The ESD, the acronym for the Engineering Society of Detroit, is now 115 years old and it remains an august institution in the City of Detroit. Once housed in a magnificent marble building next to the Detroit Institute of the Arts it is an encompassing institution that holds many fine conferences on Engineering developments and Issues. Their recent conference held on March 3rd on Alternative Energy was something of a rousing affair, which we do indeed need since Michigan has been hardest hit in this recent Economic turn-down.

Engineering Society of Detroit Conference on Alternative Energy

Bill Dickens - Engineering Society of Detroit

Filed Under - Tradeshows and Conferences


I suspect that no other City in the US, or indeed the world, can boast of such a wonderful institution. Its scope of interests exceeds that of the SAE, or the Society of Automotive Engineers. Detroit has been the home of many wonderful Engineers and Michigan remains as the State with the greatest number and highest density of Engineers of all. This too would imply the greatest number of engineering technicians as well. Architects were always included in the mix. The ESD has stood witness to the development of the American way of life of the 20th Century.

Their recent conference held on March 3rd on Alternative Energy was something of a rousing affair, which we do indeed need since Michigan has been hardest hit in this recent Economic turn-down. While the booths and displays were relatively sparse and not posited by vendors of alternative energy devices and more at lending institutions, insurance companies, a Geothermal company which is now also offering a geo/air cooling system, the panel discussions were very lively with a number of very interesting presenters. It was clear that the structure of the conference was well thought out.

The lead speaker was the Wayne County Executive, Robert Ficano, who was quick to point out that in China everyone knows three American Cities: NY, LA, and Detroit. Detroit is known because of all of its wonderful technical achievements bringing freedom to daily life. And many of them came from members of the ESD. Bob was also quick to point out that Michigan has access to more fresh water than any other state, having the longest shoreline, the greatest number of lakes and rivers, and any manufacturing operation has a heavy fresh water requirement. That is why Detroit naturally became the manufacturing center of America.

He also pointed out that Metro Terminal has 60% of the overnight freight traffic and that GE is moving into its new location in the area. And he pointed out that Detroit is the Center for virtually all automotive research and development. China automotive is here.

Because we have been so hard hit by the recent declining economy with some 60% of all private sector jobs lost, the Federal Government has given over half the stimulus allocation to the State of Michigan and Governor Granholm was early on in the lead towards alternate energy development and manufacturing so she has helped direct monies toward startup companies in alternative energy fields. Already Michigan has the greatest number of solar panel companies, eight or so, including the largest solar panel manufacturer and Dow Chemical, with its long term commitment to architecture, (ever hear of Styrofoam) is now entering the field with solar shingles. It is clear that Michigan intends to lead the way in alternative energy creation and manufacture. The path has been set and we are on course.

The most sparkling speaker was a young woman Professor of Engineering from the University of Michigan, Dr. Ann Marie Sastry, Co-founder of Sakti3 and heavily involved in battery development. Dr. Sastry proudly mentioned that her program at the U of M Engineering School with GM as a partner (The Advanced Battery Coalition) is world leading in the realm of energy storage and Vehicle electrification and she sees a huge future in electric power driven vehicles worldwide. She is proud that her program is the 1st Energy Systems Engineering Program in the US and students are coming planet wide to the graduate programs. She is after the best talent worldwide.

Asia has Lithium ion battery production locked up and we are in the catch up mode. She pointed out that wet slurry technologies are problematic and solid state is the future.

So they are setting up to establish sustained battery production for GM.

One panel on Success Stories and Opportunities was headed up by an attorney and it contained manufacturers of motors, and fan parts and installations. It was mentioned that the huge fans have efficiencies in the upper 30% range by the company putting up the new, huge fan at Mesick, Global Wind Systems for Northern Power. It was mentioned that we have surpassed Germany in Wind Power generated electricity. Danotek was represented as making direct drive generators of various sizes for differing installations. There now a number of Renewable Energy Parks in S.E. Michigan where these companies reside.

Another Panel on Policy was headed up by Matt Roush, Technology Editor at WWJ News Radio, who has a weekly program on the air about alternative energies and news in the technical world. This discussion centered upon Public Policies and included a Panelist from the Province of Ontario discussing the issues in Canada. It was recently announced that Canada will be placing a number of huge low efficiency fans along the shore of Lake Huron.

Also included were discussions upon the State of Michigan Land policy as it is being developed with respect to wind power applications, both on and off shore, by Dr. Soje Adelaja. And there were a series of Opportunity sessions on Capital Venture, Growth, Advance Manufacturing, and Public/Private partnership, Education, Green mobility. The Global clean energy revolution is well underway.

The afternoon led off on The Global Clean Energy Revolution and was led by the Michigan Director of the Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, Skip Pruss who, it is obvious, is extremely knowledgeable and instrumental in creating and effecting the Governor’s policies. He pointed out that the most outstanding innovation of the 20th Century is considered to be the power grid. And that Fossil fuels will have huge cost increases.

Manufacturers in later breakout sessions showed their prowess. The huge and well equipped facilities of Merrill Tool and Machine are perfect for creating any hardware necessary for the production of energy by any means.

The conference was a great success and it serves notice that Michigan is highly intentional in becoming the Alt Energy equipment and product manufacturing place in the US.

And the intention of the conference was to encourage networking amongst those interested in alternative energy. In that regard it was great and achieved its goal.

It points to the extreme farsightedness of our Governor.

The only question is how long it will take for the ubiquitous 3 bladed “windmill” to reverse its position as a symbol of high technology and hope for humanity into a symbol of low technology and poor engineering and false hype which it really is. By establishing some testing facilities and uniform procedures for testing fan designs and perfecting them, Michigan will contribute heavily to the advancement of wind power as well as world class energy storage advancements.

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