Michigan is making progress toward using more renewable energy sources. The state government has mandated that all energy providers in the state supply 10 percent of their energy from renewable resources, a goal which has been met or exceeded by all providers. The new government standard has been set at 15 percent by 2021.
But businesses aren’t relying on government mandates to drive their renewable energy programs. To keep up with changes to policy and public opinion on sustainability, businesses in Michigan are setting their own renewable energy standards.
We’ve compiled a list of nine companies in Michigan that have made impressive strides toward using renewable energy sources.
In 2014, office furniture company Steelcase announced that its renewable energy investment is equivalent to 100 percent of its global electricity consumption, making it the 15th largest 100-percent renewable energy purchaser in the US. The company’s energy portfolio is now made up of wind and hydroelectric energy in North America and Europe.
As part of its sustainability initiative, Steelcase is also asking its suppliers to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind energy facilities. “Our commitment to renewable energy is reflective of our passion for innovation and the environment,” says Jim Keane, president and chief executive officer of Steelcase. “We’re helping grow an industry that will ultimately benefit the entire world.”
The company received the Green Power Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014 for its efforts with green energy.
In 2009, Steelcase’s WorkLab in Grand Rapids was granted LEED Platinum certification, the first office furniture industry showroom to receive the honor. The WorkLab works on 100 percent green power, which is supported by a variety of features such as an open design for natural light and high-performance insulating glass and roof systems.
General Motors has been on a path to sustainability for a long time, continually setting and meeting goals, such as using 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020. In its 2016 sustainability report, GM noted that it had 199 megawatts of renewable energy, exceeding its 2020 goal. Over the last decade, the company has installed solar arrays at 22 facilities, started using landfill gas at three facilities and started using wind energy at four.
In 2015, the company was the first to give life to old EV batteries from Chevrolet Volt vehicles. The company used five of these batteries to power a new data center at its Milford Proving Ground facility. The batteries were combined with solar and wind energy to generate 100-megawatt hours of energy annually.
In 2016, the company pledged to source its electrical power for all of its locations worldwide with 100 percent renewable energy from sun, wind and landfill gas by 2050.
In Dow Chemical’s original 2025 Sustainability Report, the company set the goal of using 400 megawatts of clean power companywide. This goal was met in less than one year, and Dow has pushed up the goal to 750 megawatts.
Dr. Neil Hawkins, Dow’s corporate vice president and chief sustainability officer, says, “Dow is proud to be the first company in the United States to power manufacturing sites with renewable energy at this kind of scale and that we’ve become one of the largest corporate purchasers of wind energy in America.”
In one of its recent moves to meet its renewable energy goals, Dow is powering its Freeport, Texas, manufacturing facility with wind power generated from area wind farms. This facility alone will be using about 500 megawatts of renewable energy.
Data-center design company Switch is building a SUPERNAP data center near Grand Rapids that will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, aligning it with all of their other data centers in Nevada that are powered by renewable energy.
Switch is working with Consumers Electric energy company to power that facility, and the energy for the Michigan plant will come from Cross Winds Energy Park, a wind turbine farm in Tuscola County, Switch executive vice president Adam Kramer says. He emphasizes that the expanded wind farm will add 19 turbines in over 15 miles to power the plant with 100 percent green energy.
According to Whirlpool’s 2016 Sustainability Report, the company met its 2020 sustainability goals in 2016, one of which was to reduce energy intensity by 15 percent. Because of its efforts, the company is on the path to being one of the largest Fortune 500 consumers of on-site wind energy in the United States. The company is constructing three wind farms in Ohio to power its various manufacturing facilities across Ohio.
Whirlpool has also installed solar power on the rooftop of its distribution center in Perris, California. The 29,600 solar panels make up the largest solar array in the country, collecting and storing 10 megawatts of energy. The company has also built its new facilities in Benton Harbor to LEED standards, with Building 1 of the Downtown Campus receiving LEED Platinum certification and Buildings 2 and 3 both receiving Gold certifications.
On the consumer side, Whirlpool has received 38 Energy Star Awards since 1998, and was the Energy Star Partner of the Year in 2016.
Black Star Farms
Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay installed a series of solar arrays in 2015 to help power the inn, winery and farms at the agritourism destination. The 53-kilowatt capacity solar farm provides 15 to 20 percent of the farm’s energy.
But the solar array was just the exclamation point on energy-efficiency efforts. As of late 2015, the company has also switched to LED lights, converted to a more efficient boiler system, and automated the heating and cooling system in the Suttons Bay Tasting Room, with plans to do the same in more of the facilities’ buildings in 2016.
Ford Motor Company
As of the 2016 Sustainability Report, Ford has achieved its goal of reducing global facility energy use per vehicle produced by 25 percent and had nearly achieved its goal of reducing global facility carbon dioxide emissions per vehicle produced by 30 percent.
Ford has been harnessing solar energy at its Michigan facilities as part of its sustainability programs. In 2011, the Michigan Assembly Plant started running off of one of the largest solar-power generation systems in the state at that time, integrating it with the energy storage facility. The company also installed electric vehicle charging stations to demonstrate battery charging technologies using renewable resources.
In 2014, Ford again teamed with DTE Energy to build Michigan’s largest solar array and second largest solar carport in the Midwest at the company headquarters in Detroit. The solar array facility will offset about 794 metric tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions. The project provided 360 covered parking spaces and 30 charging stations for employees.
Herman Miller was a green company before a lot of other companies were thinking about sustainability. Since 2010, Herman Miller has been using 100 percent renewable energy for electrical power in all of its global facilities. The company’s new sustainability strategy, Earthright, sets goals for 2023 that include a 50-percent reduction in energy intensity and 50 percent more local renewables.
Herman Miller was a recipient of the 2014 Green Power Leadership Award, co-sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Resource Solutions. The award recognizes companies that significantly advance green power source development. In the awards ceremony statement, it was noted that in 2013 the company purchased more than 86 million kilowatt hours of RECs and green power products from wind energy and biomass.
The Christman Company
The Christman Company is a construction and real estate development company that utilizes green design and construction practices, not only with its customers, but internally as well. The company has two Platinum LEED-certified offices in Michigan.
The company’s corporate headquarters in Lansing is the world’s first triple-Platinum LEED project. The construction and real estate development company purchased the old 64,190-square-foot Mutual Building in downtown Lansing with the intention of showcasing their abilities in integrated and sustainable design construction, as well as historic preservation.
For energy efficiency, the company focused on efficient HVAC systems, energy-efficient lighting, use of Energy Star-rated equipment and appliances, sustainable building control systems, and RECs. The company’s Grand Rapids office is also Platinum LEED-certified.
Bonus: The City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids has been on a path to sustainability for a long time, and has become recognized as a sustainability leader as a result of its efforts. In 2010, the city was named the nation’s most sustainable mid-size city by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Civic Leadership Center and Siemens Corporation. And in June 2012, the city and Mayor George Heartwell received the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Award in the large city category.
According to the city’s 5th Year Sustainability Report, as of 2015 the city had reduced its carbon emissions by 4,440 metric tons. The report also showed that Grand Rapids had more than 27 percent renewable resources in its energy portfolio. Mayor Heartwell’s new goal for the city is to be using 100-percent renewable energy by the year 2025.
These companies (and city) are leading by example, blazing the trail for others who are searching for ways to utilize more renewable resources in energy use.