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Grand Traverse PACE Could Boost Made-in-TC Classroom HeaterPrint

Clean Energy | November 13, 2014 | By Jim Dulzo

Several area entrepreneurs believe PACE can help them grow their companies, which are manufacturing and selling a brand-new, innovative, high-efficiency classroom heater and ventilator known as Aristotle Air.

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.—When Grand Traverse County commissioners approved the Lean & Green Michigan PACE ordinance, which provides easy loans to businesses for energy efficiency and clean energy projects, they figured it would help the local economy in two ways.

First, the unusually long-term, low-note loans would allow businesses to immediately boost their bottom lines even while paying off the debt for their energy-saving projects. Second, the projects would put more local contractors and installers to work.

But several area entrepreneurs say they see another way to use PACE—which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy and treats the loans, which are private, like property taxes. They believe PACE can help them grow their companies, which are manufacturing and selling a brand-new, innovative, high-efficiency classroom heater and ventilator known as Aristotle Air.

Don Belyea, the business development director for Traverse City-based Healthy Energy Resources, sells Aristotle Air. Invented by another local, veteran plumbing and heating contractor Jerry Sheren, and manufactured by still another Traverse City company, Great Lakes Stainless Inc., Aristotle Air draws in and heats outdoor air using both the school’s boiler and the warmth the device extracts from the stale air it expels from the classroom.

Belyea says the heater cuts energy use by 30 percent.

So far, he’s sold more than 100 Aristotles, mostly to the Kalkaska public school system. The school system used a bond to finance efficiency retrofits for its buildings, including purchase of the Aristotles.  

Public bonds are not available to private schools. But Belyea points out that PACE loans are available to them in counties with the Lean & Green ordinance on the books. That could make a big difference.

“PACE gives them the opportunity to evaluate their whole physical plant, spend some dollars on a building energy audit, create a baseline, then analyze what they can do with it,” he said of the private schools he’s now hoping to work with. “It is a huge opportunity to evaluate, choose, and install some good, economically smart improvements.”

He pointed out that including Aristotle in such projects allows schools to significantly downsize their replacement boilers and pipes during energy retrofits.

But he also said that he and his two partner companies are not just pushing Aristotle: “We only sell our one little product, and we hope it would be included in school projects. The things that complement it, like improved doors, windows, lights, insulation, offer even more savings for the school.”

Sheren, whose company does efficiency retrofits, is optimistic that, as other counties enact the PACE ordinance, the three local companies will find lots of new work.

“Don will beat the bushes; I will do the energy audits and the work,” Sheren said. “We are putting a team together because it opens up another opportunity for us. We do this kind of efficiency work already, and this adds PACE to the whole process. We already have our ventilator systems in Kalkaska, so this will open up a bigger base.”

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s senior energy policy specialist. Reach him at jimdulzo@mlui.org