MARQUETTE - The future of Michigan depends on alternative energy and Gov. Jennifer Granholm made it clear during a visit to Marquette recently that she intends on seeing the Upper Peninsula lead the way success.
With companies like Renewafuel and Mascoma looking at the U.P. to locate their first full-scale production facilities, she said the area already has a foothold in the race to be a world leader.
"Besides being the wood basket of the state, the Upper Peninsula has some of the hardest working people and is located in just the right position where the natural resources are readily available," she said. "This area is going to help make Michigan a leader in renewable energy and fuels."
Renewafuel is a biofuel-producing company, 70-percent owned by Cleveland Cliffs inc., that creates small "cubes" created from stock feed such as corn stalks, switch grass, grains, soybean and oat hulls, wood and wood byproducts.
The cubes are used in place of coal in furnaces, such as those used to create pellets at the CCI mines and those used to create energy for Marquette's Board of Light and Power. The first production facility will be located in K.I. Sawyer and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the first quarter of 2009.
Renewafuel's biofuel cubes - about the size of a coal briquette - generate about the same amount of energy as coal does. According to CCI, the green fuel emits 90 percent less sulfur dioxide, 35 percent less particulate matter and 30 percent less acid gases than coal. CCI officials said earlier that recent full-scale tests have found it to reduce mercury emissions by 50 percent.
"I love it," said Granholm of the push for alternative energy production in the U.P. "I just love it. I think there is a bright future in this state for this kind of industry. We're going to do everything we can to promote it."
Part of that help will include tax credits and the naming of "Centers of Energy Excellence," which involves the state working with universities to help with the commercialization of energy technologies.
For example, Michigan Tech University is partnering with Mascoma, Granholm said. The Boston-based company is expected to make an initial investment of $250 million in its first-ever production facility in Chippewa County.
The project will make cellulosic ethanol from wood chips and possibly the waste material from pulp paper factories. The company has indicated it hopes to be producing ethanol in large quantities for distribution by late 2010.
"This is outstanding news from the Upper Peninsula," said Granholm, who indicated there would be about 600 jobs created by Mascoma. "It's going to be the center of this industry. I have high hopes."
The benefits of cellulosic ethanol? Since it's made from wood, it doesn't take away from food stock like corn-based ethanol has, and it's cheaper, Granholm said.
"We definitely need that," she said. "Even Barack Obama mentioned this project when he was visiting Lansing. I'd like to get the information over to (John) McCain, too. Everyone should know about this and support this kind of project."