A Tally of Renewable Energy in Michigan, and Beach Trash in the Great Lakes

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College public radio Q-90.1 FM.

The Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, broadcast:

1 – More than $1.8 billion has been invested since Michigan’s renewable portfolio standard was signed into law in 2008.

toxic butts beaches cigarette butts trash

Photo by ToxicButts


The figures come from a third annual report (pdf) by the Michigan Public Service Commission on a public act that established a standard of 10 percent renewables by 2015.

For 2011, Michigan’s estimated renewable energy percentage was 4.4 percent, up from 3.6 percent in 2010.

For 2012, renewables are expected to have reached 4.7 percent, according to the Commission. During 2012, more renewable energy came online in Michigan that ever before, officials say.

Michigan added 815 megawatts of new wind capacity last year, and now has a total of 978 megawatts from 14 operating wind farms, located in spots including Michigan’s Thumb.

The report says that compared to building a new, conventional coal-fired facility, most renewable energy contracts have been significantly lower in price. The cost of renewable energy contracts also has come in below previous estimates.

Voters in November rejected a ballot proposal to raise Michigan’s renewable standard.

Gov. Rick Snyder has planned public meetings across the state this year to discuss Michigan’s energy future.  One is planned for Delta College’s Lecture Theater from 1-5 p.m. on March. 4.

An agenda for that Delta meeting includes presentations by Dow, Clean Water Action, and Consumers Energy, and time for public comment.

2 – The totals are in from the Adopt-a-Beach program.

In 2012, hundreds of teams and thousands of volunteers spread out on the five Great Lakes to clean up litter and conduct environmental monitoring as part of the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ program.

Those teams included one from Saginaw Valley State University. That team worked on the public beach at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County’s Bangor Township.

By the numbers, 327 coastal areas were visited in 2012.

A total of 42,351 pounds of trash was removed by 12,618 volunteers on 372 Adopt-a-Beach teams.

Litter removed from beaches in 2012 was made up mostly of food-related items, at 43 percent.

Cigarette filters came in second, at 34 percent. Cigar tips made up 6 percent. Plastic bags made up 5 percent.

This year’s Adopt-a-Beach events kick off in the spring.



Energy Forum at Delta, Dragons in Saginaw, and a Project on the Kawkawlin

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Eastern, Fridays on Delta Q-90.1 FM. The Feb. 15, 2013, broadcast:

1 – A public forum on Michigan’s energy future is planned for March 4 at Delta College.

coal chunk

Credit: Jeffrey Beall


The forum is one of seven planned for locations throughout the state, and will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, March 4 in the Delta College Lecture Theater.

The public forums are hosted in part by the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates major electric utilities in the state.

Gov. Rick Snyder has charged the chairs of the Commission and Michigan Energy Office with overseeing a public input process. The process is meant to assist policymakers as they take a look at future energy needs in the state.

Snyder says he’ll rely on the results of the process when making comprehensive recommendations in December regarding Michigan’s energy future.

The forums come after voters in November 2012 rejected a proposal to increase the amount of wind, solar and other renewable energy generation in the state from 10 percent by 2015 to 25 percent by 2025.

The Snyder administration is spending this year collecting comments and considering proposals for future state energy policy after the 2015 deadline passes.

Comments also are being taken online until April 25. There are specific questions on  renewables, efficiency, and the regulatory structure for electricity.

Bay County is home to the Karn-Weadock complex, which creates electricity by burning coal and is the largest power plant in the Consumers Energy fleet.

– – –  See Appendix A: Governor’s Energy Message (pdf)

2 – A dragon hunter has identified six new species in Saginaw County.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re talking about dragonflies, at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge Manage Steven Kahl reports that volunteer Jeff Sommer conducted a dragonfly count last summer.

He found six new species at the refuge, including

  • the Racket-tailed Emerald
  • the Cobra Clubtail
  • the Skillet Clubtail
  • the Dragonhunter
  • the Spot-winged Glider, and
  • the Spatterdock Darner.

These six new species raise the number of dragonfly and similar insects found
on the refuge to 54 species.

The diversity is due in a large part to a variety of wetlands on the refuge.

For those counting, the first day of spring is March 20.

. . .

3 – Bay County Executive Tom Hickner is now a member of the Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

Hickner was recently appointed to a two-year term as a voting member of the Committee.

The Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Committee provides recommendations to the board of the Michigan Association of Counties on current issues, legislative activity, and statutes affecting Michigan counties.

In other Bay County news, Drain Commissioner Joseph Rivet has accepted a nearly $1 million grant for water quality improvements on the Kawkawlin River.

The project will focus on best-management practices for agriculture, including erosion control projects. Also, direct livestock access to river will be managed and barriers constructed.

The project also aims to acquire 100 acres of permanent conservation easements, and identify and eliminate failed septic systems along the river. The goal is to reduce phosphorus and sediment inputs to the river.

The Kawkawlin River was flagged for high bacteria levels twice in 2012, and under a contamination advisory or closure for a total of 79 days.


Dow Solar Shingles Cost How Much, the Great Lakes Bowl, and Michigan Landfills

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, on Fridays at 9 a.m. on Delta College Q-90.1 FM.

The Feb. 8, 2013, Environment Report:

1 – Solar shingles sound great, sure.

dow powerhouse shingles cost savings energy

A screenshot from the Dow Solar site.

They can save you energy, sure.

But for how much?

The Dow Chemical Co., which manufactures Powerhouse Solar Shingles in Midland, has developed a cost and savings estimator, based on your state, home size and energy savings goal.

For example, you can look at a 2,500-square-foot home in Michigan, based on an energy savings goal of 20 percent.

Asphalt shingles will cost about $9,000. Powerhouse Solar Shingles will cost you about an extra $11,000 for the same home.

But energy savings are estimated to be more than $14,000 over 25 years. The solar shingles also are estimated to increase a home’s value by another $11,000.

The estimator will point you to contacts for more specific information on your home, and authorized dealers, including Cobblestone Homes in Linwood.

2 – The Super Bowl may be over, but the Great Lakes Bowl is Saturday (Feb. 9).

The 2013 Great Lakes Bowl in Ann Arbor will bring together 16 teams from high schools and junior high schools in Michigan and Ohio to compete for a spot in National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

This year, there are 16 teams from 14 schools participating. They include Standish-Sterling Central High School in Standish.

The Saturday event is one of 25 regional competitions being held around the U.S. this month.

Each five-student team will compete through quick-answer buzzer questions and more complex team challenge questions focused on freshwater and saltwater.

Categories include physical oceanography, biology, chemistry, geography, geology, marine policy, social sciences, and technology related to the Great Lakes and oceans.

The Great Lakes Bowl will award cash, trophies, medals and other prizes to top finishers, according to a sponsor, Michigan Sea Grant.

The top team from each regional competition will advance to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl finals competition, to be held this year in April in Milwaukee.

3 – How much trash did you throw away last year?

In Bay County, the Whitefeather Landfill in Pinconning Township took in more than 401,000 cubic yards of waste, mostly from municipal and commercial sources, and mostly from Bay and Saginaw counties.

The information comes from Michigan’s annual report on solid waste for fiscal year 2012, ending Sept. 30.

In Michigan landfills overall, there was a 3.1 percent decrease in solid waste disposed of in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Waste imported from other states and Canada went down by almost 2 percent. Still, Canada remains as the largest source of waste imports into Michigan, representing 15.3 percent of all waste disposed of in state landfills, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality.

At current rates, it’s estimated that Michigan landfills will be filled in about 28 years. Whitefeather in Bay County has about 23 years of capacity left.


Michigan Waterfowl Legacy adds Saginaw Bay, Midland wants a bioreactor, and Climate Change is already here

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, at 9 a.m. Fridays on Delta College Q-90.1 FM.

michigan midwest climate change temperatures rising

From Chapter 18 of the National Climate Assessment draft.

Text and info from the Feb. 1, 2013, broadcast:

1- The Michigan Waterfowl Legacy program now includes Saginaw Bay.

Michigan Waterfowl Legacy is a recently launched statewide initiative that seeks to bring hunters and non-hunters together to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunting community.

The Legacy is a 10-year, cooperative partnership between various government agencies and non-government conservation organizations — including the Bay City-based Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

The Saginaw Bay watershed is the largest in Michigan, draining about 15 percent of the state’s waterways.

Goals of the Legacy program here include increasing the number of citizens in the region who are using and enjoying wetlands, and building on successful partnerships that have resulted in increased wetland and waterfowl habitat.

Plans include the promotion of Saginaw Bay tourism opportunities related to waterfowl and wetlands, and the development of Saginaw Bay-specific Michigan Waterfowl Legacy events, such as waterfowl hunting, birding, and trapping workshops.

Many of the new Saginaw Bay events will occur on waterfowl areas managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and tie into a new DNR campaign called “Explore Michigan’s Wetland Wonders.”

The project has been funded by a $27,500 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, supported by area foundations.

2 – A bioreactor project is planned for a Midland landfill.

The city of Midland is requesting a construction permit from the state for a research, development, and demonstration project at an existing solid waste landfill.

According to a permit application, on file with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Bay City, the project is designed to study the effect of adding sludge from the wastewater treatment process to solid waste at the landfill.

Adding sludge to the landfill is expected to optimize conditions for the biological decomposition of solid waste.

The landfill is 340 acres, and located on East Ashman Street in Midland.

The project also could increase the life of the landfill, and the amount of electricity generated from existing landfill gas extraction equipment.

A decision from the DEQ is expected by late April.

3 – Climate change is already impacting wildlife in Michigan.

Case studies from across the country show that global warming is altering wildlife habitats, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, covering eight regions of the U.S.

Highlights from the Great Lakes and Midwest include: More heavy rainfall events are increasing runoff of nutrients from agricultural lands, contributing to harmful algal blooms and causing oxygen-depleted dead zones in the lakes.

The report recommends action to reduce the amount of toxic pollution from coal-fired energy, and support for more wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects.

Meanwhile, a recently released draft National Climate Assessment from the federal government concludes that climate change will lead to more frequent and intense Midwest heat waves, while degrading air and water quality and threatening public health.

Intense rainstorms and floods also will become more common, and existing risks to the Great Lakes will be exacerbated.

The National Climate Assessment’s Midwest chapter (pdf) was authored by three University of Michigan researchers.


%d bloggers like this: