The MAREC Minute: September 2012

The MAREC Minute, a newsletter from GVSU's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.

September 2012  Issue, Vol. 4, No. 1 & 2                                                                                                             Past Newsletters

   C O N T E N T S


A Message from the Director


Arn Boezaart, director of MAREC.Active collaboration and noteworthy creativity come to mind as I reflect on MAREC staff efforts over the past few months. We are working with many partners, both public and private, to advance knowledge about new technologies and to leverage the value that MAREC and its resources can contribute to new business and economic development activity in the region.

I have a reminder sign in my office that reads “Collaborate or Die!” Mindful of that stark admonition, we focus daily on identifying new partnerships, sharing information about energy technology resources and supporting development of new technology oriented businesses.  MAREC staff are working on many projects designed to help others move their ideas, innovations and visions forward.

Activities presently underway include our Lake Michigan offshore wind research work with many project partners. Also our Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers (SERC) effort in partnership with the Muskegon-Oceana Community Action Partnership agency. That project is bringing solar energy technology to dozens of low and moderate income households as well as a number of human service agencies that provide residential services.  

On the technology front we are bringing university resources, private entrepreneurs and skilled scientists together to advance efforts in the battery technology sector. Our business development efforts are very active as well, with incubator tenants and external start-up businesses receiving a wide range of services from the MI-SBTDC and Muskegon SmartZone based Michigan Business Accelerator Fund programs.

Recently we launched a “Walk-in Wednesday” program for those who want to explore and learn about MAREC opportunities. Stop by and see our collaboration in action!
Arn Boezaart, Director

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LongerDays Joins MAREC Incubator


A company that provides U.S.-based virtual assistant services is the newest tenant at MAREC.

Chad Lawie, founder of LongerDays. signed a two-year lease agreement with Grand Valley State University to occupy MAREC business incubator space. Based in Muskegon, the 2-year-old firm provides outsourcing services such as web design, copy writing and administrative support to more than 80 domestic and overseas clients, including ones in Montreal, South Africa, Alaska, U.K. and Costa Rica.
Owner Chad Lawie, a 27-year-old Muskegon native, said he wants to change the perception of outsourcing work. “Instead of firms outsourcing to India or countries other than the U.S., they’re outsourcing to Muskegon and supporting full-time jobs,” he said. has 12 full-time employees who moved into MAREC July 1. The Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) and MAREC staff members helped Lawie develop finance and business plans for the company.
“We’re growing fast, making it difficult to know what space we’ll need five years down the road,” Lawie said. “MAREC’s incubator program is the perfect solution because it gives us time to stabilize and the business consulting services will help us build a solid  foundation much faster than we could on our own.”


LongerDays virtual assistance staff work in MAREC’s incubator space..

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 New Programs Promote Business Growth, Development


A series of new programs at MAREC will help energy and technology entrepreneurs to develop and grow in any stage of business ownership.

The Virtual Tenant Program is designed for  individuals or groups of entrepreneurs who need business services, resources and meeting spaces, but are not ready for a dedicated office space. MAREC provides virtual tenants with access to meeting spaces, business development opportunities, support services and training programs. The first virtual tenants are McKenzie Bay and Michigan PACE, two energy start-ups that previously were on-site tenants.

“Walk-in Wednesdays” invites business owners, entrepreneurs and business start-ups to visit MAREC from 8 am to  5 pm any Wednesday to learn about the facility and MAREC .

The Incubator Tenant Referral Program rewards individuals whose referrals result in a tenant incubator agreement. Rewards vary by space and length of agreement resulting from referral. The reward offer goes through December 31.

Joe Graczyk, MAREC Incubator Manager, hosts Walk-in Wednesdays, allowing visitors to discover  MAREC—no appointment necessary.

Joe Graczyk, incubator manager for MAREC and management professor in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley, notes these programs seek to connect with young, high-tech companies and energy initiatives throughout the Lakeshore region. “We offer a range of  services to help   businesses grow no matter what stage they are at,” he said.

For more, contact Joe Graczyk at or (616) 331-6914.


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Save The Date: October 6th MAREC 2012 Solar Tour

Two Tour Sessions:

11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Read more about the MAREC 2012 Solar Tour

Wind Research Buoy Tackles Mid-Lake Challenge

On May 7, the WindSentinel research buoy that is collecting data for GVSU’s Lake Michigan Offshore Wind Assessment Project was towed 37 miles offshore to an anchor site in Lake Michigan known as the mid-lake plateau. At that location it is gathering wind data, conducting bird and bat acoustic measurements and collecting water quality information for the full research season until mid-December.
Using state-of-the-art laser pulse and Doppler radar technology, the buoy continuously measures wind data at multiple heights starting at 50 meters (164 ft.) above sea level and reaching up to 150 meters (492 ft.) with a high rate of success. On the hour, a ten minute average data sample is sent to shore via Iridium satellite transmission. Researchers visit the buoy monthly  to manually collect the computer data cards.

Commenting on the data collection effort to date, Arn Boezaart, MAREC Director said, “Early results are very promising with consistent and significant wind conditions recorded by the WindSentinel. We are collecting upper elevation wind and related atmospheric conditions as well as biotic data that will provide new insight into the mid-lake environment.  Our data collection efforts using the latest available technology will benefit research scientists and the renewable energy sector for years to come.”

Using a floating research platform to collect wind data at commercially significant elevations has never been done before on the Great Lakes. Scientists and other project supporters across North America are eagerly awaiting the results,” he added.

Jim Edmonson, project manager for the study, notes that “capturing wind measurements at the mid-lake plateau has been of great interest but beyond reach to many for a long, long time. Numerous prior studies have recommended that offshore wind research be conducted because of the likelihood that a robust level of wind energy potential will be found.” The MAREC WindSentinel is “on station” and making it happen!

Project staff visit the buoy in July for inspection and retrieval of onboard data cards, which store real-time one second data to complement the summary data transmitted hourly via satellite phone. 


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MAREC Explores Flow Battery Technology


Demonstration model of flow battery at MAREC.

While its research is in early stages, MAREC is exploring flow battery technology, an approach to energy storage that has promise for large scale  renewable energy projects.  

In addition to creating a demonstration flow battery jointly with GVSU’s Chemistry Department and School of Engineering, MAREC is working with Ann Arbor-based Vinazene Inc., which has patented a charge-holding organic compound with potential use in flow batteries. 

MAREC is assisting Vinazene in pursuing SBIR Phase II funding from the US Department of Energy for prototypes and testing. 

Redox flow batteries are electrochemical cells that convert chemical energy directly to electricity. They  store electrical charges using electrolyte liquid material which is circulated through the system and stored externally in tanks. Flow batteries can be rapidly “recharged” by replacing discharged electrolyte liquid and recovering the spent material for re-energization.

Critics of wind and solar power point to its intermittent qualities—“it’s not always there when you need it.” The ability to store wind and solar power in large electrical storage systems would provide a more level playing field between fossil fuels and renewable energy technology, said Arn Boezaart in a September MiBiz article.


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Entrepreneurs Benefit From Business Accelerator Fund (BAF)


Five West Michigan companies assisted by MAREC together have received  more than $123,000 in business development assistance with a variety of new product or early stage business development activities thanks to the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF) program, an initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center.

With MAREC assistance, grant recipients applied for funds for a variety of activities that illustrate the breadth of innovation coming from emerging Michigan companies. For example:

Mackinac Technology Company develops and commercializes energy-saving thermal insulation products. Mackinac Tech is currently  developing a transparent window coating insulation system for retrofit applications, using its proprietary coating technology that is expected to yield a 2-3 year payback period for the product resulting from energy savings. The company received a grant for technology and prototyping.  

BioSolutions, LLC formulates, blends, packages, and distributes biodegradable cleaners and industrial coolants that help companies  provide an environmentally safe and healthy workplace.  BAF is providing legal development assistance with trademarks, labeling and other product work to strengthen their ability to fully commercialize their product line. 

Dirt Works, LLC has developed an intuitive and inexpensive on-board visual reference product and associated mounting platform for the heavy equipment and construction industry. The product is expected to compete with more costly laser and GPS instruments that help machine operators determine the level and grade angles of the terrain they are preparing. BAF funds will help produce prototypes and production molds so the company can fulfill customer orders.

Sustainable Partners, LLC (SPART) has formed a partnership with a  German engineering company, enCO2, to develop an anaerobic digester for Lowell Light & Power using enCO2’s patented system to produce energy from bio-waste (manure, food waste, grease, and wastewater sludge).  SPART will develop bio waste-to-energy projects in Michigan that provide low-cost, high-return energy alternatives for utility, farm and municipal waste system operators.    With a BAF grant, SPART is developing legal documents, a web site and accounting system to support their  business development needs.

Nuts and Bolts about BAF

BAF awards are tightly focused on  companies with characteristics that offer potential for the highest return on investment for business and job growth. Preference goes to high-tech firms, not only in renewable energy but also sectors such as homeland security & defense, life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and others.

MAREC has been designated as a resource organization that identifies and enables qualified Michigan companies in these sectors to pursue business development awards of up to $50,000 from BAF.


GeLo has developed a “geo-locator“ smart tag product that makes location-specific information available to smart phone users. The GeLo tags can be used in a variety of settings to provide specific information about their location. Applications of the technology may assist museums, parks, schools, retail, and other settings. BAF will support the manufacture of first-production GeLo tags to be installed at ten “beta site” locations.

Jim Edmonson, BAF project manager, observes that "new start-ups as well as small established firms with great ideas can benefit from the BAF support services program. It gives entrepreneurs the tools and resources they need to move ideas from concept to early-stage commercialization.”  

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Education & Outreach: MOCAP, SERC And More


The Muskegon-Oceana Community Action Partnership (MOCAP) is winding up its Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers (SERC) grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE). The final phase includes the installation of 46 additional residential units (see box), bringing the total number of installations to 120 under the grant. In addition a 16 kW PV system and a large solar water heating system were recently installed on West Michigan Therapy’s transitional living facility in Muskegon. Kim Walton, MAREC program coordinator and project consultant, will continue to assist MOCAP with gathering data on energy-savings from homes for the USDOE.  

See MOCAP-SERC Photo Gallery

Participants, staff and contractors involved with the MOCAP SERC project attended a Solar Cookout at MAREC on Saturday August 18. More than 40 people showed up for hotdogs, veggie burgers, and a tour of MAREC. Although the weather was too cloudy to cook using solar alone, the solar cookers served to illustrate more renewable technology.

MOCAP/SERC Renewable Energy Installations this year

Hybrid Water Heater 16
Solat Hot Air Systems 16
Solat Hot Water Systems 8
Photovoltaic Systems 6

MAREC has successfully met and surpassed its engagement goals for an Energy Demonstration Center grant from the MEDC. MAREC exceeded its goal by reaching 270 participants through tours, educational events for home and business owners, students, and by providing consulting services to municipalities and schools. Among the activities, assistance was provided to a Fruitport Middle School teacher in preparing a grant proposal for a curriculum, program, and related equipment for a donated 2kW PV system.

Another outcome of the EDC grant and MAREC outreach was a consulting contract with Barry County to support a county wide recycling plan. Barry County turned to MAREC because of the links between recycling and energy issues, such as transportation and cogeneration. Kim Walton will direct the four month project that includes interviewing local government officials and surveying residents about recycling practices.

MAREC has a new lending and resource library covering a wide range of renewable and sustainability topics. The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association (GLREA) moved their library to MAREC after moving into shared quarters with Michigan Energy Options in Lansing. The materials are on permanent loan to GVSU.

MAREC joined Muskegon County, the Muskegon Conservation District, and West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) to host a rain barrel-making workshop on August 16th. The closely-linked themes of energy and water conservation made for a well-attended event.

MAREC also offered a Summer Speaker Series in August, covering topics from financing renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to the latest on residential wind turbine technology. The series may be repeated at GVSU’s Grand Rapids campus.

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Page last modified March 14, 2014