Restoring Michigan’s Largest Estuary, Improving Energy Efficiency

For Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 (Fall Pledge Drive)

1 – Part of Michigan’s largest freshwater estuary has been restored.

shiawasseesunset

Credit: Rebecca Kelly/USFWS

This is thanks to federal funding from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the work of biologists and land managers at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

The refuge, in Saginaw County, partnered with Ducks Unlimited to restore a highly-altered agricultural landscape and reconnect rivers, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is part of an area known as Shiawassee Flats, historically a 50,000-acre wetland complex. The Flats is one of the most unique wetland complexes in the Great Lakes, because it functions as a freshwater estuary even though it’s 20 miles inland.

The restoration project restored 10 percent of the refuge, or 1,000 acres of its land base, which will benefit fish and wildlife populations.

The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is designated as an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy.

A Ducks Unlimited biologist says waterfowl used to skip over the project area during migration. Now, they’ll look down and see a healthy and productive habitat.

2 – Michigan is among three most-improved states for energy efficiency.

The latest annual Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks Michigan, Missouri and Maine rank as the three most-improved states.

California and Massachusetts both won the top spot.

The group says that in the past year, several states have strengthened efficiency policies and programs, which give businesses, governments, and consumers more control over how and when they use energy.

The group says a growing number of states, including Michigan, have taken major steps toward the adoption of Department of Energy-certified codes for new residential and commercial construction.

– 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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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

Where Does Your Christmas Tree Come From? And Grading Michigan’s Renewable and Efficiency Programs

For Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

1Where does your Christmas tree come from?

christmas trees oregon

Credit: Wonderlane

If it’s a real tree, it’s mostly likely to come from North Carolina or Oregon. That’s nationally.

According to The Washington Post and federal data, American tree farmers harvest at least 17 million Christmas trees each year, and nearly half come from North Carolina and Oregon.

What about Michigan?

Our state, along with New England, the mid-Atlantic and Wisconsin are near the top for Christmas tree harvests in the U.S.

In 2012, just over 3,900 Christmas trees were harvested in Bay County. There were just over 2,200 harvested in Saginaw County, and just 128 in Midland County.

In Michigan, about 1.7 million trees were cut from from more than 700 farms.

In case you wondered, artificial trees are still king when it comes to sales.

2Michigan has received passing grades for its solar energy policies, but there’s room for improvement.

The state gets a B for net metering and a C for interconnection in a report from Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, both advocacy groups.

At least it’s better than the F received for net metering and a D for interconnection, both in 2008.

Net metering and interconnection are policies that allow energy customers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs.

States at the top of the class this year include Ohio, along with California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah.

The report is designed as a resource for policymakers, regulators and stakeholders to build upon clean energy progress that many states have achieved to date.

The groups say net metering and interconnection are some of the primary state policies driving growth in the American clean energy field.

3Energy efficiency is cost effective.

Michigan funding for energy optimization programs in 2013 was $253 million, which will result in savings of $948 million for electric and natural gas utility customers.

That means that for every dollar spent on energy optimization programs in Michigan in 2013, customers saw benefits of about $3.75 by eliminating energy waste.

The figures are according to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s annual report on a 2008 law.

The report shows that overall, the programs saved 132 percent of what they were targeted for by electric utilities, and 121 percent for natural gas utilities.

The savings equate to the annual electric usage of about 121,000 households and the annual natural gas usage of about 58,000 households.

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Wicked Problems, Delta’s Green Award, and Michigan Energy Efficiency

Photo by thirteenthbat

As heard Oct 12, 2012, on Friday Edition, 9 a.m. on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

Sea Grant Seeks ‘Wicked Problems’

Just in time for Halloween, Michigan Sea Grant is looking for “wicked problems” in the Great Lakes.

What makes a problem “wicked”? It has to be a complex environmental issue that’s challenging to address because the cause isn’t clear.

After all, you can’t figure out how to best solve a problem without a clear understanding of what factors are causing it.

So the Michigan Sea Grant research program is looking for public input on a coastal resource issue that needs a solution.

Michigan Sea Grant is seeking ideas for projects in four focus areas:

1)      Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

2)      Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

3)      Resilient Communities and Economies, and

4)      Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development.

The ideas are requested by the day before Halloween.

Michigan Sea Grant is a collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

(If you have an idea for Michigan Sea Grant, provide a synopsis and contact information for an agency or organization with decision-making authority related to the issue. Send the information by Oct. 30 to Jennifer Read, Research Program Coordinator: jenread@umich.edu).

Green Genome Award

Delta College has received a national environmental award.

The Green Genome Award comes from the American Association of Community Colleges.

The award was presented this month as part of an effort to honor community colleges that “have taken a strategic leadership role in sustainability and green economic and workforce development.”

Delta College won for achievements in Community Engagement. Other awards went to colleges in California, North Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia.

Winners of the awards each received $8,000 to support the college’s enhancement, expansion, or creation of a practice or program related to green workforce development and sustainability.

According to a Green Genome report from the association, Delta was recognized for efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the campus and the surrounding community.

Those efforts, over several years, have included the creation of a campus sustainability office to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.

Delta also has been spearheaded numerous alternative transportation activities, including the creation of a non-motorized greenway and a park-and-ride, hybrid-conversion bus route called the Green Line.

In addition, Delta was recognized for providing alternative energy training in automotive, wind, and chemical process technology, and work by students to build sustainable Habitat for Humanity homes in the community.

We’re No. 12!

Michigan is becoming more energy efficient, but didn’t break the Top Ten in a recent 2012 state scorecard report.

The report, from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ranks Michigan as 12th in the nation. That’s up from a rank of 17 last year.

MIchigan was cited as most improved after Oklahoma, Montana and South Carolina, according to Great Lakes Echo.  The state advanced in the rankings in part  through a law requiring electricity and natural gas providers to file energy optimization plans. The plans are meant to help reduce long-term costs to ratepayers and delay the need for additional power plants.

The scorecard report gives top honors to Massachusetts for the second year in a row. The report looks at six policy areas in which states pursue energy efficiency goals.

This is the sixth year for the Council’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard report.

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Dow Corning Makes Solar Stick, Beach Testing & Saving $4 By Spending $1

photo image solar panels phoenix solar dow corning

Courtesy Phoenix Solar

Michigan Enviro Report, as heard Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, at 9 a.m. Eastern on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

1 – New federal beach testing standards are coming out in October.

Meanwhile, a federal study says more beach testing needs to be localized.

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that water quality information collected by local officials may provide increased beach access while minimizing swimming-related illnesses from harmful bacteria.

The USGS study found that current water quality testing at Great Lakes beaches may be applied too broadly, possibly resulting in hundreds of beach closings between 2004 and 2010 that may have not occurred if a more localized approach was taken.

By basing beach closure decisions on local variations in bacteria concentrations, beach managers will likely be able to keep their beaches open more often, one scientist says. And this can be done without increasing presumed health risks or violating EPA guidelines.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to release new recreational water quality criteria later this year. The criteria will update current beach water quality standards that are based on sites affected by sewage contamination.

 

2 –

What can make solar energy stick around? How about adhesives developed by Dow Corning?

Dow Corning has just completed a solar installation at its world headquarters in Midland.

The project, done by Phoenix Solar, will allow both companies to collaborate on efforts to commercialize structural adhesives for mounting solar panels on rails.

Structural adhesives developed by Dow Corning can replace metal clamps, clips and bolts that that typically used to secure panels to mountings.

Company officials say using adhesives rather than clamps and bolts can lower the costs of materials and labor, and reduce installation time.

Phoenix Solar has installed  a 23- kilowatt demonstration plant on the grounds of Dow Corning’s corporate headquarters.

 

3 –

Every dollar spent on energy conservation and efficiency measures saves more than $4 in energy bills.

The Michigan Public Service Commission recently released an Energy Optimization (EO) Program annual report (pdf).

The report shows that savings to electrical and natural gas customers from energy conservation programs run by utilities in the state were much higher than expected.

And, the $135 million spent on EO programs by utilities in 2010 resulted in cost savings to ratepayers of more than four times that amount.

Or, for every dollar spent, savings were calculated to be about $4.88.

The money for Energy Optimization programs comes came from surcharges on customer bills.

So if you don’t use the programs, they won’t pay you back.

Residential programs fall into several categories:

  • lighting
  • heating, ventilating and air conditioning
  • weatherization
  • and energy education.

Contact your local utility for more information.

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Michigan Enviro Report: MichENN, Green Mosquito Control & Ballast Water

Stories featured in this week’s Friday Edition on Delta College Q-90.1 FM

1.

They call energy efficiency ‘the low-hanging fruit’ because it costs less to save electricity than it does to create it.

One way to get started is to join the Michigan Energy Efficiency Network. The network was created by the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates major utilities in the state, including Consumers Energy and DTE Energy.

The network is an online community aimed at helping local governments, schools, businesses and other groups to save energy. The goal is to link people who need energy advice with services and government officials who can provide it.

The site includes information about securing grants for energy efficiency improvements, along with ways to find out about successful projects and cost-cutting measures around the country.

The network is online at MichEEN.org. You can use an existing Facebook or Twitter account to sign in.

Others involved in creating the community include the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth; INgage Networks and Michigan State University.

The address again is MichEEN.org

2.

Controlling mosquitoes is getting greener in Bay County.

Officials say the county’s Mosquito Control agency has been involved in two field trials for a new, organic water treatment project called Natular.

So far, the new larvicide has proven successful in controlling the bugs.

The product has a lower toxicity rate than other mosquito control products, and not as much has to be applied.

The Natular trials conducted in Bay County helped earn the product a green chemistry award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Natular, made by an environmental products and services company called Clarke, is the fifth pesticide to ever receive the EPA’s Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

Bay County was one of only a few mosquito control districts in the U.S. to run the field trials.

3.

It’s hard to talk about invasive species in the Great Lakes without talking about ballast water.

Ocean-going vessels have been blamed for introducing numerous invasives to the Great Lakes, including the zebra mussel and its cousin, the quagga mussel.

But environmental groups and others say there’s still a need for comprehensive federal rules to stem the flow of foreign creatures to the lakes.

Michigan has standards for ballast water, which require ships coming from the Atlantic Ocean to use treatment techniques when they discharge ballast water at ports.

Supporters, including the Lake Carriers Association, say federal standards would be easier to meet, instead of having to follow state-by-state standards.

But there are still concerns over how a federal standard would be regulated, and that federal standards would apply to freshwater vessels under a court ruling. The issue is being discussed by an EPA advisory board.

The Michigan ballast water standard took effect eight years ago, in 2002.

— Photo via noricum, Flickr

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