Ohio SB 310 has already made it hard to finance any new solar projects in the state similar in scale to the Melink solar array at the Cincinnati Zoo. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
By the time Ohio’s energy law freeze took effect last week, the new law had already caused a significant setback for the state’s solar energy sector.
Ohio’s market for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) dropped dramatically after Senate Bill 310 passed this spring and has not rebounded since. Yet official state reports won’t reflect that and other changes for some time.
The lag means the Energy Mandates Study Commission set up by SB 310 could wind up using unreliable data to evaluate compliance costs for the state’s energy mandates. The Ohio Senate’s half of its 12 voting members was named on Tuesday.
Members of National Nurses United protest petroleum coke storage in Chicago in May. (Photo by Bob Simpson via Creative Commons)
“Whatever it is a nurse can do, I probably have done it,” says Beverly Van Buren, an operating room nurse at St. Louis University Hospital who has also worked in nursing homes, podiatry, the military reserves and other posts in her nearly four-decade career.
“And I have loved it – it has been a fantastic journey,” she said.
The latest stage of Van Buren’s journey features a growing mission among nurses nationwide: the pursuit of environmental justice, fueled by a growing awareness of the environmental factors that could be linked to, causing or exacerbating the cancers, respiratory ailments or other conditions that affect their patients.
Nurses have individually become increasingly aware of the role of the environment in health, and over the past two years the National Nurses United labor union has launched a concerted campaign to mobilize on environmental justice issues — including the role of fossil fuels in both local pollution and climate change.
The Hometown Bioenergy plant near Le Sueur, Minnesota, can produce up to 8 MW of electricity. (Photo ©Le Sueur News-Herald, used with permission)
With the help of some aggressive bugs that thrive on a diet of waste and manure, the $45 million Hometown Bioenergy plant in Le Sueur, Minnesota has reached 60 percent capacity since opening in December of 2013.
“It’s a biological process, it’s not like you can flip the switch,” said Kelsey Dillon, the vice president of bioenergy for Avant Energy Inc., which manages the plant. “There’s definitely an art to getting the bugs acclimated and getting them tuned up to digest this material at higher and higher strengths, if you will, we’re still in that ramp-up period, but it’s going well.”
The anaerobic digester, capable of producing 8 megawatts of electricity, is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country. It sits on a 35 acre site and draws customers from a 60 mile radius, including sweet corn canning operators and other vegetable processors, who bring their waste and pay tipping fees to have Hometown take care of it, she said.
A subsidiary of the 12-member Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Hometown is one of a growing number of industrial scale digesters either under construction and in the planning stages in Minnesota and around the country.
A farm near Schoolcraft in southwest Michigan. Experts say grid limitations are preventing some farmers from investing in new equipment. (Photo by Jason Mrachina via Creative Commons)
As Michigan’s agriculture sector grows more productive and efficient, those in the industry say the state’s electrical and natural gas infrastructure is not keeping pace.
Overall, farmers are increasing productivity and getting more value out of the same acreage of land. But they and others in agribusiness say reliability concerns — particularly in rural areas in the southwest and Thumb parts of the state — are holding back investments in new and larger equipment.
And access to natural gas and electricity has been an ongoing concern for the industry, which contributes over $90 billion to the state’s economy and is second in the nation in crop diversity.
Conditions inside a swine barn can be tough on lighting fixtures. (Photo by Virginia Cooperative Extension via Creative Commons)
Over the past few years, LED fixtures have taken over streetlights in cities and towns across the country. Next up: American agriculture, especially Midwestern hog-confinement operations.
In Washington County, Iowa, the bullseye of hog production in the state, LEDs “are coming on, and increasing in popularity exponentially,” said Jason Prochaska, owner of Sitler’s Supplies. Since his business began selling a combined LED fixture and bulb about 18 months ago, Prochaska said, “We’ve been doing a ton of projects. We’ve probably sold close to 10,000.”
And hog-confinement buildings, which are seemingly under perpetual construction in this part of the world, use a lot of electricity. According to Prochaska, a typical “finishing” building, where hogs spend the last few months of their lives, might have between 40 and 150 lights that would be turned on for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Kansas City was able to save energy use at its 30-story City Hall by changing the timing of heating and cooling. (Photo by Yudha P. Sunandar via Creative Commons)
When cooled air is being pushed into an empty room in Kansas City’s health department or City Hall, odds are good that word will quickly reach the people who oversee such matters – and that they’ll get it stopped in short order.
This city government’s got ESP – the Enterprise Sustainability Platform, a digital system for keeping very close tabs on energy use. It’s one of the most important tools that enabled Kansas City to slash energy use in four of its larger city buildings by an average of 29 percent between 2010 and 2013. Now, the city is aiming to bring those strategies and savings to other large structures in town.
With a federal Department of Energy grant awarded to 10 cities nationwide, the city is angling to get other large property-owning institutions in town to start measuring, or “benchmarking,” their energy use – the first step towards cutting energy use.
“We’re hoping to drastically increase the amount of utility-consumption information disclosure,” said Robert Rives, the city’s facilities manager. “It’s been commonly found that when people begin to look at utility consumption not just as a cost of doing business, but start looking at the data and seeing how much they can save by making operational changes, it puts it more in the forefront of their minds that this is a cost where there is savings available.”
In this 2013 file photo, Debbie Dooley speaks at a hearing before a Senate Rules Committee in Atlanta. Long a political activist, Dooley is now extolling the conservative virtues of distributed renewable energy. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated Dooley’s itinerary.
Debbie Dooley is not a tree-hugger – in fact she bills herself as a radical right-wing grandmother, and she is a founding member of the national Tea Party and a leader of the Atlanta Tea Party.
But Dooley is also an outspoken proponent of distributed solar generation and other forms of renewable distributed energy. Dooley will be the featured speaker next week at the Wisconsin Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Social Speakers series – as advocates in the state say solar is under attack by elected officials, regulators and major utilities.
A drilling rig in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. (Photo by WCN 24.7 via Creative Commons)
Petroleum backers say a new job survey makes the case for why Illinois should be doing more to expand drilling, particularly fracking, in the state.
The oil and gas industry has created 263,700 jobs in Illinois, according to a study released by the American Petroleum Institute Tuesday that lists direct, indirect and induced jobs created, as well as vendors with contracts with the industry, in each state.
In Illinois, 932 businesses are part of the oil and gas supply chain, the study says, supporting $33.3 billion, or five percent, of the state’s economy.
American Petroleum Institute senior economic adviser Rayola Dougher and Illinois Petroleum Council executive director Jim Watson said the study shows why state regulators should be doing more to facilitate the launch of high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Groves Woods in Trumbull County, Ohio, — in the northern area of the Utica hotbed of shale drilling — is among dozens of natural area preserves owned by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History because of its ecological habitats. (Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski)
Conservation experts say fracking and other shale gas activities can add to the dangers faced by Ohio’s rare species.
Yet as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) allows more and more natural gas activities in the state, its natural heritage program remains dramatically scaled back. That limits ODNR’s ability to identify and protect important habitats in sparsely surveyed areas.
Additionally, Ohio law exempts oil and natural gas activities from certain environmental requirements. It also allows massive water withdrawals for fracking and other activities. These and other factors can compound conservation threats.
Last Friday, experts at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s annual conservation symposium spoke about a wide range of threats faced by birds, bats, butterflies, mussels and amphibians — one hundred years after the last known passenger pigeon died in Ohio.
People in Iowa, which leads the Midwest in wind energy, are the least likely to believe that wind turbines impact human health, according to a recent survey. (Photo by tumblingrun via Creative Commons)
Science has frequently rejected arguments that wind turbines pose a threat to human health. And now the verdict is in both in the courts of legal and public opinion on the matter, according to a recent study and poll.
A bipartisan poll on energy issues released earlier this week found that in six Midwestern states — Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin — only 14 percent of respondents believe wind turbines harm human health.
The survey of 2,477 voters was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and FM3 on behalf of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
Among the states surveyed, the lowest percentage of people who believe wind turbines cause health problems (7 percent) was in Iowa, a state that leads the nation in proportion of energy from wind.