More Michigan Renewables, Updated Fish Finder, Saginaw Pollinator Project

For Friday, May 25, 2017

1- Michigan’s two largest utilities have announced plans to increase their commitments to renewable energy.

They say it’s based on a continued transition away from coal and in response to customer demand.

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Credit: Jim Sorbie

According to Midwest Energy News, DTE Energy says it will add 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy from wind and solar, and retire all of its coal power plants by about 2040. At that time, DTE says 60 percent of its portfolio will come from wind, solar and nuclear, and the remainder will come from natural gas.

Consumers Energy has applied for a tariff with state regulators to allow large commercial customers to purchase generation from new renewable energy projects. Consumers says the three-year, voluntary pilot program is in response to growing demand from corporations for renewable energy.

2 – A fish finding tool has been updated.

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via MDNR

The Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer features more than 40 streams that represent a range of conditions in terms of stream size, temperature and Great Lakes access.

The focus is on streams with long-term data and naturally reproducing populations of trout, salmon and bass that provide users with information on self-sustaining fish populations around the state.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources launched the app in 2014.

Officials say it’s useful for fishery managers, anglers, conservation groups, and the public.

The Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer can be found at mcgi.state.mi.us/fishpop/#.

3 – The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy seeks volunteers for a Pollinator Project in Saginaw.

This year, the conservancy plans to turn vacant lots on 50 sites into natural spaces.

The plan is to replace trash, old tires, and overgrown weeds on vacant lots with native wildflowers and prairie grasses. When converted, the lots will only need to be mowed once every few years.

Leaders say the project will reduce the burden of local government for maintenance and improve the visual condition of neighborhoods throughout the city.

The conservancy plans to start the work in coming weeks. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the conservancy at (989) 891-9986.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

Rejecting More Wind, Bagging More Trash, Creating Less Waste

For May 19, 2017

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1 – Voters in several townships and three counties in Michigan’s Thumb have rejected plans for wind projects and zoning changes.

Developers tell Midwest Energy News they are now regrouping, and are uncertain of whether they will pursue future projects in the three-county region of Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola. The region has the most concentrated amount of wind turbines in the state.

Two projects proposed by DTE Energy and NextEra Energy and approved by Huron County officials, were reversed through petition drives and referendum votes.

DTE’s completion of a Filion Wind Park was rejected in four townships. NextEra’s 150-megawatt Huron Wind Energy Center was rejected in two townships.

Local officials say the outcome is due to a saturation of the market in the Thumb, and growing mistrust with wind development companies stemming from ongoing disputes over tax payments.

2 – Memorial Day is the unofficial start of beach season in Michigan. And volunteers with the Adopt-a-Beach program will be out on the shorelines again this year.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes, which organizes the program, reports that more than 15,000 people participated in almost 1,400 cleanups last year. They recorded every piece of litter they picked up, which totaled more than 40,000 pounds.

The litter database is used identify problem areas and develop solutions to improve beach health.

The majority of trash picked up – 87 percent – was plastic. That included smoking-related litter and food-related litter, meaning it originated from human activity.

To find a cleanup near you, visit GreatLakesAdopt.org. A cleanup is planned for August at the Bay City state park beach in Bangor Township.

3 – A Great Lakes Bay Zero Waste Consortium will look at waste reduction strategies.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network is partnering with Duro-Last Inc. and others to launch the effort.

The goal is to bring together area manufacturers, businesses, and institutions interested in implementing waste reduction strategies.

Participants say taking a systematic look at waste generated by businesses can help identify opportunities to cut costs through waste reduction.

A free informational meeting for anyone interested in getting involved is planned for Wednesday, May 24, from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at Duro-Last headquarters on West Morley Drive in Saginaw.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Debating Ag Land Windfall, Finding Trout Trails

For April 14, 2017

1 – Agricultural land is the only type of property in Michigan that’s increased in overall value since 2008.

According to Midwest Energy News and Bridge Magazine, that may be in part due to wind energy development. Areas that have seen significant development — such as the Thumb region — also had some of the greatest property value increases.

One analysis says commodity prices of corn, sugar beets and soybeans are the primary reason for the increased agricultural property values.

But a Lansing-based consulting firm says that analysis focused on a property’s value, not including other taxable features like wind turbines.

5 Lakes Energy says counties that host the largest number of turbines, including Huron County,  have seen the largest increase in the total taxable value of property in their areas.

2 – Those who love to fish for trout will want to check out a new online Trout Trails tool.

michigan-trout-trails

Credit: MDNR

The application pinpoints quality trout streams and lakes throughout the state.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the tool features lesser-known waters that are considered to be outstanding places to fish for trout, and they’ve verified by biologists.

Almost 100 new sites were recently added to the application, which includes about 300 locations in the Great Lakes basin.

Each entry features extensive information, including the trout species available, regulations, the presence of stocked or naturally reproducing fish, driving directions, area lodging, restaurants and more.

Visit michigan.gov/trouttrails to access the information.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

Comments on Michigan Air Contaminants, Updates on Renewable Energy

For Feb. 17, 2017

1 – All of Michigan’s electric providers met or exceeded the 10 percent renewable energy standard in 2015.

Michigan’s new renewable standard will increase to 12.5 percent in 2019 and 2020 and 15 percent in 2021.

A Michigan Public Service Commission annual report says meeting the 2015 standard can be credited with the development of more than 1,670 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy projects.

The average price of existing renewable energy contracts also is considerably less than was forecast in initial renewable energy plans.

The report notes that wind energy has been the primary source of new renewable energy in Michigan and about $3.3 billion has been invested to bring new renewable energy projects online through 2016.

The average cost per megawatt hour for renewable energy also has been substantially lower than the cost of a new coal-fired plant.

2 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is taking comments through April 14 for more than 1,200 health-based screening levels used in its Permit to Install Air Permitting Program.

The public comment period is the result of rule revisions that took effect in December and require all screening levels and their origins be posted for public review with comments accepted for 60 days.

The state’s air program aims to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals in industrial air emissions.

michigan tree snow wind

Credit: GollyGforce

Under the new rules, the emission of a toxic air contaminant cannot result in a maximum ambient air concentration that exceeds a health-based screening level.

Previously, memos describing the reasons behind screening levels were only available upon request. Now they’re open for review and public comment through April 14.

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– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Research Vessels, Energy Appraisal and Bad Axe Renewables

For Friday, June 3, 2016 –

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1 – Four state fisheries research vessels are back on the water, beginning annual surveys of Great Lakes fish populations.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says surveys conducted by the vessels are designed to examine and collect information on all aspects of the state’s Great Lakes fish community.

The vessels work throughout the Great Lakes on a wide variety of assessments and evaluations. Operations will continue into November.

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R/V Channel Cat. Via MDNR

On Lake Huron, the work is conducted by the Research Vessel Tanner  Chinook. The vessel focuses work on specific assessments of lake trout and walleye populations, as well as broader assessments in Saginaw Bay and the St. Marys River that evaluate fish community changes.

The Saginaw Bay evaluations are conducted jointly with the Research Vessel Channel Cat, which is based in Lake St. Clair at the Fisheries Research Station in Harrison Township.

 

2- Michigan consumers are benefiting from an abundant production and supply of natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products.

This is resulting in decreased prices across the board, according to a new state energy appraisal.

This summer, residents should enjoy dramatically lower prices at the pump.

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Credit: Joe Ross

Gas prices are about 13 percent lower than last year, officials say, along with the price of natural gas.

Officials say successful energy waste reduction efforts are noticeable in electricity demand.

Baseline usage is expected to decrease by 0.9 percent, despite a rise in economic activity and slightly increased usage by the industrial sector.

The state energy appraisal comes from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

 

3 – An old building Bad Axe has been renewed.

The Huron Renewable Energy Center was opened recently by DTE Energy, bringing 25 jobs to the Thumb.

The facility was vacant for two years and is a former Normans Warehouse and the site of the M-53 Drive-In Theater, which opened in 1952.

The newly-renovated center includes offices, garage facilities, warehousing and a maintenance shop area.

The facility also has an unfinished 3,000 square-foot space.

DTE plans to develop the space to serve as an area for renewable energy education and the hosting wind park tours, meetings and other community activities.

Plans are expected to be finalized this year, with completion of the space in 2017.

– 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

Wind Energy Payments, Kirtland’s Ham Radio and Salmon in the Classroom

For Friday, May 6, 2016

1 – Wind energy development is providing millions of dollars to rural landowners in the form of land lease payments.

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Credit: AWEA

According to Midwest Energy News, payments to Michigan landowners totaled $4.6 million in 2014.

Tax bases in Huron County increased by 34 percent between 2011 and 2015, or more than $559 million. In Tuscola County, tax bases increased by 26 percent, or more than $364 million.

The money provides revenue to help pay for county operating expenses, schools, roads, libraries, and other services.

Nationwide, the American Wind Energy Association reports that wind farms pay $222 million a year to rural landowners, with $70.7 million of that across 12 Midwest states.  

Some local officials in Michigan’s Thumb have complained about over-saturation and others have recently approved moratoriums on new wind development.

Clean energy advocates, meanwhile, fear wind development may slow considerably without an expanded renewable portfolio standard, which leveled off at the end of 2015.

2 – The 2016 Kirtland’s Warbler Festival is going worldwide.

This year’s festival is being held in Roscommon on Saturday, June 4.

As part of the event, ham radio operators will be hosting a Special Event Radio Station on the grounds of the festival.

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An example of a Special Event Station. Credit: Dan

According to Huron Pines in Gaylord, a station call sign has been assigned to the event through the American Radio Relay League, amateur radio’s national organization.

The ham radio operators in Roscommon plan to make two-way contacts in the United States and worldwide to raise awareness of the festival and recovery efforts related to the Kirtland’s Warbler.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler nests in just a few counties in Michigan’s northern lower and upper peninsulas, along with Wisconsin and Ontario.

3 – Baby salmon are swimming in Midland, thanks to the efforts of a local elementary school.

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Credit: USFWS

Fourth graders from Saint Brigid School released hand-raised chinook salmon at the end of April from the Tridge in Midland, according to Little Forks Conservancy.

The release was the culmination of a Department of Natural Resources Salmon in the Classroom Program.

A local chapter of Trout Unlimited sponsored the equipment and other resources for the effort.

Salmon in the Classroom is a year-long natural resources education program in which teachers and students receive fertilized salmon eggs from a state fish hatchery in the fall, hatch them out, feed and raise the fry through spring, and then release the young salmon into a local river.

Participation in the program has grown annually for more than 10 years, and now boasts more than 200 schools that will raise salmon next year.

You can find out more at Michigan.gov/SIC.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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