The MAREC Minute: October 2013



October 2013  Issue, Vol. 5, No. 4                                                                                                             Past Newsletters

   C O N T E N T S



Message from the Director

GVSU Engineering students on the WindSentinel research buoy, Oct. 2013.

Students from GVSU School of Engineering assisting with the WindSentinel’s technology.

Looking back on the fabulous summer months we just checked off the calendar, diversity and breadth of focus comes to mind in describing summer activity at MAREC.

Taking three GVSU School of Engineering students out to the WindSentinel research buoy was a summer highlight. These students, who normally support the offshore project from onshore, assisted with onboard data retrieval. They gained experience with applied technology in real field conditions—including a sweltering day on the lake and those pesky black flies. Similarly, an unexpected opportunity to host a stop by the Obama administration’s Climate Change bus tour in early August added a few days of the kind of excitement that accompanies a national-level event.

Several Business Accelerator Fund engagements were completed during the summer, adding to the growing total of financial support provided to a number of West Michigan start-up companies. This year to date, more than $95,000 in business start-up services have been arranged for four companies in various stages of development. One of the companies, Energy Partners, LLC, is a MAREC tenant.

Solar energy was another summer highlight, as MAREC staff in partnership with the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) presented a four-week Community Solar series of workshops attended by more than twenty people. The program sets the stage for development of community solar, a cooperative approach to building solar energy capacity in local communities which is gaining interest across the country. An eight-hour workshop has been created for groups who may want to develop their own community solar project. Watch for MAREC leadership in this area in the months ahead.

A late summer trip to Camp Miniwanca near Shelby by yours truly to present at the Sierra Club annual Michigan Retreat, and a MAREC appearance at the Innovation After Hours event by the Muskegon Area Robotics Students (MARS) Rovers with their student-built competitive robots, rounds out the summer highlights. Makes you wonder what next summer will bring!

Arn Boezaart, Director

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Workshop Series Success Leads to New MAREC Community Solar Training Program

Ribbon cutting for Cherryland Electric Cooperative, June 2013. Photo from Interlochen Public Radio.
Ribbon cutting for Cherryland Electric Cooperative/ SUN community solar project in Traverse City, held in June this year. Photo Interlochen Public Radio.

During July, twenty individuals from across West Michigan took part in "A Roadmap to Community Solar," a four-week workshop series offered by MAREC.  

Co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA), the workshops introduced  participants  to the details as well as technical and regulatory challenges of launching community solar. Benefits of this renewable energy strategy include pooling resources, accommodating small investors, reducing individual risk, and maximizing the benefits of solar energy for local communities.  

Because of the positive response to the workshops, MAREC has developed a one-day training program and can provide consultation to individuals or groups wishing to develop community solar options in their own communities. The program also examines campaign strategies to support development of local solar projects.
Community solar is often compared to community gardening, where a group of individuals pools their efforts and resources to achieve affordable results that couldn’t be achieved alone.  

In Traverse City, the Cherryland Electric Cooperative has collaborated with Traverse City Light & Power to create a community solar project known as the Solar Up North (SUN) Alliance.

Through the program, customers can buy shares equivalent to single solar panels, and the electricity generated by that solar panel would be credited to their utility bills.  This enabled individuals to buy as much solar power as they could afford, without having to bankroll the entire installation of solar devices for their homes.

“There’s a growing interest in the development of community solar as an alternative to individual solar rather than each person putting solar panels on their roof and all that goes with it,” said Arn Boezaart, MAREC director, in an August 4 article on

“There’s lots of acreage where community solar can be done, but it presents its share of regulations and utility-related issues,” he said. “However, we’re poised in this region to seriously explore how we might put some community solar together.”

Kim Walton, MAREC program director, presenting at community solar workshop.
MAREC’s Kim Walton presents community solar at a workshop session.

"We learned that lack of awareness of community solar options in Michigan communities and municipalities makes it harder to develop projects,” said Kim Walton, program director at MAREC and workshop organizer.

“There’s much that could be done to overcome that, through the training and consulting that MAREC will offer and by taking steps such as creating model zoning ordinances that local municipalities can adopt.”   

At the inaugural session, keynote talks were presented via web conferencing with two nationally-known speakers, Anya Schoolman, founder of the Community Power Network, and Sara Bronin, program director for the Center for Energy & Environmental Law at University of Connecticut. They covered topics including: organizational structures for community solar, municipalities, utilities, site selection, policy & incentives, case studies, business model pros & cons, and more.

Additional features of the workshop included a panel discussion with experts representing perspectives from environmental groups, state government, solar contractors, and a Michigan community solar project.  For more, contact Kim Walton at or 616-331-6907.

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UM Researcher to Speak October 21 on Wind Turbines Vs.
Winter on the Great Lakes

Prof. Dale G. Karr, University of Michigan researcher.
Prof. Dale G. Karr, University of Michigan  |  Biography

One of the challenges facing offshore wind energy production in the Great Lakes is the severe winter weather season, when air temperatures across the lakes can dip as low as -26°F.  Ice formation and action can threaten vessels and marine structures severely enough to disrupt shipping and other operations in the marine environment.

The impacts of these conditions on offshore structural design and technology have long been a key research focus of Prof. Dale G. Karr, associate professor of naval architecture & marine engineering at the University of Michigan

As a guest lecturer at MAREC, Dr. Karr will explore these impacts and provide updates on his US Department of Energy research projects, which are likely to impact future offshore wind energy production in the Great Lakes.


Wind Turbines vs.
Great Lakes Winter: 
Tech Briefing

October 21, 2013

More Info and Register


Dr. Karr’s DOE projects are entitled:

•   Measurement and Analysis of Extreme Wave and Ice Actions in the Great Lakes for Offshore Wind Platform Design

•   Bottom Fixed Platform Dynamics Models Assessing Surface Ice Interactions for Transitional Depth Structures in the Great Lakes.

Attendance at the October 21 briefing is free; registration is requested at Refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Arn Boezaart, MAREC director, at 616-331-6901 or

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WindSentinel Concluding Successful Wind Assessment Season

WindSentinel awaits data retrieval with assistance from Andrie Specialized.


With assistance from Andrie Inc.’s Specialized Division, data cards were retrieved from the WindSentinel in early October.


The GVSU WindSentinel research buoy is nearing completion of its second year of offshore wind research six miles offshore from the Muskegon-Whitehall Lake Michigan coastline.

Anchored in 200-foot-deep water since April of this year, the WindSentinel has been capturing valuable real-time wind and related atmospheric data in one-second increments using state-of-art laser pulse technology.

During its time in Lake Michigan, 35 miles offshore in 2012 and at its present near-shore location, the WindSentinel buoy has validated the use of laser pulse technology on a mobile floating research platform as a viable and cost-effective wind assessment methodology.

With the wind data securely archived at the GVSU School of Engineering, there will be a body of Great Lakes wind data available to researchers, wind energy developers and students on the Great Lakes and around the world for years to come. Data is presently being shared with researchers in a number of locations with a most recent request for wave data received from a research group in Norway.

Birds and Bats

The WindSentinel is also supporting the collection of bird and bat data in partnership with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory program, affiliated with Michigan State University. Under the leadership of Dr. Brian Klatt, the MNFI group has recorded bat activity and identified no less than five species of bats using the on-board acoustic monitoring equipment. This represents break-through research for bat scientists, as the confirmed presence of bats over the Great Lakes was previously undocumented.

The 2013 WindSentinel research season also incorporates a Sound Propagation Study to be conducted by Dr. Erik Nordman of the GVSU School of Natural Resources. Researchers will compare sound measurements collected over Lake Michigan to data generated using WindFarm software, which models wind turbine data. This research will address questions about commercial wind turbine noise levels that often become part of public policy or public perception discussions.

By the time the WindSentinel returns to port in late December, a very productive and valuable research season will have been completed. Preliminary discussions are now underway to determine the scope and location of the 2014 research program.

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BAF Profile:  GeLo Seeks To Commercialize Way–Finding Technology

Chris Byrnes, founder of GeLo.

Chris Byrnes, GeLo founder, speaking at Innovation After Hours on September 17.

Chris Byrnes, an inventor, entrepreneur, and seasoned economic development leader from Holland , wants to enable businesses to help individuals find and learn about points of interest at their location.

His idea is simple but promises potentially endless applications. That potential is fueling his drive to grow GeLo, a start-up that will use precise mobile-positioning technology to connect people with places or things located in a company’s physical site that provide value.

Byrnes has developed a three-part system: small beacons that automatically transmit to smartphones via Bluetooth wifi, a free smartphone app that responds to the beacons, and database services that make the whole package work while also sending analytics to the host business.  
One of the early applications of GeLo technology was at  ArtPrize 2013, the annual arts exhibition in Grand Rapids held each September and October.

At the B.O.B., a large multi-restaurant venue with several ArtPrize exhibits, each work of art has its own beacon. When a visitor draws within 30 feet or less of the artwork, the smartphone app automatically pops up a window with text, images, video or audio about the piece and the artist. Altogether the beacons create a self-guided tour.

Byrnes sees many uses of this technology–attracting consumers to “specials” in a store setting or guiding visitors through a museum, a city walking tour, or a university. Several organizations have agreed to beta-test the technology, including places as varied as Meijer Gardens and MAREC. GeLo also recently had its first sale–200 beacons to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn to “go live” by October.


BAF Profiles cover young companies that have received grants from the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) program with MAREC assistance. 

More at

In launching GeLo, Byrnes consulted with MAREC staff over time. More recently he sought MAREC assistance in obtaining a Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) grant. The product development grant assisted GeLo with creation of an Apple smartphone app and manufacture of its first beta test beacons.

“We really couldn’t have done it without the help of MAREC staff,” said Byrnes.  “As a SmartZone here on the lakeshore, MAREC is a tremendous resource that we have used several times. They’re a great team to work with and we hope to continue to work with them.”

MAREC has helped several start-ups acquire BAF grants and encourages other interested applicants to contact its staff. Learn more at

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Robots Add Tech Touch to Innovation After Hours

Innovation After Hours event.

Innovation After Hours event.

Innovation After Hours event.       Innovation After Hours event.  

Above right:  Hank Betten of Corlnet and Mike Gerstweiler of Pribusin, Inc. inspect one of the MARS team’s robots.

Bottom Right:  Miles Smith, a GVSU student entrepreneur and founder of Bahrs, makes a “pitch” presentation.

More photos on Facebook

Fifty people took the opportunity to network by attending the latest Innovation After Hours event, held at MAREC on September 17.

Offered jointly by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Muskegon Inventors Network, e-merge West Michigan, and MAREC, the event allowed local and regional science and technology innovators to meet entrepreneurs and business professionals who can help turn ideas into business opportunities.  

Highlights of the event included pitch demonstrations from area entrepreneurs. A team of Muskegon area high school students, the MARS Rovers, also presented two robots they developed for regional and national tournaments in the annual FIRST Robotics competition.   

MAREC Director Arn Boezaart welcomed guests to the event, the second in a series, by thanking Parmenter O’Toole and an anonymous donor for sponsoring the evening.  

Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, highlighted upcoming events such as the e-merge Elevator Pitch Competition on November 6.  

Mike Gerstweiler of Pribusin, Inc. spoke as president and one of the adult mentors of the MARS Rovers. He recognized the students for their dedication and skill in designing, building, and operating their robots.  

Gerstweiler also encouraged potential sponsors to help support the student robotics team’s efforts (learn more at

On the entrepreneurial side,  Miles Smith, a GVSU student entrepreneur and founder of Bahrs, LLC, presented his start-up company’s solutions for fishermen and other outdoors enthusiasts.

Chris Byrnes, founder of GeLo, explained his young company’s way-finding technology (see story).  


Stay tuned for the next Innovation After Hours event, to be scheduled!

Watch the MAREC events calendar, or subscribe to the MAREC Minute newsletter. 


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Page last modified October 18, 2013