Green Team News

Welcome to the Michigan Green Team blog. This is a work in progress so please check back often.

Our August meeting is Thursday, August 13th. For more details and to RSVP, click HERE.

Minutes from our July 14, 2009 meeting are HERE.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Floating windmills the key to offshore wind energy?

There seem to be two types of people in the world -- those who think this looks totally cool:

...and those who do not.

Because wind energy sources are, in many cases, found on shorelines (oceans, seas, the Great Lakes, e.g.), finding ways to move the wind turbines out over the horizon has many attractive advantages: visual impact, noise, bird deaths are all reduced. The problem is that the water there is so deep, anchoring them to the lake, sea or ocean floor is not feasible.

Enter the floating wind turbine. Seriously.

There are three basic types as shown in this diagram:

You have those that are ballast stabilized, mooring stabilized and buoyuancy stabilized.

StatoilHydro, a Norwegian oil and gas company, has teamed up with Siemens and Technip to develop an operational ballast stabilized 2.3 megawatt floating offshore wind turbine called the Hywind.

Here it is under construction:

According to an a recent article in Composites Manufacturing it was assembled thusly:

After nearly a decade of research, the company began assembly and installation of the one-of-a-kind windmill [in June 2009]. The assembly was done in stages. First, the substructure was towed horizontally from a port to a nearby fjord where water was poured in until the structure upended itslef. Then, gravel and stone were used to lower it to the required depth of 328 feet (100 meters) below the surface. The tower, which is 213 feet tall, was added in two sections; and lastly the generator and blades were attached.

Here's a drawing of the final installation:

Youtube video HERE.

It will now undergo a two-year pilot study looking at how the turbines behave under floating conditions and measuring forces and fatigue under different motion controlling routines.

Again from the Composites Manufacturing article:
The floating structure, designed to behave similar to a boat hull, consists of a steel jacket filled with ballast and software, which will control the windmill blades and effectively stabilize the structure.

I'm one of those types that thinks wind farms look totally coolio, jack. But lots of folks aren't. Offshore windmills that are out beyond the horizon may be a solution to this problem and it looks like the technology now exists to make that a reality. How cool is that???!

And one more thing: why is this being developed by a Norwegian oil and gas company and not an American one???

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Big Oil Lobby plans astroturf campaign

I highly commend your attention to the DeSmogBlog blog entry "Leaked Memo: Oil Lobby Launches Fake 'Grassroots' Campaign".

According to a leaked memo obtained by Greenpeace, the Big Oil lobby is planning an anti-climate change legislation astroturf campaign modeled on the one conducted by health insurance companies to combat health care reform. Event venues have already been selected and plans are underway to fund and execute "Energy Citizen" rallies across the country.

The event in Michigan is, apparently, September 3 in Livonia so we'll need to be prepared to turn people out (more to come on that.) Please check out the blog and read the memo (PDF file) from Phil Radford at Greenpeace. In the American Petroleum Institute (API) memo that Greenpeace had leaked to them, Jack Gerard, President and CEO of API said:

"Please treat this information as sensitive and ask those in your company to do so as well...we don't want critics to know our game plan."

Phil Radford, in a letter to Gerard, concluded his letter with: "Game plan known".

The question is, will we do what is necessary to combat it?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carol Browner on Detroit Automakers: "So Much Optimism!"

Former head of the EPA and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Carol Browner, was in Michigan on August 3rd to talk to Detroit vehicle manufacturers about the future of the industry. She was invited by freshman Representative Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield) who has recently introduced legislation called ADVANCED VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY ACT that will inject $550 million into the Dept. of Energy for research and development of the next generation of energy efficient vehicles.

Carol Browner, head of the Enviromental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton, was picked by President Obama as the first director of the newly created Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. She was in Michigan yesterday to attend an event described by the Detroit News as "a panel of auto executive, suppliers and academic and government researchers gathered Monday at Automation Alley to discuss the future of car production in the United States".

While there, she talked to the crowd about the Obama administration's view that vehicle fuel efficiency advances and emissions regulation are "part of an ongoing commitment to help the industry recover and retool". In other words, rather than an impediment to the industry, these actions to protect our planet and to wean our country off from our dependency on foreign fossil fuels are an OPPORTUNITY for U.S. vehicle manufacturers to regain their position as global leaders in the development and manufacturing of vehicles people actually want to buy.

"There are so many interesting things going on here in Detroit, and we want to start down that path of breaking our dependence on foreign oil."

Browner also said that the current administration is insistent that commercially successful developments be "technologically neutral". "It should be driven by science and driven by the consumer," she told the panel. According to the Oakland Press, Browner said she plans "to use her notes from the discussion to build inquiries on how the federal government could do more for carmakers."

Later in the evening I attended a fundraiser for Rep. Peters and Ms. Browner was in attendance. She spoke passionately about the Obama administration's strong desire to help domestic automakers rise from the ashes. Rather than seeing a group of downtrodden, beaten-up business people, she was delighted to find a receptive and eager audience, ready to take on the new challenges posed by our woeful economy and our nation's energy & climate situation.

"There was just so much optimism in the room today."

There's reason for optimism. Rep. Peters, the first Democrat to be elected in his district since it was created in 1933, is working hard to ensure that manufacturers in this state are given the tools they need to adapt to the changing economic reality. Passing a bill out of committee in his first eight months in office is no small feat. According to Peters' press release, his legislation:

“Investing in research and development of advanced vehicle technologies will help our auto companies turn the corner and emerge from the global economic crisis,” said Rep. Peters. “This legislation will help ensure the cars of the future are built here in the U.S., creating good paying jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In Southeast Michigan we have many companies in prime position to lead the world in the development of these exciting new products. This bill is good for the country and great for Michigan. These are exactly the sort of targeted investments we need to get our economy moving.”

And this isn't all just about cars. Peters says his bill "would also aggressively expand efforts to develop fuel efficient commercial truck technologies and engage auto parts and component suppliers in DOE research and development programs." What does that mean? Here's an example (from the Detroit News article):

Dr. Grace Bochenek, director of the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, said her organization is looking for light-weight solutions for military vehicles including the Humvee, which gets 3 miles per gallon.

"We hope to drive an all-electric ground combat vehicle by 2025. We see that as a capability that will change battlefield dynamics," Bochenek said.

After the panel discussion yesterday, both Peters and Browner were able to see some other examples of the new technological advances that are in the pipeline including an all-electric Ford Focus, due to be released in 2011, and together they drove a next-generation semi-truck. "He drove, I was just a passenger," Browner joked at the fundraiser. "It was in parking lot so everyone was safe!"

I am thrilled to see a Michigan Democrat taking such an early and strong position in this area and it's welcome news that the Obama administration is taking it very seriously as well. My only regret? Two sentences into introducing myself to Ms. Browner, Rep. John Dingell arrived to give a speech and she was hustled off immediately afterwards to catch a plane. I never got a chance to tell her about our local OFA group's efforts to make sure energy conservation stimulus money is being spent properly and directed to those who need it most.

Maybe next time.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mich. Gov. issues significant climate change executive order

In November of 2007, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order establishing the Michigan Climate Action Council (MCAC). Over the course of the next 16 months, the MCAC, a collection of stakeholders from across the spectrum, developed a 125-page document, the Michigan Climate Action Council Climate Action Plan [.pdf] which contains 53 recommendations for reducing the impacts of climate change.

Yesterday, during the Clean Energy Now! rally on the lawn of the Michigan Capitol, we learned via Twitter that Governor Granholm had signed a second executive order, EXECUTIVE DIRECTIVE No. 2009-4, that implements several of the MCAC's recommendations, all aimed at achieving the MCAC's stated goal of delivering a 20% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050.

Here's the tweet we received from "govgranholm":

Just signed Climate Action Council exec. order - 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050; 20% reduction by 2020. GREAT news for Michigan!

The Michigan Climate Action Council is composed of 35 different representatives [.pdf] from groups ranging from energy companies and corporations to government groups and native American tribes. Their goals were to:

  • Produce an inventory and forecast of greenhouse gas sources and emissions from 1990-2020.
  • Consider potential state and multi-state actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in various sectors including energy supply, energy efficiency and conservation, industrial process and waste management, transportation and land use, and agriculture and forestry.
  • Develop a comprehensive climate action plan with specific recommendations for reducing greenhouse gases in Michigan by business, government and the general public.
  • Advise state and local government on measures to address climate change.

They came up with 54 total recommendations. 52 of these were approved unanimously, one was not unanimous and the last was rejected. The MCAC estimates that, if implemented, their recommendations would "result in overall net cumulative savings in Michigan of more than $10 billion between 2009 and 2025, with additional significant cost savings between 2020 and 2050."

Governor Granholm's executive order implements nine of these recommendations, including:

  • Revising building codes to include higher energy efficiency standards.
  • Reducing vehicular congestion in major urban areas by expanding the use of intelligent transportation systems, mitigating bottlenecks, and constructing roundabouts.
  • Developing a truck idling program for the state fleet of trucks, buses and heavy-duty equipment that will reduce emissions created by unnecessary idling.
  • Creating an eco-driver program for all employees using state vehicles that will educate them on how to maximize vehicle fuel economy.
  • Expanding the Michigan Conservation and Climate Initiative to educate farmers in carbon sequestration (capture) practices that can be applied to their land.

At the Clean Energy Now! rally yesterday, one of the speakers was Frank Ettawageshik, the past Chair of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and a member of the MCAC. During his talk, he discussed the native American concept of thinking and making decisions while taking into account seven generations into the future. He said that when you do this, decisions that might seem easy to make take on a new dimension when seven generations are considered.

This was the case with one of the Council's recommendations which had six opposing votes and two abstentions: the promotion of "New Nuclear Power". Ettawageshik told the rally crowd that, when looked at in the near-term, the decision to promote nuclear power seems easy and smart. But when looked at from the perspective of seven future generations, the decision changes. As he pointed out, nuclear waste requires oversight for a longer period of time than any civilization has existed in the history of our planet.

Perhaps as we consider the major issues of our day like climate change/pollution, health care reform, education and others, we, too, should think in terms of several future generations. Our lawmakers today seem incapable of thinking beyond several future months or years (i.e., election cycles) and that, I believe, harms us all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ann Arbor to Plant 1,000 Trees

From Concentrate Media:

Tree Town is about to get a big infusion of fresh bark this year (and next) as the city makes plans to plant 1,000 new trees.

The city expects to spend about $300,000 buying and planting the trees late this fall and into early next spring. The money is coming from the city's stormwater fund.

"Trees provide an exceptional benefit for stormwater because they suck up so much water in their leaves and trunk," says Kerry Gray, urban forestry and natural resources planning coordinator for the city of Ann Arbor

More HERE.

U of M Group Invests in Wind Energy Company

From Concentrate Media:

The venture capitalists at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business have struck again, investing $80,000 into an Ann Arbor-based company.

Accio Energy will use the money to develop a wind energy system that generates electricity differently than your standard wind turbine. The "aerovoltaic technology" uses charged particles and wind to generate electricity in a machine that doesn’t have any moving parts.

More HERE.

US House Vote on American Clean Energy and Security Act Imminent

From Repower America:

This is an extraordinary moment.

There are mere days before the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the most unprecedented clean energy and climate legislation in our nation's history. But, our opponents have stepped up a blatant distortion campaign on TV and behind closed doors to scare Congress from taking action.

They know this vote will be close. But, what the special interests have in money and rhetoric, we have in facts and supporters like you.

Let your Representative know that you want a cleaner and stronger economy today. Urge them to support the American Clean Energy and Security Act now.

Call your Representative: 877-9-REPOWER

When you call, you will be given talking points and simply instructions to be connected to your Representative. Afterwards, help us coordinate our campaign by reporting your call here.

Just a few days ago, Members of Congress who oppose clean energy paraded around a map that distorts the truth about curbing carbon pollution. Not only was the analysis misleading, the computer file still listed the original author -- the coal lobby.

And another group, funded by the fossil-fuel industry, released targeted TV ads designed to drum up fear ahead of the vote.

We can't let the corporate interests fighting to keep the status quo scare us into sticking to rising fuel costs, more job losses and a continued dependence on foreign oil.

Congress has debated clean energy and the climate crisis for decades. Now is the time to act. Let's make sure the House passes this historic legislation.

Please call your Representative: 877-9-REPOWER (877-9-737-6937)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Green-Oriented Petitions

There are a number of green-oriented petitions in circulation right now. Here are a few that may interest you. (Note that most of these sites will ask you to consider making a donation but none of them require it in order to sign the petition. They may also send you emails in the future though all of them will allow you to opt out later if you wish to.)

First, Keystone Progress has a petition that allows you to sign onto a letter encouraging Congress to pass a strong energy policy bill:
There's a huge fight in Congress right now over how to attack global warming and jumpstart a green economy. On our side is everyone who wants clean energy, green jobs and cares about the future. Against us is Big Oil, King Coal, and the fact that most people sit on the sidelines.

Your member of Congress really needs to know which side you're on, and that you want a stronger clean energy and green jobs bill.

Powerful oil and coal interests did some real damage to a good bill in the House Energy Committee - winning loopholes, bailouts, and giveaways from taxpayers. The current bill doesn't actually require the creation of wind or solar power, and repeals President Obama's ability to regulate dirty power plants.

But we can strengthen and improve this bill on the House floor, if enough members of Congress will join our fight. Can you send a letter urging your representative to fight for a stronger bill?

Sign the petition HERE.

Repower America has a related video:

Environment Michigan has a petition allowing you to encourage Congress to pass The American Clean Energy and Security Act. The petition reads:

I support dramatic efforts to usher in a new clean energy economy and cut global warming pollution. The American Clean Energy and Security Act would require all new buildings to be green buildings within a generation. Please support this legislation and take every opportunity to strengthen it and deliver more clean energy for America.

Sign the petition HERE.

Finally, has a petition similar to Keystone's. The petition reads:

"We need a stronger energy bill to fulfill Obama's vision of a clean energy economy. Congress should strengthen the clean energy standards and restore Obama's authority to crack down on dirty coal plants."

Sign their petition HERE.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Detroit Free Press Endorses Localvore-oriented Public Policy

In its March 29, 2009 Sunday editorial, the Detroit Free Press urges law-makers and policy-makers to support efforts to encourage the support of local (i.e., Michigan) farmers and food growers/producers.

Policymakers, back homegrown food

The big supermarket chains that distribute most of the nation's fresh produce are partial to drier climate varieties that travel well.

Michigan growers typically do better selling the state's succulent fruits and vegetables to food processing companies that freeze, dehydrate or can them for distribution worldwide.

But Michiganders concerned about food safety and the diminished nutritional value of processed foods, plus the high monetary and environmental costs of shipping food across vast distances, are hungry for fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy goods produced closer to where they live -- and farmers, distributors and retailers are all responding.

Now it's up to policymakers to promote a trend that promises enormous benefits to Michigan's health, environment and economic vitality.

The editorial is a coherent statement on the benefits of the localvore (also called "locavore") philosophy. From

A Localvore is a person dedicated to eating food grown and produced locally. There are a lot of good reasons to eat locally grown and produced food.

  • Less resources (primarily fossil fuels) are expended packaging and transporting local food.
  • It supports the local economy - more money remains in our local community.
  • It is healthier - processing and preservatives are less important since the food doesn't have to travel so far.
  • It is safer and thus localvores are less susceptible to foodborn illnesses.
  • It is more honest - honesty in terms of the food source (i.e. organic seeds vs. GMO seeds) and the growing/producing process. It has to be! We are all neighbours.
  • If for no other reason - IT TASTES BETTER!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tesla Motors Unveils New All-Electric Sedan

Tesla Motors, manufacturer of the all-electric Roadster sportscar, this week revealed a new passenger sedan called the Model S. The Model S is intended as a family car and can seat up to seven people (five adults and two children.) Other features:

The Tesla Model S

  • 300 mile range per charge
  • Zero-to-sixty in 5.6 seconds
  • 45-minute charge time
  • 2X as efficient as hybrids
  • Costs roughly $5 to drive 230 miles
  • Top speed: 120 mph

The Model S was developed at Tesla's Technical Center in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

The Model S, Tesla Motors' second highway-capable vehicle, is priced at just under $50,000 (after federal rebates.) It will begin shipping in 2011. Because it has no engine, there is additional trunk space under the front hood giving it more storage space than most station wagons.

Tesla's battery technology was developed in-house. Their vehicles have tremendous acceleration & torque and are nearly silent.

If Tesla receives an anticipated $350 million federal loan through the Dept of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, it will build the vehicle in California.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour - March 28th, 2009

From 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. this Saturday, March 28, 2009, Earth Hour is being celebrated around the globe. From the Earth Hour website:

This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, between Earth and global warming.

For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming.

The Ann Arbor City government is taking part in the Earth Hour "election". The Ann Arbor News reports:

It will be lights out, or at least dim, in Ann Arbor on Saturday, March 28 as the city participates in Earth Hour - a worldwide event meant to make a statement about climate change.

Begun in Australia in 2007, Earth Hour is a project of the World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund. It calls for individuals and communities across the globe to turn off lights for 60 minutes, 8:30-9:30 p.m.

The goal is to have 1 billion people participate and signal their support for action to address global warming.

It's also an opportunity to encourage home and business owners to reduce their carbon footprints and conserve energy, according to Ann Arbor City Council Members Sandi Smith, Carsten Hohnke and Margie Teall, who promoted the city's participation.

With the full City Council's support, Ann Arbor will turn off - or dim - all non-essential lights in city government buildings and streetlights along Main Street during Earth Hour

The steps should serve as rallying point for the energy conservation citywide Earth Hour and beyond, supporters said.

The council decision followed a vote on another energy and environment issue Monday. Council members also approved a resolution establishing the city's opposition to the continued use of coal to generate electricity.
More information from the City of Ann Arbor can be found HERE.

An event is also planned at the Touchstone Cohousing community in Scio Township. Contact Tom Idzikowski at (517) 712-3934 for more information.

Earlier this month Ann Arbor-area Representative Rebekah Warren (53rd House District) introduced House Resolution 0046 (2009) to "encourage the citizens of the state of Michigan to participation in Earth Hour 2009."