Practical Research on Renewable Energy Homes

The project could help ease energy costs.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Copper Harbor, Mich.

COPPER HARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is in Sweden conducting research that could lead to lower energy prices back home.

Nelson Sommerfeldt is looking into ways to get lower-cost renewable energy to residents in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, The Daily Mining Gazette reported. The Copper Country native has now taken a visiting research position at Michigan Technological University.

Sommerfeldt, a post-doctoral researcher at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, said the project's final results are expected by autumn. He added that it aims to help people who don't have the means to comprehensively analyze cost-effective ways to expand renewable energy.

“We try to do practical research that can give people the information they need to make decisions ..." he said. “Because the energy is so expensive in the Keweenaw, and there are so many resources, it’s the perfect place to kick off this transition."

Sommerfeldt is collaborating with Michigan Tech professor Joshua Pearce on the project. Two masters students at the school will help them do large system modeling for the Keweenaw, where they will assess ways to halt rising utility costs.

The project's primary focus will be solar and biomass, but Sommerfeldt said natural gas, heat pumps, batteries and pumped hydrostorage will also be included.

Additionally, the team will look at policy changes that may be needed before recommendations can be implemented. Michigan's U.P. Energy Task Force, which is assessing the region’s energy needs and different ways to serve them, is slated to release its final report next year. This week, the task force posted a draft of its section on how the U.P.'s propane supply could be impacted.

“Part of our motivation is to be a bit more resilient and not rely on gas and supplies from outside the area, and take advantage of the resources that are already here,” Sommerfeldt said.

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