Meanest and Greenest Cars, and Solarizing the Saginaw Bay Region

For Friday, Jan. 29, 2016

1- The greenest and the meanest cars have been named for 2016.

A nonprofit called the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released the list of environmental ratings for vehicles. For the first time, all of the vehicles on the greenest list are plug-in and hybrid vehicles.

At the top is the Mercedes-Benz Smart for Two Electric Drive.

The Chevrolet Spark came in at No. 2.

The Ford Focus Electric came in at No. 10, with the Chevrolet Volt at No. 11.

The meanest list of popular vehicles least-friendly to the environment includes … the Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG in the top spot, the Chevrolet/GMC G2500 Express/Savana at No. 2 and the Ford Transit at No. 7.

chevy-spark-ev-mho

The Chevy Spark EV. Credit: Melissa Hincha-Ownby

 

2 – The first Solarize campaign in Michigan is targeting the Saginaw Bay region.

The Institute for Energy Innovation is launching the Solarize Michigan initiative with a goal of significantly increasing small solar energy deployment in Saginaw, Bay City, Midland, and surrounding communities.

Those involved include local economic development organizations – Saginaw Future, Bay Future and Midland Tomorrow. The initiative is based on a Solarize model first developed in Portland, Oregon.

solarize-michigan-sun

Credit: Wayne Silver

The initiative aims to increase interest in residential and commercial solar energy systems and reduce the cost to homeowners and businesses.

The program is intended to reduce the average cost of residential and small commercial solar installations through bulk purchasing.

As part of a campaign, a request has been issued for proposals from solar installation companies.

Selected installers will be named on Feb. 18.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

Staying Warm: Largest Energy Efficiency Standards in History

For Friday, Jan. 22, 2016

1 – State policies to spur renewable energy have billions in benefits.

A new study estimates $2.2 billion in national benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to state renewable portfolio standards, like one in Michigan that ended in 2015.

retro-analysis-nrel

Find the report here

Another $5.2 billion in benefits came from national reductions in other air pollution.

The U.S. Department of Energy report looked at policies in effect during 2013.

Michigan’s 10 percent by 2015 standard for renewable energy was signed into law in 2008, and resulted in the construction of numerous wind farms, primarily in the Thumb region.

The report also shows national water withdrawals were reduced by 830 billion gallons and consumption was cut by 27 billion gallons.

Although the study takes a national view, the authors say many of the associated benefits and impacts were highly regional.

For example, the economic benefits from air pollution reductions were associated mostly with reduced sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and were concentrated primarily in areas including the Great Lakes.

– Fact Sheet

2 – Up to $5 million is available for local governments, nonprofits and other organizations to restore and enhance habitat in the Great Lakes basin.

Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership, is taking pre-proposals until Feb. 17 for the funding.

Full proposals are due by April 21.

The program will award grants for on-the-ground habitat improvements.

The focus in this round is on improving the quality and connectivity of streams, riparian zones and coastal wetlands.

Preference will be given to projects designed to improve populations of species of conservation concern, including … native migratory fish such as brook trout and lake sturgeon, and marsh-spawning fish such as northern pike.

northern-pike-sikkema

Northern pike. Credit: Kelly Sikkema

Preference will also be given to projects that reduce sediment and nutrient loading to streams and other waters.

Up to $5 million is expected to be available for grant awards in 2016, with funding from partners including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3 – It’s important to keep buildings warm in the winter.

And the cost and environmental impact of winter warmth will decline in coming years.

A U.S. agency has launched the largest energy efficiency standards in history.

They apply to commercial air conditioners and furnaces, used in buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small offices.

It’s estimated that the changes will save more energy than any other standard ever issued by the U.S. Department of Energy.

winter-warmth-kart

Staying warm. Credit: Jeff Kart

Over the lifetime of the products, businesses will save $167 billion on utility bills and carbon pollution will be cut by 885 million metric tons, the energy department says.

The new air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases.

The first will begin in 2018, with a 13 percent efficiency improvement in products.

Five years later, an additional 15% increase in efficiency is required.

The standards were developed in a rulemaking process with industry, utilities, and environmental groups.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Au Gres Restoration and Michigan Adventures

For Friday, Jan. 15, 2016

1 – The Au Gres River watershed will be a focus of restoration efforts in 2016.

Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, was recently awarded funding from the Bay Area Community Foundation to help residents in the watershed improve land and water stewardship practices.

The project is part of a larger Northern Saginaw Bay Restoration Initiative to protect clean water, enhance wildlife habitat and strengthen communities throughout Arenac, Iosco and Ogemaw counties.

Huron Pines will use the latest funding to organize public meetings, engage students in outdoor education opportunities and provide technical and financial assistance to residents who want to better manage their property to promote clean water and healthy wildlife.

Over the next couple of years, Huron Pines and partners also plan to complete restoration work in the Au Gres River watershed.

Money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-Sustain Our Great Lakes Program will go to improve five road-stream crossings, stabilize eroding streambanks, and work with farmers to improve stewardship practices on agricultural lands.

2 – If you have a bucket list, here are some things to add.

An online community called The Outbound Collective has compiled a list of the Top 30 adventures of 2015.

Nothing in Michigan made the list, but there are still plenty of things to see in our state, and add to your before-death to-dos.

A search for adventures near Bay City, Michigan, includes kayaking to Turnip Rock in Port Austin, backpacking the Manistee River Trail, and camping in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness south of Manistee.

You can find more ideas at theoutbound.com.

the-outbound-collective-near-bay-city-michigan

Camp in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness – via The Outbound Collective

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

Happy ‘Shoe Year’

Winter Fitness, Recycling and Visualizing Your Watershed

For Friday, Jan. 8, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/z9grg4m9u8bvynw/1-8-2016-mr-great-lakes.mp3]

1 – Happy Shoe Year.

It’s 2016, and time to explore new trails, see new vistas, and get to know Michigan while you get fit.

The pitch comes from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which is encouraging residents to get outside and exercise during the month of January.

The DNR is offering Shoe Year hikes at state parks, including the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County.

A Shoe Year’s Trek is being held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9, at the recreation area in Bangor Township.

There will be healthy refreshments, tips on winter fitness, a warm-up activity and a guided nature trail hike. Limited snowshoes also are available.

showshoes-noeh

Credit: Karen Neoh

For more information, call the Visitor Center at 667-0717.

The DNR also is promoting a virtual 5k event with Epic Races. People can register to participate, with a portion of the proceeds going to support fitness programs and reforestation efforts in state parks.

2 – Tired of recycling bins? Imagine recycling carts: one big cart instead of a bunch of smaller bins.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is offering up to $450,000 in grants to local governments interested in purchasing recycling carts for residents.

recycling-carts-2016-deq

Recycling carts – via infographic from The Recycling Partnership.

The money is part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s initiative to double the state’s residential recycling rate, with is one of the lowest in the nation.

The state says thats switching to recycling carts, as opposed to smaller bins, generally increases community recycling rates. According to a national nonprofit called The Recycling Partnership, communities that use carts can recover 400-450 pounds of recyclable material per household every year.

The deadline for applications is March 31. More information is here.

3- High school students have returned to classes following a holiday break.

Some are working on a new mapping challenge to visualize their local water quality.

The challenge is sponsored in part by Esri, which makes software for mapping and analyzing data. It’s open to high school students in the Great Lakes basin and Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The aim of the contest is for students to create visualizations about nutrient pollution using software along with water quality data from other sponsors including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Students in the contest will create a map that tells a story about the problem and suggests possible solutions.

The competition starts this month, with submissions due in March. Winners will be announced in April.

The grand prize includes an opportunity to attend the Esri Education Conference and publication of the winning map in an Esri Mapping the Nation book.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

 

Counting Birds and Bacteria

For Friday, Dec. 18, 2015

1 – The Christmas Bird Count is underway.

The Audubon event happens every year, when thousands of volunteers identify and count birds throughout the United States and Canada.

The Count, now in its 116th year, helps helps researchers, conservation biologists and others study North American bird populations.

Last year, more than 2,400 counts were completed, with more than 68 million birds reported.

christmas bird count winter snow audubon

Credit: USFWS

Anyone can participate in the Christmas Bird Count, which takes place from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The event takes place in “count circles” that focus on specific geographic areas. Every circle has a leader, so even beginners can help contribute data.

There are count circles in Bay City, Midland and throughout the state. Last year’s count in Bay City – sponsored by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and Saginaw Valley Audubon Society –  recorded 52 species.

For more information, see birds.audubon.org.

– via NEEF

2 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is taking steps to address E. coli bacteria contamination throughout the state.

The state is developing a Total Maximum Daily Load document for surface waters in impaired waters throughout the state.

The DEQ estimates that about half of river miles in Michigan are impaired by E. coli.

About 22 percent of beaches had closures due to E. coli contamination in 2014, including some in Bay County.

E. coli is used as an indicator for fecal contamination and a water quality standard is designed to protect human health during swimming and other recreation.

When the standard is exceeded, the Federal Clean Water Act requires that Michigan develop a Total Maximum Daily Load to provide a framework for restoration of water quality.

The DEQ says that due to the extent of this problem and the multitude of potential sources, a statewide approach will be most effective. A webinar on the process in planned for Jan. 19.

– Fact Sheet

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2016.

michigan winter river platte honor

Credit: Jim Sorbie

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Tripling Renewables, Raising Rates, Rebuilding Reef

For Friday, Dec. 11, 2015

1 – Michigan electric cooperatives are going above and beyond a state renewable energy standard.

According to Electric Co-op Today, electric cooperatives in Michigan plan to triple the state’s 10 percent requirement.

One deal is between Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative and Exelon Generation.

Exelon plans to break ground in the spring on a wind project in Sanilac County. When it begins delivering electricity in 2016, Wolverine expects to have more than 350 megawatts of wind in its portfolio, putting Michigan cooperatives at a 30 percent renewable level.

Michigan’s renewable energy standard was signed into law in 2008. It requires electric providers to draw at least 10 percent of their power from renewable resources by 2015.

– via GLREA

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2 – Consumers Energy is raising its electric rates, in part to focus on environmental protection.

Beginning Dec. 1, Consumers is increasing its electric rates by $130 million annually.

The utility plans to purchase an existing natural gas plant in Jackson and retire seven coal-fired units across the state.

Residential customers using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month will see an increase of $1.88 on their monthly bill after the natural gas plant is acquired, according to state regulators.

In April 2016, the rate increase will be reduced by about 60 cents a month for residential customers when Consumers retires the seven coal plants.

The seven include two units at the J.C. Weadock plant in Bay County.

3 – Scientists from Central Michigan University are helping rebuild a reef for native fish.

They’re working with others from The Nature Conservancy and Michigan Department of Natural Resources to lower about 450 tons of limestone into Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay.

The reef is intended to help populations of lake herring, lake whitefish and lake trout.

(VIDEO)

An old reef was degraded by a dock built more than 130 years ago for the iron ore industry.

The project aims to mimic healthy reefs to encourage fish to spawn there, according to a CMU professor.

Rocks were selected from a local quarry to match the size, shape, and composition of cobble in two nearby healthy reefs.

Besides rebuilding the reef, the team also is working to control invasive species such as round goby and rusty crayfish, which prey on eggs spawned by native fish.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Bears, Bay Alerts and Wind

For Friday, Nov. 20, 2015

1 – There’s a bear hunt going on in northern Michigan.

This is a hunt for black bear dens. Hunters and trappers are being asked to report bear dens that they come across this season. The state Department of Natural Resources is looking for the locations of bear dens for an ongoing research program.

After locating a denned bear, DNR biologists will determine if the animal is a good candidate for the project. Bears that are selected will be sedated and fitted with a radio-tracking collar and ear tags.

The bear will then be returned to its den, where it will sleep through the winter.

Information gathered from bears will assist in managing the population, according to a DNR biologist in Roscommon.

Currently, three female bears are being monitored from the air and ground using radio tracking equipment.

2 – Bay Alerts are back in Bay County.

The county’s 911 department recently relaunched a new and improved Bay Alerts Emergency Management Notification system. The system includes new features that allow residents to manage the type, frequency, and method of emergency alerts that they receive.

Residents who sign-up for Bay Alerts receive text or email notices advising them of emergency information on severe thunderstorms, tornado, and winter storm warnings.

Bay Alerts also can notify residents via land-line telephones.

Residents can choose to receive additional alerts on traffic, road closures, preparedness tips and more.

To sign up or for more information, see the Bay County website or call 895-4112.

3 – Wind farms can bring a windfall to Michigan.

The American Wind Energy Association and Wind Energy Foundation recently looked at calculations made by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The analysis says further expansion of wind energy in Michigan could supply the electricity for more than 710,000 homes by 2030, and add more than $17 million in annual property tax revenue. More wind energy also could bring in $7.6 million in annual lease payments to Michigan landowners.

Wind farms provide about 3.7 percent of the electricity generated in Michigan; the report envisions 6.8% by 2030.

Wind energy has attracted almost $3 billion in investment to Michigan, and rural landowners receive a total of about $4.6 million a year in land lease payments for hosting wind turbines.

Currently, about 4,000 jobs are supported by wind power in Michigan, including at 33 factories that produce parts and supplies. The state has about 900 wind turbines installed, powering the equivalent of about 355,000 homes.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

 

 

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