What better way to honor the Summer Solstice and the days of peak daylight than with a celebration of the sun and its ability to power our society’s transition toward renewable energy?
The Groundwork Center is teaming up with the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association to host the Michigan Clean Energy Conference & Fair, June 23-25, in Traverse City. Events will be held Friday at the State Theatre and Saturday and Sunday at Northwestern Michigan College’s Aero Park campus south of downtown.
The keynote speakers Saturday include former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm — an authority on clean energy policy and the politics of economic diversification — and Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, which this year was named one of the top 10 energy companies in the world by Fast Company.
The three-day event is designed to mobilize clean energy investments in Michigan homes, businesses and communities. Check out the conference website, and join us to see how residents and businesses are innovating to create a locally grown, clean energy economy. Keynote speakers and panel discussions will allow participants to hear from experts on a diverse array of topics including municipal strategies for 100 percent renewable energy, community solar, innovative electric utility models, and making solar energy affordable for all.
Interest in electric vehicles continues to grow as the automotive industry finds ways to make them more affordable and environmentally friendly. Join us and Crystal Mountain owner and clean energy advocate (and Groundwork advisory council member) Jim MacInnes for a compelling panel discussion on electric mobility featuring thought leaders and industry experts from around the state and nation. Former Gov. Granholm will take part in the panel discussion. The evening is free of charge, and will be followed by an after-party at The Franklin in downtown Traverse City.
Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell kicks off the day with a plenary session titled “the power company of the future” from 9:30-10:30. At 11 the conference will break into three concurrent sessions: “Going 100% Clean Energy, Strategies for Mobilizing your Community”; “Supply and Demand, Workforce and Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy” and “Michigan Public Service Commission Policy Development”.
Kate Madigan, climate and energy policy specialist for the Michigan Environmental Council, will lead the morning breakout session focused on cities and municipalities “going 100 percent clean energy”. The panel will include Traverse City mayor Jim Carruthers — who was part of a City Commission that unanimously pledged to get its municipal energy entirely from renewable sources by 2020 — and Regina Strong, Michigan director of the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign.
“My session is an opportunity for people who want to learn more about getting to 100 percent renewable to hear from people who are doing it, to get resources, ask questions, understand the challenges, and come away with the tools to make it happen in their own community,” said Madigan.
“When the Traverse City resolution passed unanimously in December, it really catalyzed a lot of activity, interest and brainstorming about how to get to 100 percent. We’re part of a ‘green team’ that was created to help the city implement its goals.”
Traverse City and the city-owned utility Traverse City Light & Power are currently considering an effort to build solar panels at an existing wind turbine site just west of downtown.
“It’s really exciting to me that the state and national leaders are coming together in Traverse City to talk about the future of renewable energy,” Madigan said about the conference. “Since our resolution passed, people around state have started to look at TC as one of the most forward-thinking communities when it comes to energy. People are contacting us. Having the conference here will help make that true.”
A second round of concurrent sessions, at 1 p.m., include: “Communicating a Compelling Case in Support of Renewable Energy”; “Moving Community Solar in MI – Obstacles and Opportunities” and “Clean Energy for All, Overcoming Financial Barriers for Installing a Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Upgrades”
Granholm will deliver her afternoon plenary at 3 p.m., moderated by her longtime energy adviser, and Groundwork advisory council member, Skip Pruss.
Post-conference meet-ups at 4 p.m. include Advancing Women in Energy, Michigan Solar Users Network and 100% Communities.
On Sunday, the fair opens to the public and features two concurrent workshops — “Solar in Michigan, How does it work?” and “Why investing in solar will save money!” — as well as activities for attendees of all ages, including children.
Sunday is really about the general public and educating the whole region — including folks who aren’t typically tapped into new energy — on the exciting future of clean energy.
The Ann Arbor Hands on Museum will have a kid-friendly exhibit with activities that include: make an anemometer, powering a load, air cannon, wind powered electricity, wind tube, wind farm design, wings on the wind, design blades to lift a load, energy transformation and emissions.
“My kids are really excited about renewable energy,” said Madigan. “They know it’s part of their future. It’s cool. So I’ll definitely bring them.”
Dan Worth is the Clean Energy Policy Specialist at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org