Growing the Saginaw Children’s Zoo and Michigan Solar

For Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 –

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/7ct5pzjqolmck6i/childrens-zoo-solar-mrgreatlakes-9-23-2016.mp3]

1 – The Children’s Zoo in Saginaw owns about 16 acres of vacant land next to its developed zoo site.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network is funding a project to turn the land into an outdoor classroom and nature play area.

The play area will include natural features such as boulders, logs, and native plants.

A nature trail will include signs geared toward families and children, to describe natural features on the land.

Invasive species on the property will be removed.

The project is slated for 2017.

2 – The solar industry is growing 10 times faster than the national economy.

That’s due to continuing technology improvements and declining costs, according to the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

A recently released Michigan Public Service Commission report says net metering and solar pilot programs increased by 20 percent in 2015.

That’s on top of 25 percent growth in solar deployment in 2014 and an 18 percent growth in 2013.

The Council says there’s still room for more, since Michigan’s two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE, have more than 80 percent of space left in their net metering programs.

Under Michigan’s net metering program, customers with on-site renewable energy systems like solar panels receive a credit on their bills for excess energy that’s generated and sent to the grid.

– 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

Lake Guardian Survey, Phragmites Treatment, Electric Vehicles

For Friday, Aug. 5, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/u9g1dlgyd6xomj2/mr-great-lakes-environment-report-8-5-16.mp3]

1 – Consumers Energy wants to install electric vehicle charging stations across the state.

The Michigan utility hopes to install more than 800 charging stations as part of a $15 million statewide electric vehicle infrastructure program.

The request is under consideration by the Michigan Public Service Commission as part of a broader rate increase.

The utility is looking to install 60 direct current fast-charge stations and 750 alternating current stations across the state, according to Midwest Energy News.

The fast-charging stations would be located along highways and allow drivers to recharge up to 80 percent of their battery in about 20 minutes.

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An example of an electric vehicle charging station in Virginia. Credit: alexanderromero

2 – The public is invited to a Phragmites Treatment Information Meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Phragmites is a perennial wetland grass. An invasive variety of the plant can grow up to 15 feet tall and degrade wetlands and coastal areas by crowding out native plants and animals.

The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. at Akron Township Hall in Unionville. It’s intended to help private landowners through the phragmites treatment process.

Those who attend can find out about how to control phragmites, along with the permits that are required and contractors who are available to do the work.

There is no cost for the meeting.

More information is available from the Tuscola County Economic Development Corp.

3 – This month, the Lake Guardian begins its summer survey of the five Great Lakes.

The Lake Guardian is a research vessel operated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Chicago.

The ship is used to gather environmental data to gauge the health of the lakes. Its crew samples water, air, sediments and aquatic organisms like plankton.

Month-long surveys are done each year in the spring and summer.

You can track the ship’s location during this summer’s survey at lakeguardian.org.

The vessel started its survey on Lake Michigan and was near Milwaukee on Thursday.

– 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

 

 

 

 

Saginaw Bay Lighthouse for Sale, Land Conservation Stats and Community Solar

For July 17, 2015

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/w1819xw1mqiz348/mrgreatlakes-7-17-2015-environment-report.MP3]

1- Three Michigan lighthouses are for sale, including the Gravelly Shoal Light Station in Saginaw Bay.

gravelly shoal lighthouse station light saginaw bay

Gravelly Shoal Light Station, Saginaw Bay. Via gsaauctions.gov

The federal government is taking bids on the lighthouses. The new owners would have to maintain the lights. Bidding is open to nonprofit organizations.

The starting bid for the Gravelly Shoal light is $5,000.

The Gravelly Shoal station features a 65-foot tower and is located on the west side of Saginaw Bay, about 5 miles offshore from Au Gres.

It was constructed in 1939 to mark the shoals around Big Charity Island.

2 – Michigan land conservancies have helped protect almost 600,000 acres in the state.

Heart of the Lakes, a statewide nonprofit based in Bay City, says a survey of member land conservancies shows 597,516 acres of natural, scenic and working farms and forest lands have been protected in Michigan.

That’s an increase of about 10,000 acres since last year, based on data from 27 organizations.

By the way, 600,000 acres is about 938 square miles. Bay County is about 631 square miles.

Conserved land supports a variety of conservation purposes, including improved water quality, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and local foods, according to Heart of the Lakes.

3 – Consumers Energy has a new community solar program, and customers can express interest at the company’s Web site.

solar garden flower

Credit: Nahid V

The company is looking for people interested in subscribing to the Solar Gardens Program.

The subscription program is offered in half-kilowatt increments, called “blocks,” and is limited to a home’s annual electric usage.

Consumers announced the program earlier this year. It’s the first of its kind offered by a regulated electric utility in Michigan.

Consumers says it will determine sites for Solar Gardens projects, and construction will begin after sites are fully subscribed.

Once Solar Gardens are operational, subscribed customers will make a payment with their monthly bill and receive a credit based on the amount of solar energy produced and electric market rates for up to 25 years.

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– 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

Consumers Energy Cuts Pollution, Huron Pines Reconnects Rivers, and Saginaw Bay Charters Hook More Walleye

For Sept. 19, 2014

 

1 – Consumers Energy has reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Credit: Jerry 'Woody'

Credit: Jerry ‘Woody’

The agreement will reduce emissions at coal-fired power plants in Bay County and other parts of Michigan, and fund projects to benefit the environment and communities.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumers has agreed to install pollution control technology to reduce harmful air pollution from the company’s five coal-fired power plants, including the Karn-Weadock complex in Bay County’s Hampton Township.

The settlement with EPA resolves claims that the company violated the Clean Air Act by modifying their facilities and releasing excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

EPA expects the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by more than 46,500 tons per year. The company estimates that it will spend more than $1 billion to implement the required measures.

The settlement requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million and at least $7.7 million on environmental efforts to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution and benefit local communities. The new spending will include up to $4 million on the development or installation of renewable energy projects.

Consumers officials say the agreement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Consumers says its operation and those of many U.S. energy providers were reviewed as part of an EPA enforcement initiative that began in 1999. That initiative has resulted in more than 25 settlements nationwide.

2Several areas in Michigan will benefit from $12 million in grants for Great Lakes restoration.

The money comes from Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership that includes the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and ArcelorMittal, a steel and mining company.

The grants cover 31 projects to restore and enhanced wetlands in the basin, restore fish passage and improve habitat, and control invasive species.

Ten of those projects are in Michigan.

Huron Pines in Gaylord received money to replace three culverts and reconnect nine miles of the Black River with Lake Huron and provide stream access for coaster brook trout and other fish. The nonprofit also will conduct work in the Cheyboygan River watershed to reconnect 20 upstream miles, reduce sediment inputs, and improve fish habitat.

3Lake Huron is back, especially when it comes to fishing.

A recent report from the state Department of Natural Resources says the number of charter fishing trips taken on the lake in 2013 was the second-highest in the past five years.

There has been continued improvement in the lake’s walleye fishery.

The average Lake Huron charter fishing party targeting walleye could expect to come home with nine walleye in the cooler in 2010 and release another three. In 2013, the average walleye charter trip produced 14 fish for the table and another eight that were released.

Most of the lake’s walleye fishing is concentrated in Saginaw Bay.

According to calculations by Michigan State University and other partners, more than $671,000 in personal income was generated by Michigan’s charter fishing industry at Lake Huron ports in 2013; with a total economic output of $1.82 million.

 

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

Trash from Canada Going Up, Weadock Plant Shutting Down .. and Trees

1 – More trash went into Michigan landfills last year.

According to the latest solid waste report from the Department of Environmental Quality, state residents are throwing away less trash, with volumes down a half percent in fiscal year 2013 compared to 2012.

Still, overall waste to state landfills increased by 1.4 percent, due to a rise in garbage from other states and Canada.

Michigan landfills took in almost 7.7 million cubic yards of trash from Canada in 2013, and about 34.5 million cubic yards from state residents.

solid waste landfills michigan

Solid waste landfills in the Bay City, Michigan, area. Click for the full map from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

At current rates, Michigan has about 28 years left before its landfills are at capacity.

Bay County residents disposed of about 380,000 cubic yards of trash. Saginaw County threw out about 708,000 cubic yards.

The report covers the 2013 fiscal year, from October 2012 through September 2013. Read the whole thing here.

2Consumers Energy is shutting down some of its coal-burning power plants, including in Bay County.

Consumers has hired an engineering company called AMEC to decommission seven operating units at its three oldest coal-fired generating plants.

The units are located at the Karn-Weadock complex on Saginaw Bay in Hampton Township, the J.R. Whiting site in Monroe County, and the B.C. Cobb site in Muskegon.

The Weadock portion of the Karn-Weadock complex will be decommissioned, according to The Muskegon Chronicle. Consumers officials have told Michigan regulators that it’s not economical to bring those units (7 and 8) into compliance with federal air quality standards.

The units being shut down across the state have been operating for an average of 60 years, and Consumers plans to retire them by April 2016.

Consumers Energy plans to purchase a 540-megawatt, natural-gas power plant in Jackson to partially offset the planned retirements.

3The ground may be frozen, but trees for planting are available.

The Bay County Soil Conservation District is again sponsoring a spring tree sale.

You can order seedlings of spruce, pine and fir in quantities of 50, 100, 500, or 1,000.

Transplant species of spruce, pine, cedar, balsam and fir can be ordered in multiples of five.

Fruit trees such as apple, pear and cherry also are available, along with strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and grape plants.

For more information, you can call the District office at 684-1040. The District also holds another tree sale in the fall.

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

Get Paid for Solar Generation, and Take a Look at Michigan’s Land Management Plan

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, at 9 a.m. Eastern Fridays on Delta College Q-90.1 FM … The Environment Report for April 5, 2013.

public land map bay region mich dnr

Public land map, Bay Region. Via Michigan DNR.

1- Attention Consumers Energy customers: If you’re interested in generating solar energy and selling it back to the utility, here’s your chance.

Consumers Energy is taking residential and non-residential applications until May 8 for its Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP).

The contract program allows electric customers to sell the output of solar generating systems to Consumers Energy for a fixed price over a contract length of up to 15 years.

Qualified applicants will be selected by lottery (pdf).

To quality, you must own or lease the solar photovoltaic system, and install it at your billing address or on an adjacent property you own or lease.

This is the 11th and 12th phase of the program. In 2011, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved an expansion of the program in line with state energy standards.

2 – Public outdoor recreation improvements are coming to the Saginaw Bay area, courtesy of more than $23 million in Natural Resources Trust Fund grants awarded statewide.

Gov. Rick Snyder approved the grants recently, for 76 recreation development projects and land acquisitions in 43 Michigan counties (pdf).

In the Saginaw Bay area, the city of Saginaw will receive $67,000 for a boulder climbing garden and multi-use pathway extension in Celebration Park. The pathway extension will connect the park to the Saginaw Riverwalk and adjacent recreation facilities.

The city of Zilwaukee also received more than $254,000 for improvements to Riverfront Park, located on the Saginaw River. The proposed development includes a playground, benches, paved parking lot and walkway, fencing and a seawall to improve bank fishing opportunities.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is made up of  oil, gas, and other mineral lease and royalty payments made to the state.


3 – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on a draft land management plan at regional open houses.

The plan outlines a strategy for DNR-managed public lands.

The regional meetings include one on April 25 from 6-8 p.m. at the Delta College Planetarium in downtown Bay City.

The draft land use strategy would, for the first time, set a standard for public access to the Great Lakes and rivers. It also calls for improved access on DNR-managed public lands, according to the agency.

The draft plan also includes a new strategy for the possible disposal of about 250,000 acres of DNR-managed public lands.

– 30 –

Green Energy, Saginaw Wind Turbines & Phasing Out Light Bulbs

The Environment Report, now with Audio. This airs Jan. 7, 2011 on Delta College Q-90.1 FM public radio. Text follows …

Environment Report, Jan. 7, 2011 by jeffkart

1.

Consumers Energy provides the most green power among Michigan utilities.

A state law requires utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar by the year 2015.

So far, Consumers Energy is at 4.7 percent, according to the Michigan Public Service Commission. DTE Energy is at 2.5 percent. Across the state, 3.63 percent of Michigan’s energy comes from renewables.

Consumers Energy operates its largest generating complex, the coal-fired Karn-Weadock plants, in Bay County’s Hampton Township.

The utility has contracted for 396 megawatts of renewable energy, mostly wind power.

Eight megawatts is in commercial operation.

An additional 388 megawatts is due to be online by the end of 2012, according to the Jackson Citizen-Patriot.

2.

In other energy news, plans for Michigan-made wind turbines are off to a good start.

The Public Service Commission has approved power purchase agreements between Consumers Energy and Heritage Sustainable Energy. The agreements, totaling 41 megawatts, are for Garden Wind Farm in Delta County and Stoney Corners 2 in Missaukee and Osceola counties.

According to the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, the agreements will result in the first large-scale production of utility-scale wind turbines made entirely in Michigan by Northern Power Systems and a key supplier — Merrill Technologies Group.

Northern Power Systems will build the direct-drive wind turbines at a Saginaw plant. The company expects to employ up to 137 people by 2014.

3.

Incandescent bulbs are on their way out, in favor of more energy efficient CFLs and LEDs.

The 100-watt incandescent will be the first light bulb to be banned from U.S. stores, beginning in Jan. 1, 2012.

By 2014, most traditional incandescent light bulbs will be phased out. That’s due to a federal law passed by Congress in 2007.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued new guidelines for cleaning up broken CFLs, or compact fluorescent light bulbs.

CFLs contain a tiny drop of mercury, but experts say the amount of mercury they keep out of the environment is greater. Less coal has to be burned to power a CFL, for instance.

If a CFL breaks, the EPA now says the amount of mercury released as vapor is within the safe range for adults.

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