Energy Efficiency Saves $3.83 for Every Dollar Spent

1 – Energy efficiency is cost-effective in Michigan. 

michigan capitol dome

Credit: Betsy Weber.

The fourth and final report from Gov. Rick Snyder’s year-long look at Michigan’s energy landscape has been issued.

This report covers energy efficiency. It notes that Michigan utilities have met or exceeded targets under Energy Optimization programs. It also found that those programs have saved money for ratepayers, at a third of the cost of new generation.

For each dollar spent on utility programs during 2012, it is estimated that customers benefited from about $3.83 in avoided energy costs.

The governor is expected to make recommendations on Michigan’s energy future before the end of the year.

2 – An Electric Reliability Project is gaining members.

After widespread power outages across the state earlier this month, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council says more residential utility customers have been joining. The effort is meant to reduce the number and duration of outages in Michigan.

The Council is a renewable energy trade group. It participates in proceedings with the Michigan Public Service Commission to support an “increased focus on Michigan’s aging distribution infrastructure and ways that advanced energy technology and business models can boost the resiliency of the grid.”

You can join the project by searching for “Electric Reliability Project” on Facebook.

3 – Cases of Type E botulism, a disease caused when birds eat fish infected with bacteria, are on the rise.

The disease killed about 10,000 more waterfowl in 2007 than when it was first reported in 1963. Loons have been affected on the Great Lakes.

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the U.S. Geological Survey are working on tracking software to better determine the source of lethal outbreaks that infect fish eaten by waterbirds.

The idea is to reconstruct the likely routes that bird bodies may have traveled after they die.

The information can be used to figure out where waterbirds are likely exposed to the toxin.

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Two Firsts: A Bay City Nature Preserve, and the High-Voltage Thumb Loop

1 – The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is establishing its first urban nature preserve in Bay City. 

saginaw basin land conservancy nature preserves


The preserve will be at the Bay County-owned Euclid Linear Park on Euclid Avenue, which is located in a commercial and residential area of the city.

The conservancy recently signed a lease with the county on the park, which totals about 12 acres. County officials say improvements to the park will begin in the spring as part of that agreement.

The upgrades will be aimed at focusing the park’s program on nature experiences and habitat conservation. Native grasses, wildflowers, and shrubs will be planted and an existing boardwalk will be upgraded.

The park and a lagoon on site are home to wood ducks, great egrets, herons, turtles, northern leopard frogs and other waterfowl and wetland wildlife. The conservancy owns and oversees a number of other nature preserves throughout the watershed.

2 – The first phase of a 140-mile Thump Loop high-voltage transmission line is in service. 

Phase 1 consists of 62 miles of lines from a new substation in Tuscola County to a new substation in Huron County.

The project was completed by ITCTransmission, an electricity transmission company based in Novi.

The company says the project will strengthen the transmission grid in the Thumb and serve as a backbone for the interconnection of new generation sources, such as wind turbines.

Construction of the lines had an estimated $366 million impact to the Michigan economy.

ITC says work is proceeding on schedule for the remaining segments of the Thumb Loop, in St. Clair County and Sanilac County.

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The full project is to be complete and in service in 2015. The upgrades are designed to meet the “identified maximum wind energy potential of the Thumb region” and will be capable of supporting a maximum capacity of about 5,000 megawatts, according to ITC.

– See previous story at Midwest Energy News

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

Two New Bat Species, a NOAA Art Contest, and the Saginaw Basin Field Guide (Part 2)

1- There’s more news from Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County.

michigan hoary bat

A hoary bat captured at Shiawassee refuge. Credit: Amber Nolder.

Last week, we reported on a red-tailed hawk that’s been coming to the refuge for 27 years, which may make it the oldest-living red-tailed hawk ever documented. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is looking into that story. (Washington State may have an older bird, but not a wild one).

Now comes information on two new species of bats found at the refuge. Steven Kahl, refuge manager, says a bat survey has turned up a number of hoary bats and red bats at the park.

The survey was done to explore what types of bats are using the refuge, and in what numbers. A total of 229 bats of three species were captured, including four red bats and three hoary bats. The survey was conducted in collaboration with Eastern Michigan University.

Despite the new bats that were found to be using the refuge, there is bad news. Only two “little brown bats” were discovered. These types of bats used to be the most abundant kind on the refuge. But a bat-killing fungus called White Nose Syndrome has decimated the little brown bat species across most of its range.

2 – Attention teachers: the annual  “Keep the Sea Free of Debris” Art Contest is now open.

The contest, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is open to kids from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 19.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is looking for art that shows how marine debris affects the environment of the oceans, and the freshwater seas of Great Lakes, and what people can do to help solve this problem.

Winners of the art contest will be featured in a 2015 marine debris calendar to help raise awareness about the issue.

saginaw basin field guide cover

The second edition of the Saginaw Basin Field Guide, from the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

A sixth- and eighth-grader from Michigan were among the winners last year.

More: Beat the Micro Bead

3- What kind of a bird is that?

If you want to know more about plants, birds and other animals that live in the Saginaw Bay watershed, and how to spot them, pick up a copy of a new regional field guide.

The guide comes from the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, located in Bay City.

You can pick up a free copy at the conservancy’s headquarters on East Midland Street, request a copy by mail, or download an electronic version from the conservancy website.

This is the second edition of the Saginaw Basin Field Guide. It includes trail maps, new art and photography, along information on nature preserves and all the different types of species you may encounter in the outdoors.


– The Environment Report, with Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM.

This May Be the Oldest Living Red-Tailed Hawk

1 – Tweet this: The same red-tailed hawk has been coming back to Saginaw County’s Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge for 27 years.

red tailed hawk oldest maybe shiawassee saginaw michigan

Photo of the refuge’s returning red-tailed hawk. Credit: David Stimac.

Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk found at the Refuge.

Managers say they can tell the same hawk has been returning for 27 consecutive years because it’s a rare, dark phase, western red-tailed Hawk. Most redtails in the area are light phase, eastern birds.

This same redtail comes back to the same area every year. The bird spents most of its time near fields on either side of Bishop Road, and fields next to the short loop of the Ferguson Bayou Trail.

According to the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, the oldest known red-tailed hawk was 28 years, 10 months old. So, they might want to keep an eye on this one.

2- Energy conservation is paying off for Saginaw Valley State University.

The school recently received a rebate check totaling almost $72,000 from Consumer’s Energy.

The money is a payback for installing a new, more energy-efficient chiller unit in Curtiss Hall.

SVSU’s president says the university has the lowest energy cost of any campus in Michigan, based on square footage.

Officials say saving on energy has helped the school to keep tuition rates relatively low for students.

The rebate to SVSU was made available under the state energy act of 2008.

SVSU has been working on sustainability measures since at least 1995. Those improvements have included a campus-wide energy loop to connect chillers at all of the main buildings on campus.

3 – Speaking of energy, winter is coming and with it, heating bills.

Earth Gauge, a partnership between the National Environmental Education Foundation and American Meteorological Society, has compiled energy statistics for the Great Lakes region in advance of the chilly season, which officially begins Dec. 21.

Some of the stats: Households in Michigan and nearby states spent an average of just over $2,000 on energy in 2009.

Fifty-two percent of that went toward space heating. Most of the rest went to power appliances, electronics and lighting.

Some tips to save money this winter?

Allow sunlight to heat your home naturally by opening curtains and blinds on south- and west-facing windows during the day. And then close those window coverings at night to keep heat inside.

Turn your thermostat while you are sleeping or away, to save money on energy costs.

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


Beat the Micro Bead, Register for the Great Lakes Bowl, and Comment on the Clean Water Act

The Environment Report, with Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM. For Nov. 1, 2013:

1- Wash your face, but don’t pollute the lakes. 

great lakes microbeads 5 gyres study


One of the latest threats to the Great Lakes are microplastics, or those tiny beads found in household beauty products.

They may help clean your complexion, but they are apparently ending up in the lakes, bypassing steps taken to treat wastewater, because they slip through the screens. Not only are they unsightly, but they can accumulate toxic substances and be mistaken as food by fish.

So what’s a skin-caring person to do?

Enter “Beat the Micro Bead.” It’s a free app for your smartphone. It lets you scan barcodes. It tells you if the product you want to use contains microbeads, and whether the maker of the product has vowed by phase out the plastics.

The app was released this week in conjunction with a Great Lakes plastics study from the 5 Gyres group.

The study found high concentrations of microplastics in the Great Lakes, more than most ocean samples collected worldwide.

2 – Dec. 1 is the registration deadline for the Great Lakes Bowl.

This isn’t a football game. It’s a science question-and-answer competition, for high school students.

Standish-Sterling Central High School was on the list of teams in 2013. The Bowl is a regional competition that’s part of the Nation Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB).

In 2014, the Great Lakes Bowl will be held on Feb. 1 at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment in Ann Arbor. The national competition is in Seattle in May.

The Great Lakes Bowl is limited to 16 high school teams. The deadline to register, again, is Dec. 1.

3 – The Clean Water Act needs comments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft science advisory report on protecting streams and wetlands.

The National Wildlife Federation has put together a tool to allow people submit comments directly to the Federal Register on the Clean Water Act rules.

The public comment period ends Nov. 6.

The campaign is aimed at strengthening protections for streams and wetlands that surround the Great Lakes.

Streams and wetlands are important because they help support healthy ecosystems and filter out pollutants.


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