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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

Working at NextEnergy and trying to serve Detroit has filled my days with talk of the latest energy technologies, businesses and initiatives in Detroit and all over Michigan. One project Chris and I are working on together is creating a one pager summarizing NextEnergy’s lighting upgrades. In several steps starting in 2006, NextEnergy upgraded its lab and parking lot lights to LED lights from Michigan businesses. Since these upgrades, NextEnergy has collected a variety of data on light efficiencies but hadn’t taken any steps to synthesize it. The lack of follow up on these lighting projects gave Chris and me the opportunity to use the data to calculate energy savings, pay off time period, and reduced carbon footprint from these upgrades. We are creating graphs to show how NextEnergy’s costs and energy output has been reduced thanks to the LEDs as well as summarizing the story of upgrades for the one pager. Yesterday, we realized the data we had been working on of the numbers of lights that were a part of each upgrade did not add up correctly, so we got to do some “field work” and go down to the labs and count all the lights and their wattage ourselves (along with Eric who pretty much knows everything about NextEnergy’s campus). The product of this work, along with other one pagers we will do next, will accumulate to tangible examples of all of the demonstrations NextEnergy does on their campus and give the marketing team the correct calculations and numbers of the projects’ impacts. NextEnergy will then be able to better articulate the work they do to the public at meetings and through their website.

In addition to the one pagers, a really impactful project to Detroit that Chris and I have started to be involved with is an initiative to connect Midtown’s transportation systems. Tim, Director of Transportation Initiatives, or as Chris always refers to him “Tim is the man,” is a super smart and cool guy that has invited us to sit in on meetings and help him with his project of connecting Midtown’s transportation networks. In Midtown, there is Wayne State University and two hospital transportation systems that all run separately. Tim has been meeting with all of these stakeholders to identify their biggest transportation problems and to tell us about what their dream system would be. The goal is to create an integrated transportation process so that Detroit can be a model for other cities. A common theme of NextEnergy that I’ve gotten to do research on is the Smart City, an effort to connect different sectors of a city through data and technology in order to operate with maximum efficiency. A fundamental component of the Smart City comes from transportation. Developing an environmentally friendly and smart transportation system will help place Detroit at the forefront of the SmartCity trend.

NextEnergy does a lot of work with venture development and helping start up companies get started. I hope to soon learn more about and become involved with this process as well. As a final focus of my summer here, I’m doing one more project evaluating how NextEnergy shares its story. As a nonprofit, it is vital to have a compelling story, so I will be researching how we share our past success stories and contribute specific examples of companies that have received our many different services that we offer. This work will help NextEnergy market itself to companies that would seek our services as well as allow me to explore the ways in which NextEnergy has already impacted the community.

As interesting and exciting as all this work is, I’ve also been exploring the fun offered at NextEnergy. In addition to Chris and I, there are 3 other college age interns. We all work in the same corner of the office (right next to the giant container of Twizzlers), and today we ventured out to sample some local Midtown lunch at the Fisher Building!