A biomass power plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Photo by PSNH via Creative Commons)
After reporting last week on a Midwest biomass group’s proposal to boost wood-fueled heating in the region, reader John Gunn tweeted to tell us “forest biomass GHG emissions are much more complicated than your article indicates.”
He’s right, so we thought we’d take a closer look at the topic of biomass and carbon emissions.
Gunn is a Minnesota native who now heads a Maine nonprofit research lab, Natural Assets Laboratory, that studies forest carbon issues.
“Based on what we’ve found, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution in terms of emissions,” says Gunn.
(Photo by Penn State via Creative Commons)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Peter Behr
Another link in an industrial chain Ohio hopes to see growing around the Utica Shale play was added Tuesday with the opening of a factory in Youngstown that builds natural gas processing equipment.
Houston-based Exterran Holdings Inc. said it built the 65,000-square-foot plant in northeast Ohio to be close to the Appalachian shale gas and oil plays. It has been supplying the region’s gas and oil operators from its Texas and Oklahoma plants.
“Our customers are actively participating in the development and production of oil and gas in this region, including the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, making this a natural geographic fit for us,” said Exterran President and CEO Brad Childers. The $13 million plant will ship its first completed units in about three weeks and will have 100 employees at full capacity, the company said.
A cask of nuclear waste is loaded onto a truck at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. (Photo via ANL)
A proposal in the U.S. Senate has advocates concerned that Illinois could become a leading contender for storing nuclear waste from around the nation.
The discussion draft of a Senate bill released April 25 and open for public comment until May 24 launches a process to create a “centralized interim storage” site (CIS) for nuclear waste that is currently stored at reactors nationwide.
And a June 2012 study [PDF] by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using spatial modeling suggests that northern Illinois would be among the top possibilities.
Many nuclear energy critics oppose the concept of centralized interim storage, saying that the long-distance transport of nuclear waste to such sites would pose serious risks, and that interim storage sites could become financial and safety burdens especially if a long-term waste repository is never created.
(Photo by Jeff Gitchel via Creative Commons)
An Iowa utility with plans to build a new natural gas-fired power plant is also cutting back on efficiency efforts, in what advocates say is a case of misplaced priorities.
Several organizations have critiqued a five-year energy efficiency plan filed in November by Interstate Power and Light (IPL), one of three investor-owned utilities serving the state. Every five years, Iowa’s large power companies are required to submit a plan to state regulators for reducing energy consumption over the next five years.
Interstate’s latest proposal, to take effect on Jan. 1, left some of the state’s efficiency advocates underwhelmed.
“They’re leaving a lot of energy efficiency that is achievable on the table,” said Josh Mandelbaum, a Des Moines-based staff attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. The center, together with the Iowa Environmental Council and the Iowa Policy Project, last month filed a response to Interstate’s plan.
Uptown Circle in Normal, Illinois. (Photo courtesy Uptown Normal)
The Uptown neighborhood of Normal, Illinois, boasts an enormous traffic circle enclosing a popular civic space surrounded by what is likely the largest concentration of LEED buildings in downstate Illinois.
It’s among several neighborhoods around the Midwest that have been designed as “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development” (LEED-ND) projects. From the site of a former St. Louis housing project to a master-planned Chicago suburban train hub, the concepts behind LEED-ND have begun transforming not only buildings but also blocks into sustainable enclaves.
Sponsored by the United States Green Building Council, the LEED-ND program awards communities for planning that reduces dependence on cars while encouraging green construction, energy efficiency, storm water management, mass transit and urban agriculture.
A computer rendering of a proposed coal-to-gas plant near Rockport, Indiana. (Image via Indiana Gasification)
©2013 E&E Publishing, LLC
Republished with permission
By Christa Marshall
A major “clean” coal project that was once viewed as a keystone for cleaning up the Midwest’s greenhouse gas emissions appears near collapse.
Wednesday, a spokesman for the Indiana Gasification project — which envisioned the capture and storage of carbon dioxide from a coal-to-gas facility in Rockport, Indiana — said the initiative was suspended and “likely dead” after passage of a bill in the state Legislature last weekend.
The $2.8 billion project’s suspension also stalls a first-of-its-kind CO2 pipeline from Denbury Resources that was considered a potential emissions game changer because it would have provided a link for additional, emissions-heavy Midwestern projects to carry captured carbon dioxide to enhanced oil recovery operations in the Gulf Coast.
Environmentalists say Maumee Bay, near Toledo, would have been a better target for FirstEnergy conservation work. (Photo by rayb777 via Creative Commons)
When power plant operators commit pollution violations, they are often required by the Environmental Protection Agency to do mitigation work on environmentally sensitive lands.
Critics, however, say vague rules often let the violators choose projects based on convenience, rather than impact.
In 2007, oil leaked from a storage tank at FirstEnergy’s Bayshore power plant on the shore of Maumee Bay, on the western edge of Lake Erie near Toledo. The company said about five gallons of oil made it into Lake Erie.
A Clean Water Act settlement related to that and two other small oil spills at FirstEnergy plants means that the company will pay a $125,000 fine and donate 200 acres of wetlands along Lake Erie in northeast Ohio to a land conservancy.
The land targeted is about 60 miles from two of the plants that had the oil spills, in Cleveland and Lorain. And it’s more than 150 miles from Bayshore.
(Photo via USDA)
Wood fuel represents just a sliver of the Midwest’s heating market. By BTUs, solid biomass supplied 3 percent of the region’s heat in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The rest came primarily from non-renewable, fossil fuels — mostly natural gas.
A biomass advocacy group called Heating the Midwest thinks the region could and should significantly boost the share of heat it gets from wood-burning stoves and boilers, and it unveiled a vision at its annual conference in Minnesota last week for how to get to a 10 percent thermal biomass goal by 2025.
“If the Midwestern region is serious about achieving a cleaner, more sustainable energy future, it must focus new and significant attention on thermal energy,” the group said in its report, which claims there would be environmental and economic benefits from transitioning to use of more renewable biomass for heating.
A worker installs solar panels at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2012. (Photo by NAIT via Creative Commons)
For many people, checking out online reviews is a standard step before selecting a restaurant, hotel, spa, mechanic, even a hospital or place to buy a pet.
The sprawling review website Yelp has been one of the main places where people looking to install solar systems vet or search for companies; and many solar companies have felt compelled to list their services there.
But the founders of SolarReviews, launched in November, think they can offer a more specialized and more valuable option, with reviews of solar products and services in a variety of categories, curated by staff with industry experience and also offering free quotes online.
In February, Lakewood, Colorado-based SolarReviews acquired Solar-Estimate.org, which provides free estimates on the finances of wind, solar PV or other solar systems based on where people live, their energy use and type of building.
“There are other online directories of solar companies, but there are no other sites who are focused on customer reviews,” said Jesse Truax, SolarReviews co-founder and vice president of marketing and business development. “Up until this point, solar installers have had to rely on a hodgepodge of reviews websites to promote their customer reviews, although none of them were optimal for the solar industry.
A map of Ohio’s bedrock geology. (via Ohio DNR, click to view original)
More than a year after a string of earthquakes prompted Ohio to enact tougher rules on disposal wells for fracking wastewater, researchers are still working to understand the extent of the risk.
Seismologists say the state has generally done a good job mapping and monitoring its seismic activity, but there is still much work to come.
The link between the wells and earthquakes has strengthened in recent years, with Ohio regulators connecting as many as a dozen man-made temblors to the injection of gas-drilling wastewater deep into the earth. In response, officials have implemented new rules designed to adequately prepare parts of the state for future drilling activity.
The new policies determine the strain wastewater injection puts on fault lines. With the region’s financial future so heavily reliant on fracking, Ohio is also attempting to better understand the network of geological faults that encompass this underground economic boon, and the potential danger they represent.