Green ingenuity is sunshine, windfall for area’s economy

As the fall colors of red, yellow, orange, brown of all shades are setting in, a bit of green news popped out of Baraga last week when the Mining Gazette’s Vanessa Dietz reported on the new innovation of Van Straten Bros. company – a portable renewable energy power plant already in commercial use by Caterpillar, Inc.

Designed to fit into a 20-foot shipping container, the hybrid power station deploys a micro-grid of solar panels and wind turbines with side-opening doors housing all the components that charges a battery array. The station also includes a standby generator set for power when wind or solar energy is unavailable.

The station’s power production capacity, combined with its portability, is what makes it ingenious. Caterpillar reports that by using the station at its proving ground facility, the company has cut its diesel generator use by 33 percent. Even for a gigantic corporation like Caterpillar, that’s impressive.

Since it can be transported with a semi truck, in effect carrying a power plant wherever you go, the applications are limitless. Caterpillar is not the only interested party. Word has it that the U.S. Navy is also interested in giving it a go. There is a lot of wind and sunshine on the high seas, and less fuel is needed to power ships.

In addition to its portability, the station provides immediate power anywhere, linking capability to increased output and auto-deployment.

This is a can’t-miss concept that will produce nothing but benefit for the Van Straten Bros. company and the local economy. Given its long-term benefits, the village of Baraga was completely correct to grant the company a two-year tax abatement to fire up the manufacturing and marketing of the station.

A $75,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to start manufacturing should be a no-brainer for the MEDC, especially since the company plans to hire 15 employees for the Caterpillar project. Local job creation is good – something we can all agree on during this dark, divisive season.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial


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