Saint Paul Saints Building With Solar Power

You all know about the Saint Paul Aints. No, wait, I mean Saint Paul Saints. This is a local baseball team here in the Twin Cities. They are building a new stadium (much needed) right in the middle of Saint Paul to replace their old stadium out by the railroad tracks.

What you may not know is that the Saints Stadium is going to be one of the greener sports stadiums built. Other people building stadiums should take note. From MPR News:

St. Paul Saints stadium builders aim to make it a ‘green’ field

… When the $62 million stadium opens in May, the home of the city’s minor league baseball team will take a major step forward as an environmentally friendly sports facility.

A canopy of photovoltaic solar panels next to the baseball field will generate 103 kilowatts of power for Minnesota’s newest sports complex, a 7,000-seat facility owned by the city of St. Paul.

“We think it’s going to be the third largest solar array at a sports facility in the U.S,” project manager Paul Johnson said.

That’s only about a tenth of the power needed to run the lights and meet the energy needs for the rest of the stadium. But it will be a high-profile alternative to conventional electric power. The baseball scoreboard is expected to tout the solar power generated along with the score. Its panels also will shade a group dining area.

Other features will include a storm water filtration system that will take drainage from the nearby Metro Transit maintenance facility roof and use it to irrigate the turf at CHS Field. Rain water also will be diverted to flush 10 percent of the toilets in the restrooms.

Making the stadium environmentally friendly came with a cost. The solar project added an additional $600,000 to the project, and the storm water system added an estimated $450,000. But grants are covering the extra cost.

Still, the price tag on the solar project has drawn skepticism even from some environmentalists.

Eric Jensen, senior energy associate for the Izaak Walton League of the Midwest, is encouraged that solar energy will receive such a high-profile installation and that more people will see a practical use for it. But he said the funding from Xcel Energy would have gone further on other projects.

“This is the highest dollar per watt,” Jensen said. “It’s the most expensive dollar per watt project.”

But Gerken, the project architect, thinks even seasonal use of environmentally-friendly facilities can inspire the public to think differently. He cites light rail service at Target Field.

“Many people’s first experience with Metro Transit and the light rail was ‘hey, let’s go to a Twins Game,'” he said. “And now they’re used to it, they know about it. … It’s an option to go to the airport; it’s an option to go to the Mall of America.”

Ann Hunt, environmental policy director for the city of St. Paul, said the innovative stadium features aren’t just demonstration projects but part of a larger effort across the city’s public sector. Another example of the city’s environmental focus, she said, is the solar hot water system for the RiverCentre convention center. Hunt said it’s one of the biggest in the Midwest.

“This installation heats hot water to help heat the RiverCentre complex and the Xcel Energy complex and provide domestic hot water for that facility,” she said.

Maybe We Should Have Elected a White President After All

I originally wrote this in August 2009. It still pertains, though I’d probably write it a bit differently today. Slightly edited:

There is no doubt that this country is not ready for a Black President.

Nor would this country ever be ready for any non-white or non-male president until we actually went ahead and elected one–ready or not–and then made the necessary adjustments. And that could have been what would have happened with the historic election of Barack Obama.

Except it didn’t.

Join me, if you will, in a moment of utter, deep cynicism. That would mean you thinking, for just a moment, exactly like I think every second of the day. This will be painful for you, unless you are already where I am. In my world, I see almost every nationally elected Republican, almost every one of the teabaggers at the town hall meetings, and almost every one of the strutting libertarians with their strap-ons (because they don’t have real ones) as a racist. I also see half the liberals that I know as racists. I see almost every white person who lives in the suburbs and who has a job and an income with benefits as a racist. I probably think you are a racist. You may think I’m over doing it, you may think I’m being unfair, you may think I’ve oversimplified, and you may think I’ve got it wrong.

I have oversimplified, but I’m not overdoing it, I’m not being unfair, and I don’t have it wrong. It is you that has it wrong and that is the problem. Standing by and letting what we are seeing happening on the national stage and doing nothing about it is plain and pure complicity.

I’m thinking about the response to health care reform. The most active of them all, the teabaggers and the Republicans in office, each and every one, are reacting not to anything about health care, but rather to the fact that our president is a black man, and they are reacting to little else. Proposals that the Republicans have made themselves over the last decade are being touted as attempts to kill grandma or take away our freedoms or introduce socialism. There is nothing rational in what the teabaggers and Republicans are saying. Not. One. Thing.

Does any of this mean that we have prematurely elected our first black president? No, of course not. That is all to be expected. That would all be part of the transformation our country will go through to make the election of non-white-male presidents (in some combination) plausible rather than jaw-dropping remarkable.

The problem is not that the crazy right wing is upset and screaming at us from the back of the room telling us to shut up. The problem is that the rest of the country, or at least a significant number of individuals, especially in elected office and in the media, are not calling this what it is. Yes, there have been hints, here and there, of racist undertones and overtones, but the spade is not being called a spade. As it were.

And the reason is disgusting. The reason that the mainstream press and numerous elected officials are not identifying the town hall teabaggers and the anti-health care Republicans as racists is because the ground has been prepared to make sure that when someone does call someone else out on racism in the mainstream public square, that act…the act of identifying racism…is considered just as bad as the racism itself. It is called “playing the race card.” The whole “Oh, now you’re going to play the race card, aren’t you!” gambit was developed, prepared, and inculcated into society over the last 15 years (really, 14 years…since the OJ Simpson trial), so now racism has a place at the table. Where it does not belong.

Over the last 24 hours (as I write this on Monday) the public option part of health care reform has been taken off the table. I can hope, tell myself, guess, fantasize, that this is just a strategy, and that the public option will be back. I can figure that this is just to give some time for the famous Obama grassroots organizing to get up to speed, and that the public option will be in the health care bill and will be voted into place. But I doubt it. I strongly suspect that the golden opportunity, which comes around very 12 to 20 years, has been lost once more.

I will die before there is a good health care system. My daughter will reach middle age or even old age before there is a good health care system.

The outcome, years later, as we enter the last two years of President Obama’s second term, is this: The Democrats can not nominate another black president, ever. The Republicans have succeeded in their strategy. Keeping the White in the White House.

And the Democrats let that happen.

Saline Church Uses Solar For The Majority Of Electric Needs

Saline is a small town in Michigan, just under 9,000 people. As the name might suggest, it is the site of a natural salt source used by Native Americans, later explorers and traders. Today the big industry there is auto parts, but the University of Michigan provides many jobs there as well.

The First Presbyterian Church of Saline has covered much of their roof with a big solar array capable of covering well over half of their electricity needs.

From the Saline Reporter:

In early August, a 15 kilowatt, 56-panel system was installed… Officials recently received their first utility bill from DTE, which showed more than a 70 percent savings, said Chip Manchester, founding member of the church’s Environmental Stewardship group.

During the September billing period, the panels generated 2,160 kilowatt hours, which is more than 70 percent of the energy needed to power the 2,800 square-foot building for the month. The electricity bill at the church went from $350 to $75, he said.

“It (the bill) was definitely a pleasant surprise, it’s one thing to have it promised but it’s another thing to have it realized,” said Kurt Leutheuser, finance elder with the church.

The $45,000 system is projected to fund about two thirds of the church’s electrical use throughout the year, last 25 years and pay for itself in 13 years. It was financed by the nearly 300-person congregation with the average contribution being close to $1,000, Manchester said.

Small town getting a good way off the carbon-based grid

Geneseo, Illinois is a small town with fewer than 7,000 people. They plan to meet about half their electricity needs, on a good day (windy, sunny) with clean energy, after the installation of some new cool technology.

From the Dispatch Argus:

City officials have been notified of a $1 million grant for a one-megawatt solar energy array from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation.

Total cost of the project is expected to be $2 to $2.5 million. Under the project, renewable energy would provide about half the city’s daily nine-megawatt appetite for power — enough for about 220 homes — between the one-megawatt solar system and the three megawatts from the city’s two wind turbines on an ideal day.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Mayor Nadine Palmgren to sign an agreement with the foundation for the grant. Ald. Howard Beck, 3rd Ward, was absent.

Council approval also will be needed for funding, seeking bids and awarding the project, according to electric superintendent Lewis Opsal.

Geneseo’s solar array would be located on five acres now a soybean field at the foot of the city’s wind turbines, where it would connect to an existing substation.

“It would be great for reducing our transmission costs,” said Mr. Opsal. “There is a long line of people very interested in that grant. It’s a perfect project for Geneseo.”

Kathy Allen, of Geneseo, questioned if the project would lower power bills in the city. Mr. Opsal said, hopefully, the city would be able to hold costs steady. He noted a large utility recently raised rates 23 percent and U.S. power rates could double in the future because of the closure of high-emission plants.

Giant Batteries in Chicago

An example of Clean Energy marching forward:

Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., better known as RES Americas, said Tuesday it will build two of the largest commercial-sized energy storage projects in North America.

RES, a wind farm developer based in Broomfield, Colorado, said the two projects will be built outside of Chicago, and once completed in 2015, will be capable of storing a total of 19.8 megawatts of power to support the local Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electricity grid.

These batteries will be on line, or should I say, inserted into the back of Chicago behind a giant plastic plate held in by a huge screw (I assume). by August 2015, and they will operate for ten years.

Details here.

Build a solar power plant to help run a water treatment plant!

RMU Announces Solar Plant Completion

Rochelle Municipal Utilities, in Rochelle, Illinois, has. started operation of a large Photovoltaic Solar Plant providing power to their water treatment facility. This is a great example of a project that should be done in more places.

In the Spring of 2014, RMU was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to fund construction of the Solar Plant. ICECF provides grants for up to $2/watt or 60% of the system and its installation costs, whichever is less. As a result of the competitive bidding process, Eagle Point Solar was awarded the project.

“Rochelle’s 312 kW Solar Photovoltaic plant is one of the larger Public Power Utility owned plants in Illinois. This plant will provide renewable energy to the water treatment plant” stated Business & Financial Analyst Dan Westin. “Treatment plants require a lot of energy to make clean water. Rochelle will continue to explore financially sound projects in the area of renewable energy.”

As a result of this project, Rochelle Municipal Utilities has been selected as a recipient of this year’s Northern Illinois Renewable Energy Summit & Expo’s “Leadership by Example” award.

You can view the plant’s output real time here.

The water treatment plant has a peak energy demand of about 420 kW and the PV system can cover over half of that. During summer months, when the Sun’s energy is maximally available, the sun will provide about 45% of the plant’s energy requirements. It helps that the plant operates mainly during daylight hours, so this is a good fit for a solar installation.

According to Dan Westin, of Rochelle Municipal Utilities, “the unique part of Rochelle is that as a Muni owned utility it can include the grid capacity cost savings in the business case as well the solar energy credits marketed in the Pennsylvania market. The payback is less than five years that way. So 15 years of free solar energy. The cost of producing clean water goes down.”

Dan also told me that there are similar projects in Galena and Rockford Illinois.

Ford Is Installing Green Energy Facilities

Ford is going to put the state of Michigan’s largest solar array at their headquarters in Dearborn Michigan, in cooperation with DTE Energy. This will provide 360 covered parking spaces with 30 spots for plug-in electric vehicles. I will be a 1.038 mW plant and will offset nearly 800 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That’s actually a very small amount of solar power considering what could be done, but it is a start.

Meanwhile, Ford is also installing wind turbines at four US dealerships. This is a wind sail type turbine, which is fairly efficient and should be relatively bird friendly. Each installation will be accompanied by a 7 kW solar array. Each system will produce 20,000 kW of electricity each year, offsetting 14 tons of GHG annually per installation. The electricity will be used to provide electricity to the dealerships and power a few plug-in chargers for cars.

How To Drive In The Snow

Slowly and carefully. This is not hard to remember.

I think most people do that, but it seems that at least here in Minnesota, when the snow and ice is on the road, while most people slow down and become more cautious, a smaller subset of individuals speed up and become more reckless. Usually, the latter are driving pickups, but not always.

So, I made this chart of inverse caution while driving:

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 10.55.26 AM

Chipping away at the baseload myth

One of the most persistent myths about clean energy is that clean energy does not supply a reliable source of electricity. That myth usually includes ideas such as we need coal, or nuclear, to provide baseload.

Check out this analysis from Forbes:

Experts: Reducing Carbon Emissions And Increasing Grid Reliability Are Doable

With the Clean Power Plan out for comment, a lot utilities are scurrying to figure out their game plan — or just how they would work with their state utility regulators to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The general feeling is that the goal is doable but it may take a little more time.

Understandably, the utilities and the state regulators want to find better and cheaper ways of doing business. Their level of enthusiasm, though, differs based on which part of the country they live and which fuels they burn to make electricity. The Northeast and California are leading the charge, having created free market exchanges to buy and sell credits to reduce carbon levels — mechanisms that each say is helping to broaden their generation mixes and to boost their economies.

Detroit-Chicago High Speed Rail

Nice to see some movement on advanced, 21st (really, 20th) century public transportation. From Detroit Free Press:

A completed high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit could boost round-trip passenger train service between the two cities from the current three daily trips to 10 by 2035 at speeds of 110 m.p.h., according to preliminary planning on the project.

The higher speeds would also cut the 5 hour, 38 minute trip by almost two hours, and reduce 20 minutes from the leg that continues from Detroit to Pontiac, which would see an extra four daily round-trips from the current three.

John Coleman, Founder of The Weather Channel On Fox News

… to play the victim. Interestingly, Fox News doesn’t exactly give him a pass at first. Then they threw him an Al Gore softball on Arctic Ice. Watch:

Media Matters for America has a great writeup on this. It is all about false balance. Fox is great at that.

Coleman’s experience in weather forecasting does not make him an expert in climate science — there is an immense difference between a scientist and a weather forecaster. … Disregarding the fact that Coleman never received a formal education in meteorology — his degree was in journalism — his experience predicting the weather does not make him a credible source to debunk the vast majority of scientific literature on climate change.

Coleman also claimed that “9,000 Ph.D.’s and 31 [thousand] scientists” agree with his position on climate change, referring to the widely discredited Oregon Petition Project. Its signatories are mostly engineers with master’s degrees, and it once included the names of fictitious characters and a member of the Spice Girls.

Coleman is not a climate scientist. Neither is Al Gore, actually. But one of them is seriously concerned about climate change and does listen to what climate scientists day. Guess which one.

How to get women. To vote for you. If you are a politician.

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

Joireman with students in his lab at WSU. (Photos by Rebecca Phillips, WSU)

There are a lot of possible answers to that question, but whatever set of answers you like, you have to account for change. Certain social justice or reproductive rights issues are less important now than they they have been in the past, not because the issues are less important, but because they are more settled. A new change you have to account for now, for a certain voting bloc of women, is Climate Change. Science 2.0 has a summary of a recent study — Don’t Believe In Global Warming? Women Won’t Vote For You — suggesting that for some, climate change has become a woman’s issue.

The study is by Jeff Joireman and Richie Liu is “Future-oriented women will pay to Reduce Global Warming: Mediation via political orientation, Environmental Values, and Belief in Global Warming.” and here is the abstract:

The present work addresses calls to clarify the role of gender in climate change mitigation and adaptation by testing a theoretical model linking gender and concern with future and immediate consequences to mitigation actions through political orientation, environmental values, and belief in global warming (gender x time orientation ? liberal political orientation ? environmental values ? belief in global warming ? willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Drawing on a sample of 299 U.S. residents, structural equation modeling and bootstrapped indirect effects testing revealed support for the model. Interaction analyses further revealed that women scored higher than men on model variables among respondents who routinely consider the future consequences of their actions, but the gender difference was reversed among those low in concern with future consequences (on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay to reduce global warming). Practical and theoretical implications are considered.

The study has a press release by Rebecca Phillips:

Politicians who discredit global warming risk losing a big chunk of the female vote….women who consider the long-term consequences of their actions are more likely to adopt a liberal political orientation and take consumer and political steps to reduce global warming.

Jeff Joireman, associate professor of marketing at Washington State University, demonstrated that “future-oriented” women are the voting bloc most strongly motivated to invest money, time and taxes toward reducing global warming.

Joireman said belief in global warming is positively linked to outdoor temperatures, so in light of recent record-breaking heat, people – especially future-oriented women – may have climate change on their minds during next week’s midterm elections.

September was the hottest on record in 135 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects 2014 will likely break the record for hottest year.

This year’s political contests are also heated, with environmental ads surging to record levels. More than 125,000 political spots cite energy, climate change and the environment – more than all other issues except health care and jobs – according to an analysis by Kantar Media/CMAG.

Motivating the wider populace to engage and take action on global warming, however, is an ongoing challenge, said Joireman.
“Decisions that affect global warming pose a dilemma between what is good for individuals in the ‘here and now’ versus what is good for society and the environment ‘in the distant future,’” he said.
“Unfortunately, it can take several decades for the lay public and lawmakers to realize there is a problem that needs fixing,” he said. “This is clearly the case with global warming, as the consequences of our current lifestyle are not likely to be fully realized for another 25 to 50 years.”

…Joireman investigated how the time element contributes to people’s willingness to address climate change.

For the study, he focused on the personality trait called “consideration of future consequences.”

Those who score high on the trait scale tend to be very worried about the future impacts of their actions, while those with lower scores are more concerned with immediate consequences.

… his team polled 299 U.S. residents, with an age range of 18-75. Forty-eight percent of the respondents were female and 80 percent were Caucasian.

Women scored higher than men on liberal political orientation, environmental values, belief in global warming and willingness to pay to reduce global warming when their concern with future consequences was high.

But it wasn’t a simple gender difference. Women scored lower than men on liberal political orientation and willingness to pay when their concern with future consequences was low.

Joireman said a specific chain of influences makes future-oriented women more likely to take action. First, they are more politically liberal.

Liberals are more likely to value the environment, which makes them more likely to believe in global warming, he said. All together, these effects lead to a willingness to pay more in goods, services and extra taxes to help mitigate climate change.

“Future-oriented women, for example, might be more willing to pay higher prices for fuel-efficient cars, alternative forms of transportation and energy-efficient appliances. They might also eat less meat – all to help lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

The question for environmental advocates now, said Joireman, is to “figure out how to motivate all people to engage in behaviors that reduce global warming. To be effective, we will likely need to tailor persuasive messages to appeal to the consequences people value.
“If people are not worried about future consequences, we have to try to appeal to their more immediate concerns,” he said, “like encouraging them to buy a fuel-efficient vehicle so they can instantly start saving money on gas.”

Rate of mass shootings has tripled in three years

The frequency with which shooting events in the US occurs has gone way up in the last few years, according to recent research. Amy Cohen, Deborah Azarael and Mathew Miller have an article at Mother Jones reviewing the research: Rate of Mass Shootings Has Tripled Since 2011, Harvard Research Shows…And: Why claims in the media that mass shootings aren’t increasing are wrong.

I find the graphic they used a bit odd:

shootingsSince2011-mfms11 (1)

The overall form of the graph shows a decrease over time. But it really shows an increase. You just have to know how to read it. The Y axis is the number of days since the last shooting, which as we can see is very high for several shootings before about 2011, but very low after. But, once you do understand the graph it makes the point very clearly. Notice that there are several time periods prior to 2011 which also have low numbers (meaning more shooting events) but those periods are never very long. There seems to be a dramatic and sustained increase in rate of shootings.

The authors explain it this way:

As the chart above shows, a public mass shooting occurred on average every 172 days since 1982. The orange reference line depicts this average; data points below the orange line indicate shorter intervals between incidents, i.e., mass shootings occurring at a faster pace. Since September 6, 2011, there have been 14 public mass shootings at an average interval of less than 172 days. A run of nine points or more below the orange average line is considered a statistical signal that the underlying process has changed. …The standard interpretation of this chart would be that mass shootings, as of September 2011, are now part of a new, accelerated, process.

Kansas Governor’s Race and Clean Energy

Climate change and clean energy seem to be playing a role in the Kansas Governor’s race. Ari Phillips at ThinkProgress has a post on the race. The issue is preservation vs. abrogation of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard, a state law that requires a certain amount of Kansas energy to be “renewable.” The Koch’s have spent considerable effort and money to have the law repealed. Democratic candidate Paul Davis says he will veto any effort to repeal the law. Brownback formerly supported the law but his support apparently has shifted under the Pressure that Refreshes (Koch).

Davis said the RPS repeal is being championed by a very narrow group of far right special interests with heavy investments in the oil industry. He said this is despite the fact that the policy remains incredibly popular among everyday Kansans and public and private sector leaders who understand the importance of diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. In fact, Kansas’ RPS — which requires investor-owned utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 — is almost entirely fulfilled several years ahead of schedule.

“Frankly, the RPS has become controversial because those who want to repeal the RPS have poured millions into Sam Brownback’s re-election campaign, which has caused him to suddenly change his position,” said Davis.

Phillips points out an interesting irony. Kansas, the state, is named after a Native American tribe whose name translates roughly as “People of the Wind.” And, we all know about the famous Tornadoes in Kansas that are capable of whisking a young girls and their dogs to far away lands!

See Phillips post for a lot more information on the popular and business based support of the renewable energy law that the GOP is now being paid to get rid of.

Checking Real Clear Politics, the race is at present close, following a period of wild swings in polling results:

Kansas_Governor_Davis_Brownback_Polls

Since an earlier attempt to repeal the law failed, the Koch’s have pulled support away from the GOP incumbent. This pattern has apparently played out at the level of state legislative elections as well.

So, we have a business-friendly and popular law, equivocal support or lack thereof by the GOP incumbent, a Democrat who supports the pro-clean energy law running against the incumbent, and a tight election. It may be the case that if Paul Davis wins, it will be an election where Climate Change and Clean Energy mattered.

Interesting Epigenetics Discussion

At Science League of America, Stephanie Keep’s blog, “A Wrinkle In (Change Over) Time, Part 1:

…there has recently been a bit of a wrinkle in this core tenet of evolution. It used to be that you could say with confidence that changes brought about by environmental influences over the course of an individual’s lifetime (loss of limb, build-up of muscle mass) are not heritable. But more and more examples of just that—of environmentally affected traits being passed from parent to offspring—have been recently reported in the scientific literature. Earlier this year, for example, Scientific American ran a piece by biologist Michael Skinner that described the phenomena he has studied since 2005. He recounts how mice exposed to a toxin produce male offspring with low sperm count and underdeveloped sex organs. No problem so far, the offspring were developing within the mother’s body and therefore also exposed. But Skinner’s team noted a disproportionate occurrence of these traits in the next two generations. There was no trace of the toxin in…

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 7.54.00 PM

Interesting post, and interesting, lively discussion.