, and aligning with our Urban Tree Canopy study currently underway by our consultants from Davey Tree.  

Just prior to my employment at Ferndale, the city signed on to Climate Mayors following the pulling out of the Paris Agreement. Therefore, Ferndale is committed to continue to improve energy efficiency throughout the city and mitigate deleterious emissions where ever possible.

Finally, as part of a larger effort, the new Development on Troy—the mixed-use parking development slotted for the parking lot behind Rosie O’Grady’s—will go through a certification program called Parksmart. The certification is similar to LEED, but since parking lots are a little anti-LEED, this certification allows for the development and management to occur in the most sustainable way possible. Some of the items we are looking into include high-efficiency lighting solutions, stormwater management, and improved waste management services.

What are your long-term goals for environmental sustainability efforts in the city?

I would say Ferndale looks to improve their urban canopy to meet a healthy canopy cover (generally about 40 percent), improve our recycling efforts to meet statewide goals of 30 percent municipal recycling, improve our organic waste management (i.e. kitchen waste), and work towards a separated sewer system.

Ferndale is currently a combined sewer system, which means that in heavy rain/snow events, stormwater mixes with partially or fully untreated waste water and can enter our waterways. By better managing our stormwater on site (cue those “pesky” stormwater standards we have on new development), we can alleviate the stress on our systems and improve water quality.

You have been focusing on improving waste management and recycling rates in the city. What is the current status of each and what is the goal?

Our recycling rates aren’t the greatest at the moment. We have had a range between 7-17 percent, typically hovering somewhere between 12-15 percent. Ideally, we would have a recycling rate closer to 30-35 percent. It’s a long way to go, but worth the effort. The more recycling we do as a city, the better our waste management rates.

How can residents play their part in Ferndale's environmental sustainability?

My advice to Ferndale community members is this: Think about your energy, waste, and water. Install energy efficient products, such as those with the EPA Energy Star rating, or purchase a smart thermostat. Simply installing a smart thermostat can save $145 per year in heating and cooling costs. Add efficient windows to the mix, and you could save up to an additional $400 per year. Consider composting your kitchen scraps; SOCRRA will accept kitchen waste in your weekly yard waste pickup if you don’t have your own compost pile.

If every household composted in Ferndale, collectively we could reduce overall waste and divert 150 tons or more of organic waste from the landfill. Install water efficient fixtures (think low flow toilets or aerated faucets), such as those with the EPA Water Sense rating. By switching one household toilet to a low-flow comparison (<2 gallons per flush) you can save 8,200 gallons of water per year. That’s equivalent to 200 loads of laundry. Even if it is simple upgrades like turning off the lights, taking shorter showers, or recycling just a bit more, anything and everything helps Ferndale become a more sustainable community.


OU INC client Wave Water Works teams with engineering students for product validation

OU INC client Wave Water Works, LLC has a patented Oscillo Drive that converts the up and down movement of wave water into reusable energy and electricity. The company recently leveraged the strong relationship between OU INC and Oakland University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (SECS) to successfully test their Oscillo Drive technology, verifying the device’s production and output of energy and electricity.  

Wave Water Works utilized talented students through the school’s senior design course. This requirement for OU senior-level engineering students brings together mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering students to work on real-world projects that demand the skills and knowledge of each of their disciplines. A State of Michigan Business Accelerator Fund award allowed for OU INC to partially fund the effort.
 
Based on the results obtained by the students, Wave Water Works approved an undisclosed operational testing site for the Oscillo Drive in Port Huron, Michigan. This extension of the OU SECS testing will allow for further measurement and monitoring of the power input and electrical output from the wave-water oscillating movements. Wave Water Works is additionally locating multiple working sites, including locations in Macomb County, Israel, and Lebanon.
 
“It is estimated that OU INC, through the professional efforts of SECS students and faculty, provided Wave Water Works with more than $1.5M worth of professional engineering services,” said Chuck Keys, project director and business manager of Wave Water Works.

Completing hardware and software research and development (R&D) for this startup green-energy company includes the following faculty and students:

·         Michael Latcha, Ph.D., ME, director, SECS Senior Design Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering
·         Daniel Aloi, Ph.D., Department of Mechanical Engineering
·         Oakland University Senior Engineering Students: 
                 -Tia Sherrard, Electrical Engineering, Team Manager
                 -Carla Gerst, Electrical Engineering
                 -Makayla Eckardt, Computer Engineering
                 -Mark Tarnicki, Electrical Engineering
                 -Brent Stelzer, Electrical Engineering
                 -William Carter, Mechanical Engineering
                 -Edwin McBride, Mechanical Engineering
                 -Paul Smyrski, Mechanical Engineering
 
For more information, contact Joan Carleton at (586) 884-9324 or jfcarlet@oakland.edu.

OU INC is a Smartzone Business Incubator and Innovation Center, in collaboration with the City of Rochester Hills, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and strategic industry partners. With a focus on the energy, medical device, and information technology sectors, OU INC provides entrepreneurial resources and strategic business solutions for developing business ventures and accelerating ideas to market. OU INC is a designated Soft Landing Facility through the International Business Association for international companies. For more information, visit oakland.edu/ouinc.

The Business Accelerator Fund is an initiative of the State of Michigan’s 21st Century Jobs Fund Program and is distributed by the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MI­-SBDC) through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan’s network of business accelerators. Through this program, OU INC is successfully delivering specialized business acceleration services to companies commercializing advanced technology.

Exlterra in Hazel Park installs India's first groundwater recharge technology

Excerpt

Hazel Park-based environmental technology company Exlterra announced the installation of its patented Energy-Passive Groundwater Recharge (EGRP) system at the Sushma Medicinal Ayurvedic Research Trust (SMART) EcoPark, an interactive learning space in Mumbai, India. The system has been engineered to work with the surrounding environment to increase water penetration, as part of efforts to revitalize India’s dwindling aquifers.

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Ford and Magna collaborate on reducing vehicle subframes using carbon fiber

Excerpt

Seeking to lower vehicle weight, reduce emissions, and improve fuel efficiency, Magna International Inc., a global automotive supplier, in cooperation with Ford Motor Co., has developed a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe which reduces vehicle mass by 34 percent, compared to a standard stamped steel equivalent.

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Royal Oak-based Powerly expands energy-driven smart home experience

Excerpt

Powerly, a Royal Oak-based utility-led smart home technology company, introduced their updated energy conservation platform at the annual DistribuTECH conference in San Diego.

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FCA Motor Citizens recognized for stewardship efforts

Excerpt

The City of Auburn Hills would like to congratulate FCA Motor Citizens, a volunteer corps assembled by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, for receiving the Clinton River Watershed Council’s 2015 Jerry Carvey Volunteer of the Year Award.

FCA Motor Citizens were presented with the Award for their longtime support and stewardship efforts in keeping our waterways clean. The great majority of their efforts were achieved through their participation in CRWC stewardship programs, such as Weekly Clean, Clinton Cleanup, and woody debris removal events.

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MagWerks LED develops cutting edge light technology

LED lights have a reputation as being lean, mean, and ultra-energy-efficient. The reality is, however, that the less energy they use, the heavier they become. It's a challenge that's keeping LED lights from reaching their full potential.

"It's a largely unknown subject but an important one," says Michael Pickholz, CEO of MagWerks LED.

The Oxford-based startup believes it has an answer for that dilemma. The LED lighting design and engineering firm’s technology aims to make high-powered LED lights smaller, lighter, and cooler. The first target market is automotive lights. MagWerks technology leverages the structural properties of magnesium, which is 20 times stronger than plastics.

"It brings a vast improvement in performance," Pickholz says. "It makes it lighter and brighter."

The 3-person firm has recently joined Automation Alley's 7Cs program, which helps new companies leverage advanced manufacturing practices to grow their business.

"There is a need," Pickholz says. "How can you grow a company fast enough to satisfy that need?"

Source: Michael Pickholz, CEO of MagWerks LED
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Vectorform partners with DTE to launch Powerley

A downtown Royal Oak tech firm and the biggest utility in Michigan are partnering to launch a new startup aimed at helping mobile users be more energy efficient.

Powerley is the product of a joint venture between DTE Energy and Vectorform, a digital experience company. The 1-month-old venture is launching a platform for utility customers to link their smartphones to smart meters, enabling them to take a comprehensive look at their energy use.

"Powerley can bring the technology and the expertise in energy efficiency to world," says Kevin Foreman, CTO of Powerley.

The Powerley home-energy-monitoring platform can help track energy usage down to the consumption of individual electrical devices. It also provides personalized tips on how to best save energy. Check out a video describing it here.

"A lot of our early adopters are either retirees or not as technology savvy as you would think," Foreman says.

The Powerley platform has been three years in the making. The joint venture currently employs six people and is looking to add a few more. Vectorform has also worked with DTE Energy to produce the DTE Insight mobile app, which allows utility customers to monitor and personalize their energy consumption patterns.

Source: Kevin Foreman, CTO of Powerley
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Indratech turns green fiber padding into thriving biz

If you're sitting on a cushioned surface, chances are you're sitting on foam. Indratech wants to change that, and the Troy-based business is off to a good start.

The 10-year-old firm makes the Indura Performance Fiber. The patented fiber padding is marketed as "green, non-toxic, recycled and perfect for use in any bedding and furniture application."

"Anything you can sit or sleep on," says Surendra Khambete, president of Indratech.

The company currently employs about 100 people, including 10 at its headquarters. It has hired two people in Troy (a R&D engineer and an accountant) over the last year to help it keep up with its growth. Revenue has spiked by 15 percent over the last year. The company sees its product as the replacement for foam.

"The good thing about foam is it's really tough," Khambete says. "If you sit on it, it will come right back up when you get up. The bad thing about foam is it's really toxic to produce."

Indratech boasts that Indura Performance Fiber has all of the attributes of foam but without any of the environmental costs.

"We are trying to get our foothold in the crib market, the mattress market, the automotive market," Khambete says.

It is also working with appliance makers to provide Indura Performance Fiber as an insulating material.

"We can make it quieter and warmer," Khambete says.

Source: Surendra Khambete, president of Indratech
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Oakland Energy & Water Ventures fund launches in Farmington Hills

A new second-stage investment fund is launching in Farmington Hills. Oakland Energy & Water Ventures will specialize in making investments in the clean energy and water spaces.

"We look at opportunities up to $100 million," says Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures.

Brower adds that the fund, which is made up of three partners, is flexible when it comes to what type of deals it is looking to do. Among them are joint ventures, partnerships, license agreements, and collaborations. The main things Oakland Energy & Water Ventures is looking for are patented technologies that are ready to scale.

"We're a bit more simplistic," Brower says. "We're looking for proof-of-concept technologies. That is our focus."

Brower says there are a couple of potential deals in the works but the firm isn’t ready to make an announcement yet. He adds that the company is focusing on clean energy and water plays because of global macro trends that are spiking demand for both clean energy and water to accommodate the growing world population.

Source: Chris Brower, managing director of Oakland Energy & Water Ventures
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Strategic Energy Solutions adds 8 employees in Berkley

When it comes to growing Michigan’s green economy, companies like Strategic Energy Solutions aren’t the ones that normally stand in the spotlight.

That’s because the Berkley-based firm designs and implements the energy infrastructure in large commercial and institutional facilities. It figures out what type of core systems (heating/cooling, electrical) should go into a building, the best opportunities to integrate alternative energy sources, and the best combination of all of the above to maximize energy usage.

“It’s all the stuff people never see,” says Steve DiBerardine, president of Strategic Energy Solutions.

Strategic Energy Solutions has been doing a lot of work with architecture firm Kraemer Design Group, taking on redevelopment projects in downtown Detroit for Bedrock Real Estate Services. It is also handling more work for local school districts in Livonia and Waterford, among others.

“I think communities are again open to passing bonds,” DiBerardine says.

That is all adding up to revenue growing by 20 percent over the last year. Thus, Strategic Energy Solutions has hired eight people, randing from engineers to CAD professionals. It currently employs 28 people.

Source: Steve DiBerardine, president of Strategic Energy Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

$600,000 EPA grant could clear way for future development of Oakland County Brownfield properties

Oakland County will receive a $600,000 federal grant to help local communities and developers determine if contaminated land can be reclaimed and redeveloped.
 
The grant was awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and given to Oakland County Brownfield Coalition (OCBC) communities of Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Pontiac and Southfield will each receive $60,000. The remaining $240,000 will be used in other Oakland County communities. This is the fourth grant Oakland County has received from the EPA to perform environmental investigations of contaminated land.
 
"These grants help our communities identify potential development sites for land that sat dormant for years because of industrial contamination," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. "Reclaiming this land helps our communities and allows for responsible development."
 
A similar $1 million grant awarded in 2009 produced 124 projects, with the proposed generation of $300 million in investment and creation of 1,800 jobs. Among the projects that benefitted from that grant are the Emagine Theatre, Royal Oak; Lafayette Lofts, Pontiac; Emerald Steel, Madison Heights; Stepping Stone School, Farmington Hills; Leonard Mill Trail Head, Leonard; Tractor Supply, Lyon; Tianhai, Auburn Hills and Milosch’s Palace Collision, Orion Township.
 
In addition to promoting industrial and commercial redevelopment, brownfield projects have converted industrial waterfronts to riverfront parks, landfills to golf courses, rail corridors to recreational trails and gas station sites to housing.
 
PM Environmental of Berkley and the six OCBC communities provided support for the grant application.
 
"The team at Oakland County Economic Development went above and beyond to gather the necessary demographics for the county and six coalition communities to make this grant application a success," said Michael T. Kulka, P.E., founder and CEO of PM Environmental. "This grant will be a great catalyst for further economic activity and greatly benefit the people and businesses expanding in Oakland County. PM Environmental is honored to be a part of this dynamic team."  
 
The area's long manufacturing history has left Oakland County with several abandoned, brownfield commercial and industrial sites. Water quality and the reduction of runoff and groundwater contamination are major concerns many homes rely on private water systems. Assessment and cleanup of the brownfields will allow the county to expand and continue its efforts to assist, encourage, and facilitate the redevelopment of these sites to meet the needs of its residents.
 
Waste Resource Management operates under the authority of the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs. It facilitates the county Solid Waste Plan as well as coordinates programs and activities that support the environment, local municipalities, residents and businesses. The county's Brownfield Redevelopment Authority was established in 2001 to aid local communities and developers in obtaining brownfield incentives from federal and state agencies. 
 
For more information on the Oakland County Brownfield Initiative, see http://www.advantageoakland.com/CPHA/CPHAWaste/Pages/CPHAWasteBrownfield.aspx.

SurClean Wins 4th Annual Brinks Innovation Competition

Global Midwest Alliance today announced that metro Detroit-based SurClean, a start-up that produces laser tools for removing coatings in an environmentally safe and energy-efficient manner, is the winner of the 4th Annual Brinks Innovation Competition.  The competition was held on September 12 at McCormick Place during the 2012 Midwest Clean Tech Conference presented by the Global Midwest Alliance.  Chicago-based Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies (HEVT) and ARID Technologies were runners-up in the competition.

“The Global Midwest Alliance Clean Tech Conference and Brinks Innovation Award Competition has been an energizing experience, and we are grateful for the opportunity to present our laser-based coatings removal product before such an engaged and knowledgeable audience,” said Susan Sprentall, CEO of SurClean, Inc. in Wixom. “Winning the Brinks' Innovation Competition established additional credibility and generated exposure to potential investors for SurClean.”

SurClean’s laser-based products incorporate a disruptive technology to replace the use of harmful chemicals, media blasting and other abrasives typically used in the removal of paint and other coatings from aircraft, vessels and bridges undergoing maintenance.  SurClean’s system uses a laser beam to disintegrate and remove paint and other coatings like rust from substrate in a cost-effective, safe, energy-efficient, and earth-friendly way. The product SurClean has developed addresses safety concerns, environmental issues and hazards associated with the control and use of chemicals used in coating stripping, and eliminates the production of contaminated waste products in most cases.

Two Chicago-area companies were runners-up in the Brinks Innovation Competition. The first runner-up, Chicago-based Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies (HEVT), was represented at the competition by CEO Heidi Lubin. HEVT provides the transportation industry with high-performance, efficient and cost-effective components and integrated systems that foster the adoption of electrified transport and yield significant savings in fuel economy.

Second runner-up, ARID Technologies, based in Wheaton, uses innovative membrane separation technology to reduce evaporation and harmful hydrocarbon emissions at gasoline stations. The company, represented at the Competition by Mary Ann Tiberi, currently offers four primary products, including PERMEATOR, for gasoline stations; Membrane CRU for retrofit of carbon adsorption systems at bulk loading terminals; ARIDAS 150, a stand-alone monitoring and data acquisition system that measures fueling station vent emissions and pressure profiles; and the Integrated On-Spot railcar loading and fuel-vapor recovery system.

Sponsored by intellectual property law firm Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, the Brinks Innovation Competition helps emerging and venture-ready clean and green tech companies gain visibility for their technology and make connections with early-stage investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and financiers that are focused on clean technologies, along with corporate R&D and business development executives.  Entries are judged by a panel of experts from regional universities, venture capitalists and business executives familiar with clean and green technologies.
 
About Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione
Brinks has more than 140 attorneys, scientific advisors and patent agents who specialize in intellectual property, making it one of the largest intellectual property law firms in the U.S. Clients around the world use Brinks to help them identify, protect, manage and enforce their intellectual property. Brinks lawyers provide expertise in all aspects of patent, trademark, unfair competition, trade secret and copyright law. The Brinks team includes lawyers with bachelors and advanced degrees in all fields of technology and science. Brinks has offices in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Research Triangle Park, Salt Lake City, Ann Arbor and Indianapolis. More information is available at www.usebrinks.com. 
 
About MRUN
The Midwest Research University Network (MRUN) is an alliance of university business development professionals dedicated to facilitating growth of technology spinout companies through start–up formation. MRUN provides a forum for universities, investors and entrepreneurs to work regionally in pursuit of local venture formation. More information about MRUN is available at www.mrun.us
 
Global Midwest Alliance is the only business-led economic development group for the Midwest region. The Alliance facilitates collaboration among key stakeholders to provide access to global business opportunities to the Midwest and realize economic value from existing world-class assets in the Midwest. The Alliance focuses on programs and platforms that help high growth companies develop and expand markets for businesses based in the Midwest, encourage and assist international business activities in the region, and integrate business, financial and scientific resources for successful commercialization of technology in the Midwest.  For more information, visit www.globalmidwestalliance.org.

Railmark launches two new eco-safe product lines

Railmark Holdings Inc., a Wixom-based company committed to developing green technologies for the railroad industry, has announced two new product lines designed to make the railroad industry more green and efficient. 

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