WBEZ | wind energy http://www.wbez.org/tags/wind-energy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en McCormick Place offsets 100 percent of power with wind energy http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/mccormick-place-offsets-100-percent-power-wind-energy-107092 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgang1320/2598030417" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mccormick%20place%20by%20Wolfgang%20Gillo.jpg" style="height: 407px; width: 610px;" title="McCormick Place. (Wolfgang Gillo)" /></a></p><p>As conventioneers pack up their model turbines and fly home from the 2013 Windpower exhibition at McCormick Place, they have the wind at their backs.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because the nation&rsquo;s largest convention center announced this week it would purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to offset 100 percent of its energy use with wind power. The three-year arrangement with Atlanta-based Sterling Planet will procure credits worth some 331,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to McCormick Place, or <a href="http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-resources/calculator.html#results">about as much as 69,000 passenger vehicles</a> each year.</p><p>The cavernous conference center uses about 130 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, but its plan to buy RECs doesn&rsquo;t mean wind turbines will now be wired to McCormick Place. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/does-electricity-aggregation-do-enough-renewable-energy-106760">As with electricity aggregation deals that scored 100 percent renewable energy for Evanston and Oak Park, the credits can come from established wind farms anywhere in the country</a>. When renewable energy power plants generate power, they rack up credits that they can sell on the open market.</p><p>According to Ryan Thorpe, director of facility operations for McCormick Place operator Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the wind power credits came &ldquo;at little or no additional cost&rdquo; than their previous power arrangement.</p><p>McCormick&rsquo;s move is not the first example of a large purchaser getting bullish on renewable energy. Walmart <a href="http://www.walmartstores.com/sites/responsibility-report/2012/renewableEnergyApproach.aspx">set a goal to become powered by 100 percent renewable energy</a>, pushing distributed generation and long-term contracts to buy actual energy, not just credits. Google, too, has made major purchases. But a company buys power in a different way than a municipality.</p><p>The REC deal also comes as McCormick Place tries to cut its energy and waste costs in a bid to brand itself as the nation&rsquo;s &ldquo;green&rdquo; conference venue. In April it <a href="http://www.astm.org/Standards/E2774.htm">won recognition as an environmentally sustainable conference center</a> from the American Society for Testing and Materials, using a new certification process introduced last year. Its West Building also earned the U.S. Green Building Council&rsquo;s LEED Certification.</p><p>Laudable though those initiatives may be, the idea of a green conference might seem an oxymoron &mdash; no matter how light their footprint inside the exhibition hall, guests still fly long distances to be there. The value of face-to-face interaction, though, is tough to deny and harder to quantify. Whatever the waste involved with traveling en masse for conferences may be, it amounts not to an indictment of conferences themselves, but instead makes clear how fossil fuel use is embedded in nearly every aspect of modern life.</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 21:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/mccormick-place-offsets-100-percent-power-wind-energy-107092 Cats kill billions of birds each year, study says http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/cats-kill-billions-birds-each-year-study-says-105233 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmcmahon/6224268393/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/black%20cat%20by%20kirk%20mcmahon.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 610px;" title="I can haz 2.4 billion birds? (Kirk McMahon via Flickr)" /></a></p><p><a href="http://mashable.com/2012/07/02/best-cat-memes-ever/">Meme this</a>: wild, outdoor cats could be killing far more birds and mammals than previously estimated &mdash; at least 1.4 billion birds and at least 6.9 billion mammals each year.</p><p>That&rsquo;s according to a <a href="http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n1/full/ncomms2380.html">new study in <em>Nature Communications</em></a> that says cat predation is the single greatest cause of bird deaths linked to human settlement &mdash; more than building collisions, pesticides or wind turbines. Previous assessments have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/science/21birds.html">called cats the no. 1 killer of birds</a>, but never by so wide a margin.</p><p>The study estimated that the median number of birds killed by cats annually is 2.4 billion and the median number of mammals killed is 12.3 billion. Most of that is from feral (stray) cats, so don&rsquo;t scold Snowball just yet.</p><p>There are more than <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/what-is-a-feral-cat-colder-weather-shows-feral-cat-population">50 million feral cats</a> and <a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html">some 86 million owned cats</a> in the U.S., according to the Humane Society of the United States. Chicago might have as many as <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-07-29/news/0907270294_1_neuter-and-return-trap-neuter-and-return-feral-cat/2">half a million stray cats</a> &mdash; an animal welfare crisis in and of itself. But the study also calls into question so-called Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) policies for managing stray animals, which are supposed to rein in the population of feral cats without killing them.</p><p>The study&#39;s surprisingly high estimates of bird and mammal deaths, however, suggest cats could nonetheless represent an invasive presence in the U.S., with dire consequences for other animal populations. Proponents of TNR programs say they are successful in certain circumstances, and not yet widespread enough to have the impact they otherwise could.</p><p>By comparison, another <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v447/n7141/full/447126a.html">study in <em>Nature</em></a> found each wind turbine kills an average of 4.27 birds per year, but other estimates have been higher &mdash; the American Bird Conservancy projects about 1 million total bird deaths due to wind turbines each year, if 20 percent of the country&rsquo;s electricity comes from wind power by 2030. Other estimates have put that figure lower.</p><p>(Wind turbines can also disrupt mating patterns and habitat for some bird species, as well as kill birds of prey larger than most cats would have the mettle to take on. There has been, however, some&nbsp;<a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=wind-turbines-and-bird-conflicts">regulatory progress on minimizing these effects</a>. And fossil fuel-based energy production is no friend of the birds &mdash; <a href="http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/want-to-save-70-million-birds-a-year-build-more-wind-farms-18274">by some estimates it is even worse</a>.)</p><p>Another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/chicago-bird-collision-monitors">1 billion birds die each year</a> following collisions with buildings, by some estimates, which makes skyscrapers a major cause of bird deaths.</p><p>It is worth noting that pinning down the number of dead birds and small mammals is <a href="http://www.voxfelina.com/2010/05/a-critical-assessment-of-critical-assessment-part-2/">an historically tricky proposition</a>. The new study is the most comprehensive yet, and was led by researchers from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.</p></p> Thu, 31 Jan 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/cats-kill-billions-birds-each-year-study-says-105233 Worldview 1.16.12 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11612 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//episode/images/2012-january/2012-01-13/100711lenergy410.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Worldview</em> takes a break for MLK Day. Increasingly, people around the globe are inspired to tune in and turn on to alternative energy sources. They're reaching for the sun, for unexpected bounties on earth and, more often than not, for each other to power the planet. Today on <a href="http://www.latitudesradio.org/"><em>Latitudes</em></a>, we’ll hear energy stories from the Middle East, the Philippines, Burma, and South Africa.</p></p> Mon, 16 Jan 2012 16:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-11612 Gas drilling could take air out of offshore wind http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/Wind_Farm_D36.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I understand the power of Lake Erie wind as soon we’re out past the breakwaters of Cleveland Harbor. The waves make our 74-foot tugboat bob like a rubber toy in my preschooler’s bath tub.</p><p>Before long, I’m sweating and looking for a place to heave.</p><p>Right next to me, Bill Mason seems to be enjoying the ride. In fact, he wants to show me a spot where the wind is even stronger. “Where we’re headed is to an anemometer,” Mason says, mispronouncing the instrument’s name. “It’s been measuring the wind speeds since, I think, 2007. So I know we have good wind.”</p><p>Mason doesn’t know all the particulars about wind energy. But, as the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, he knows a lot about Northeast Ohio. Since taking office in 1999, Mason has seen about a 100,000 manufacturing jobs disappear from the area.</p><p>Installing a handful of wind turbines offshore could spark a revival, Mason says, changing Cleveland’s image from a deindustrialized ghost town to “a green city on the blue lake.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4522_Wind_Farm_A28-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason says putting turbines in Lake Erie could revive the city. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">Mason has been promoting the wind-farm idea for seven years. In 2009, he helped form a quasi-public group, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation, to turn the idea into reality. Representing Cleveland and four counties along the lake, LEEDCo has held dozens of community meetings. It has secured an option for nine square miles of the lake. It has studied possible impacts on wildlife. And it has begun work on designs and permits.</p><p>Mason tells me Cleveland could help build offshore wind farms throughout the Great Lakes. He points to the city’s proximity to rail lines, deep-water port facilities and manufacturers. He says companies in the area could retool to make parts and supplies ranging from transmission cables to ice-resistant blade coating. The wind-farm supporters commissioned a study that says their project could lead to 15,000 new Ohio jobs within two decades.</p><p>The supply chain could include Lincoln Electric, which makes welding equipment in Euclid, a suburb northeast of Cleveland. Lincoln Electric is already getting a taste of wind-energy generation since installing a 443-foot-tall turbine this year to help power the company’s main plant.</p><p>Driving up the lakeshore, I can see the three rotor blades spinning from miles away. On a windy day, the tips go 160 miles an hour, the company tells me. But I can’t hear any sound from the turbine until I’m within a stone’s throw. Looking straight up at the blades, I notice a subtle swoosh as each one passes.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4525_Wind_Farm_D36-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 183px; float: right; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 4px;" title="Lincoln Electric’s Seth Mason says his company’s new turbine provides a case study for the offshore project. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">The turbine has given a lot of local people—from regulators to engineers to truck drivers—their first contact with a wind project. Lincoln Electric energy manager Seth Mason (no relation to the prosecutor) says this experience could help with the offshore installation, which would be just a few miles away.</p><p>“You basically have the same wind regime [and] you’re basically going to have the same amount of migratory birds at this longitude,” Mason says. “So I think it provides a case study for the next machine.”</p><p>It’s not just local boosters who think a Lake Erie wind farm could revive Northeast Ohio. Christopher Hart, the U.S. Department of Energy’s offshore wind chief, sees it that way too. “If a place like Cleveland is able to establish the demonstration project and then is able to leverage that demonstration project into a larger position in the industry, this could really, really have an impact on the local economy.”</p><p>Hart tells me Cleveland has the best shot at installing the first Great Lakes wind farm. But he points to a huge barrier: “Given the current technology, given the current regulatory structure, offshore wind doesn’t make economic sense.”</p><p>DOE calculations suggest it’s more than twice as expensive to generate electricity from offshore wind as from coal, natural gas or nuclear fission. The New York Power Authority pointed to costs this fall when it pulled the plug on some proposed Great Lakes turbines.</p><p> <style type="text/css"> div .inline { width: 290px; float: left; margin-right: 19px; margin-left: 3px; clear: left; font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }div .inlineContent { border-top: 1px dotted rgb(170, 33, 29); margin-bottom: 5px; margin-top: 2px; }ul { margin-left: 15px; }li { font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 1em; background-repeat: no-repeat; background-position: 0pt 5px; padding-left: 3px; margin-bottom: 0.5em; }</style> </p><div class="inline"><div class="inlineContent"><a href="/frontandcenter"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-06/FC-logo-sm_0.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 38px;" title=""></a><ul><li><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782"><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">ViDEO:</span></a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/plant-entrepreneurs-turn-waste-jobs-93782">Plant turns waste into jobs</a></strong></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/imadeajob"><strong><span style="color: rgb(255, 0, 0);">INTERACT: </span>Made a Job? Tell us about it.</strong></a></li><li><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/can-milwaukee-become-silicon-valley-water-93835"><strong>The Silicon Valley of water</strong>:<strong> Milwaukee?</strong></a></li></ul></div><div class="inlineContent">&nbsp;</div></div><p>That frustrates Chris Wisseman, who leads a consortium called Freshwater Wind that LEEDCo chose last year to develop Cleveland’s offshore wind farm. “All we’re talking about here is a new technology that looks like it’s got the ability to be very cost-effective inside of a decade,” he says.</p><p>The construction will run about $130 million, Wisseman tells me. The financing will be tricky because few utilities are eager to buy electricity that is so expensive. The only purchaser on board so far is municipally owned Cleveland Public Power, which has agreed to buy a quarter of the wind-farm output.</p><p>So LEEDCo is pushing for Ohio to <em>compel</em> utilities to buy the electricity and pass along the cost to customers—a process known as rate recovery. If the plan covered just northern Ohio, Wisseman says, business and residential customers would each pay an extra $0.40 a month.</p><p>The area’s big utility, Akron-based First Energy, says it won’t take a stand on that rate recovery until it sees a proposal. The Ohio Association of Manufacturers tells me it will probably go along with the plan if it doesn’t hit electricity-intensive companies hard.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/Kasich.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 268px; margin-top: 5px; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 18px; float: left;" title="Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t saying whether he’ll support rate recovery for the offshore wind project. (AP/File)">But rate recovery won’t get far without support from Gov. John Kasich. He appoints the members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which regulates the state’s electricity rates. And his Republican Party controls both houses of the state legislature.</p><p>At an energy forum Kasich’s office organized this fall, the governor didn’t leave any doubt that his energy focus would be an Appalachian rock layer called Utica Shale. In Ohio, that shale holds a lot of natural gas. To free up the fuel, companies such as Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. want to drill thousands of horizontal wells and inject pressurized fluids—a process known as fracking.</p><p>An industry-funded study says the fracking could create more than 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next four years. The potential boom is keeping Kasich’s staff busy. “We have had 129 separate meetings—5 regional meetings, 78 with business associations, 46 meetings with oil-and-gas division experts—all across Ohio,” the governor said at the forum.</p><p>At the same time, contaminated groundwater in nearby Pennsylvania is giving fracking a bad name. Kasich promises environmental safeguards for Ohio.</p><p>The governor says he’ll also promote renewable energy efforts. So, when I catch up with him, I ask whether those will include Cleveland’s offshore wind project.</p><p>“There is a place for renewables,” Kasich replies. “But we have to be very clear: They’re very expensive. That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities in the state. It doesn’t mean that over time they [won’t] become less expensive. But specific projects have to be looked at very, very carefully.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-09/RS4524_Wind_Farm_C26-scr.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 184px; margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 2px; margin-top: 5px; float: right;" title="A tugboat captain who knows about Lake Erie wind recalls cleaning a seasick crewmate with a hose. (Front and Center/Bridget Caswell)">I press Kasich, asking whether he will support the rate recovery proposed for the offshore project. He declines to answer.</p><p>Another Ohio Republican is talking about that rate recovery. State Sen. Kris Jordan, who represents suburbs north of Columbus, tells me it’s a bad idea. “I just don’t believe—when we have more affordable, more ready energy sources—that government should be subsidizing" an offshore wind farm.</p><p>Back on the Lake Erie tugboat, the vessel’s captain notices my pale color. He says he once had to clean off a seasick crewmate with a hose.</p><p>Bill Mason, the prosecutor behind the proposed wind farm, agrees I’ve seen enough of the lake. On the way back to port, he shakes his head at the thought of a natural-gas boom tripping up his project.</p><p>“We don’t know how much energy is going to be produced from this fracking,” Mason says. “We don’t know the environmental damage that possibly could happen from it. And we don’t know what it’s going to cost, if there is damage, for that recovery. If we take that step down that road, won’t it be nice to know that we have other alternatives such as the wind industry out here on the Great Lakes?”</p><p>And wouldn’t it be nice, Mason adds, if the center of that industry were Cleveland?</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Great Lakes wind projects struggle for footing</h2><p>Offshore wind-energy advocates face tall hurdles in the Great Lakes, but some projects are advancing. WBEZ’s Maham Khan brings us these snapshots.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://public.tableausoftware.com/javascripts/api/viz_v1.js"></script><div class="tableauPlaceholder" style="width: 554px; height: 769px;"><noscript><a href="#"><img alt="Offshore wind " src="http:&#47;&#47;public.tableausoftware.com&#47;static&#47;images&#47;Gr&#47;GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies&#47;Offshorewind&#47;1_rss.png" style="height: 100%; width: 100%; border: none" /></a></noscript><object class="tableauViz" style="display: none;" width="554" height="769"><param name="host_url" value="http%3A%2F%2Fpublic.tableausoftware.com%2F"><param name="name" value="GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind"><param name="tabs" value="no"><param name="toolbar" value="yes"><param name="static_image" value="http://public.tableausoftware.com/static/images/Gr/GreatLakesoffshorewindfarmproposalsandstudies/Offshorewind/1.png"><param name="animate_transition" value="yes"><param name="display_static_image" value="yes"><param name="display_spinner" value="yes"><param name="display_overlay" value="yes"></object></div><div style="width: 554px; height: 22px; padding: 0px 10px 0px 0px; color: black; font: 8pt verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;"><div style="float: right; padding-right: 8px;">&nbsp;</div></div></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 11:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/gas-drilling-could-take-air-out-offshore-wind