Lansing, Mich. (June 28, 2017) – Four Michigan businesses that completed large-scale energy efficiency improvements with the help of the Energy Optimization program are finalists for the coveted 2017 Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards.

The four finalists include: Ewen-Trout Creek School District (Ewen), Friske Orchards (Charlevoix), Don Earl Heating & A/C (Sault Ste. Marie), and Sklarczyk Seed Farm (Johannesburg).

Now in its third year, the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards honors Michigan organizations and individuals for outstanding achievement in reducing energy waste. Nominations were spread across eight different categories to showcase exceptional commitment to responsible energy production and consumption across a variety of project types.

Ewen-Trout Creek School District

Constructed 20 years ago, the outdated K-12 Ewen-Trout Creek School building boasted unreliable heating and cooling equipment, a leaky and poorly-insulated roof, and an array of other failing systems—all of which began to negatively impact the student learning experience. In 2016, the District worked with the Energy Optimization program to install new, energy-efficient boilers, water heaters, and fan coil units; an entirely new roof; and energy-saving indoor and outdoor LED fixtures. The upgrades are projected to save the district more than $27,000 per year in utility costs. The Ewen-Trout Creek School District, served by Ontonagon County REA, was named a finalist in the “Best Project—Public” category.

Friske Orchards

Friske Orchards, a family farm founded in 1962 in Charlevoix, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables—but is particularly known for the fresh apple cider they produce throughout the winter months. Friske Orchards invested in the construction of a highly-efficient and low-maintenance labor housing building in 2016, which features a sizeable solar photovoltaic system which generates renewable energy for the housing unit. A combination of mini-split air-source heat pumps, LED fixtures, ENERGY STAR®   appliances, and more in the new labor housing unit is expected to save the Friskes nearly $4,000 per year in electricity costs. Friske Orchards, served by Great Lake Energy Cooperative, was named a finalist in the “Best Project—Agriculture” category.

Don Earl Heating & A/C

Don Earl Heating & A/C of Sault St. Marie, which operates in the Cloverland Electric Cooperative service territory, earned a finalist nomination in the “Contractor of the Year” category. Don Earl Heating & A/C contributes valuable savings to Cloverland members in the eastern Upper Peninsula  by installing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. The business is committed to increasing awareness of the benefits of energy efficiency, and was the Energy Optimization program’s second-largest submitter of electric energy savings in 2016. Additionally, Don Earl Heating & A/C helped its customers save a combined $14,737 on their utility bills last year.

Sklarczyk Seed Farm

Sklarczyk Seed Farm, a family farm in Johannesburg, is a national leader in the seed potato industry. Manager Don Sklarczyk has invested heavily in making farm operations as energy efficient as possible. In 2016, Mr. Sklarczyk installed 90 LED grow lights, resulting in annual electricity savings of $21,000. The installation of the LEDs allowed the farm to meet growing demand without the need for costly new facilities. In 2016, Sklarczyk Seed Farm harvested over six million high-quality, disease-free seed potatoes. Sklarczyk Seed Farm, served by Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, was named a finalist in the “Best Project – Agriculture” category.

“We are incredibly proud of the energy-saving projects completed by these four participating businesses and institutions,” said Art Thayer, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs for the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA). “The Energy Optimization program exists to improve Michigan homes, farms, and businesses by providing cash incentives toward the purchase of energy-efficient products and equipment. We’re happy to see these businesses reap the rewards of these smart investments now and into the future.”

For more information about the Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards, visit