Granholm, Epolito Announce Newest Centers of Energy Excellence

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Centers will grow Michigan's leadership in advanced battery and biofuel technologies

LANSING– Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James C. Epolito today announced Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) approval of three alternative energy partnerships in Ann Arbor, East Lansing/Webberville, and Alpena to be designated the state’s newest Centers of Energy Excellence (COEE). The program, proposed by the Governor in her State of the State address in January and signed into law this summer, is designed to bring companies, academic institutions and the state together to support cutting-edge research and development and pioneer new alternative-energy technology.

“Centers of Energy Excellence will enable innovative companies to partner with our world-class universities to help make Michigan a leader in the alternative energy industry,” Granholm said. “This new program is part of our aggressive strategy to diversify our economy, create new jobs, and be the state that helps end our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.”

In July, legislation was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support authorizing the Michigan MSF to allocate up to $45 million to establish and administer the COEE program which will support the development, growth and sustainability of alternative energy clusters by identifying and/or locating a base company with the necessary business and supply-chain infrastructure. The COEE program will match the base companies with universities, national labs, and training centers to accelerate next-generation research, workforce development and commercialization.

The Centers of Energy Excellence announced today are:

• A123Systems, Inc. – This Boston-based company with an office in Ann Arbor will receive $10 million from the COEE program to establish a center focused on the manufacture of rechargeable lithium batteries for the transportation and alternative energy sectors. The project leverages the state’s automotive assets. The University of Michigan will contribute research on manufacturing system design, performance and processes; and Michigan State University will contribute research on battery materials and electrode designs.

• Working Bugs LLC – This company with operations in East Lansing, Webberville and Sweden will receive $2 million from the COEE program to establish a biorefinery that will produce high-value specialty and fine biochemicals and biofuels from natural feedstocks. Technology developed at this center can be applied to existing biomaterial processing facilities across the state such as corn ethanol plants, beet sugar refineries, and pulp mills to produce new, higher margin products. Michigan Technological University will contribute research toward the supply chain for biomass feedstock that will be delivered to the biorefinery.

• American Process Inc. – The Atlanta-based company, in partnership with San Antonio’s Valero Energy Corporation, will receive $4 million from the COEE program to establish a pilot scale biorefinery at the Decorative Panels International hardwood plant in Alpena. The biorefinery will convert the process waste effluent from the plant into cellulosic ethanol, sodium acetate and clean, warm water. The project has potential for replication across the state in other biorefineries, pulp and paper mills, and food and agricultural processing plants. Michigan Technological University will contribute research to improve fermentation processes and also on the use of sodium acetate for novel anti-icing applications.

“The Centers of Energy Excellence program is a powerful tool that will help grow alternative energy companies and make Michigan a major player in the alternative energy sector,” said Epolito, who is also chair of the MSF board. “I also want to thank the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University and all of our local economic development partners in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Webberville and Alpena for joining with these innovative companies to launch these cutting-edge projects.”

The COEE designees were subject to a formal review process that included an oral interview and a written review of their application. To be considered for COEE program funding, candidates submitted a letter detailing the project and amount of funding requested, a business plan or proposal, and a letter of support from the university involved with the project. For complete details on the application process, visit

Today’s actions follow designations of the first three Centers of Energy Excellence on September 24, when the MSF authorized alternative energy partnerships in Ann Arbor, Flint and Kinross in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Mascoma, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, received $20 million to support its Kinross cellulosic ethanol production facility in collaboration with Michigan State and Michigan Tech universities. Sakti3 was awarded $3 million to develop its proprietary next-generation lithium battery technologies and processes in collaboration with the University of Michigan. Swedish Biogas International will utilize $4 million to create a waste-to-energy/biomethane center at the city of Flint waste water treatment facility with research assistance from Kettering University.


About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

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