Three Michigan electric co-op members are among those recognized by Gov. Rick Snyder for their commitment to responsible energy production, usage and solutions at the first annual Governor’s Energy Excellence Awards in Lansing.

Nominations were made in eight categories celebrating differing ways energy efficiency can be achieved in the state, and the honored co-op members received help with their improvements from their co-op’s Energy Optimization (EO) program.

Jim MacInnes (Thompsonville), an engineer and CEO of Crystal Mountain Resort, won the Innovator of the Year Award. The Cherryland Electric Co-op member has practiced sustainable, efficient energy use for years, demonstrated in projects such as upgrading 250 lodging units to CFL bulbs and conference spaces with LEDs—which are expected to save $500,000 over the bulbs’ lifetime. Crystal was also the first Michigan resort to buy wind energy credits to cover power used by its chairlifts, which helps reduce grid need for fossil fuel-produced energy. It also has the Midwest’s first LEED-certified spa, with high R-value foam insulation and efficient windows and doors. Other upgrades include more efficient snowmaking technology and demand-response programming to reduce peak electricity loads from the snowmaking process. Crystal has accessed rebates from Cherryland’s Energy Efficiency Rebate Program for several years, and is currently accessing rebates for LED lighting on its new ski slopes and upgrading some parking lot lights to LEDs.

Jeff LaBar, owner of the LaBar Poultry Farm (Manistique), won the Best Project Award in Agriculture. The Cloverland Electric Co-op member launched an aggressive, multi-phase approach to reducing energy waste at his free-range chicken farm. LaBar started by upgrading to LED bulbs; then replacing outdated appliances with ENERGY STAR® models; installing geothermal heating/cooling; and a solar photovoltaic array that earned an above-usage credit of 4,000 kWh as of July 2015. Overall, his efforts have earned over $3,000 in EO incentives and rebates. An annual savings of over 50,000 kWh is expected for the farm.

“LaBar Poultry is a perfect example of how the Energy Optimization Program can help small businesses save energy,” notes Art Thayer, energy efficiency programs director for the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association. “The program exists to help make energy-efficient technologies available and affordable. Just a small upfront investment can result in big savings for many years down the road.”

Great Lakes Energy member David Coveyou, of David Coveyou Farms LLC (Petoskey), received an Honorable Mention in the Best Project/Agriculture category for upgrading to a geothermal cooling table and geothermal floor for seed germination. His projects brought a savings of 184,838 kilowatt-hours.

Another co-op business, Marquette Food Co-op, won a Best Project award in the Commercial (Private) category.

“These nominees have demonstrated that it’s possible to do as much or more by finding new and innovative ways to get things done,” Snyder said. “This is important because reliable and affordable energy fuels Michigan’s economy, and continuing to reduce our energy waste is one of the main ways we are going to keep energy prices affordable.”

Details about future nominations for these awards can be found at The awards are sponsored in part by the new Michigan Agency for Energy.