Melissa Davis is the managing director of New Power Tour, Inc., a 501c3, started in 2006 whose mission is to increase the use of renewable, water, and energy-efficient technologies. The nonprofit has worked its mission through providing energy-efficient HVAC, appliances and volunteer winterizations (106 and counting!) to the homes of income-qualified residents in our area. It is estimated that approximately 45% of the area's housing stock is pre-1940s, so there is a lot of business. Additionally, the company has worked to improve the area's energy literacy by coordinating a Business & Technology Energy Conference (2018) and also the City of Houghton Energy Series (2019). New Power Tour Inc. was featured Bioeconomy experts from Central Finland to share their resources, experience and success stories. More recently they partnered with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region to provide community energy management plans to three Western U.P. municipalities.
With this fellowship, there is the opportunity to assist Copper Country residents in two ways. The first is to work with Keweenaw County residents to learn about, research and vet potential municipally-owned renewable generation sites and also consider which types of generation yield different potential revenue streams. This process involves reaching out to interested residents and asking them to commit to a four month process of volunteering 1-2 hours a month. It starts with a hour tutorial to get people up to speed on energy concepts and vocabulary, then finding out which area of the project they are most interested in, then dividing into smaller research groups for two months. They are then asked to share the results of their research with the larger group (at the end of the 4 months) and this group will look at all of the information and vote for their most preferred top three projects.
The second part of this fellowship-project is to work with Michigan Technological University's MakerSpace students and Houghton High School National Honor Society students to prototype and develop products that can be made cost-competitively in our area, and test-market them locally to evaluate if enough revenue could be generated to start small businesses to produce them. Through our test-marketing, the hope to also develop a customer base. Ideally, through this process, several products and also responsible entrepreneurs who would like to start a small business, whose startup costs could be crowd-financed.