Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Updated: Video report: Public Forum on Michigan Proposal 3 examines wind, solar, biomass

By Michele Bourdieu

At the Oct. 25 forum on Michigan Ballot Proposal 3, Sarah Green, Michigan Tech University Chemistry Department chair, introduces the Proposal. On this slide she shows the organizations supporting the proposal for clean energy in Michigan: Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Union of Concerned Scientists and others. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- A small audience of concerned citizens heard from a panel of three Michigan Tech faculty experts on renewable energy during the Oct. 25, 2012, public forum on Michigan Ballot Proposal 3.

Just two days before the forum, the Union of Concerned Scientists published an article noting the importance of this ballot initiative and the efforts of the fossil fuel industry, including the Koch brothers and other anti-clean-energy groups to confuse the public into rejecting it.*

In fact, an article published on Nov. 5, on thinkprogress.org, points out that a utility front group has spent nearly $24 million to defeat the proposal with radio, TV and direct mailing advertising. The article states the following: "The heavy-spending group, called “Coalition for Affordable Renewable Energy,” -- or CARE -- is primarily supported by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, two large utilities with high penetrations of coal. Each company has spent $11 million to campaign against new renewable energy targets. The group also received $100,000 from Enbridge, the energy company responsible for spilling over one million gallons of diluted tar sands crude in the Kalamazoo River in southwest Michigan."**

The forum featured this panel of three Michigan Tech professors, from left: Leonard Bohmann, associate dean and professor of electrical and computer engineering; Joshua Pearce, professor in materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering; and Professor Ezra Bar-Ziv, professor in mechanical engineering. Barry Solomon, professor of geography and Environmental Policy director of the Graduate Program in Environmental Policy, was the moderator of the event. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

In this video clip, Sarah Green, Michigan Tech Department of Chemistry chair, introduces Proposal 3:

At the Oct. 25, 2012, public forum on Michigan Ballot Proposal 3, Sarah Green, Michigan Tech Department of Chemistry chair, introduces the proposal. Click YouTube icon for a slightly larger version of each video clip. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Professor Leonard Bohmann discusses wind energy in Michigan -- its best locations, potential and costs:

Michigan Tech Professor Leonard Bohmann, associate dean and professor of electrical and computer engineering, discusses wind energy in Michigan.

To see another video clip from Prof. Bohmann's presentation, click here.

Joshua Pearce, Michigan Tech professor in materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering, reports on solar energy, giving examples from his Canadian experience. He also notes the successful use of solar in Germany:

Michigan Tech Professor Joshua Pearce speaks about the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy, beginning with roof area -- "a resource we haven't taken advantage of yet," he says.

Click here to see another video clip from Prof. Pearce's presentation, in which he talks about job creation.

Ezra Bar-Ziv, Michigan Tech professor in mechanical engineering, discusses biomass and biocoal as renewable energy -- much cleaner than coal:

Michigan Tech Professor Ezra Bar-Ziv, who is from Israel, discusses biomass, especially biocoal, a synthetic coal, which can use an existing coal power plant, making it economical as well as environmentally cleaner than coal.

Click here to see another video clip of Professor Bar-Ziv's presentation.

After the three presentations, the panel members fielded questions from the audience:

Michigan Tech Professor Barry Solomon moderates the question-answer session following the renewable energy presentations.

Click here and here to see two more video clips of the question-answer session.

After the forum, Rolf and Carolyn Peterson chatted with Keweenaw Now about their own solar and wind energy on their home in Houghton and at their cabin on Isle Royale, where they spend every summer working on Rolf's research for the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study. They had just returned that same day from spending half the year on the island.

Rolf and Carolyn Peterson, foreground, of Houghton and Isle Royale, joined in the question-answer session at the public forum on Michigan Ballot Proposal 3. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

"We've had solar panels on our roof here in Houghton for two years," Carolyn ("Candy") Peterson said. "And on Isle Royale (since 2007) we have two small solar panels and three vertical-axis wind turbines at the cabin."

The panels on the roof in Houghton total 2,000 Watts and cost $13,000 initially, they said. Rolf noted March and July are the best months for solar. 

"We basically do not pay any power bill anymore," Carolyn added. "I didn't realize how much fun it would be to watch our meter run backwards."

This forum was sponsored by the Michigan Tech Graduate Program in Environmental and Energy Policy, the university's Sustainable Futures Institute, the Power and Energy Research Center and the League of Women Voters of the Copper Country. 

Notes:
* Click here to read the article, "Michigan Has a Powerful Megaphone for Our Energy Future," by Kevin Knobloch, president, Union of Concerned Scientists.
**Click here to read this article, "Utility Front Group Raises $24 Million For Scare Campaign To Defeat Michigan Renewable Energy Initiative."
Don't forget to vote TODAY, Nov. 6!
UPDATE: Michigan Tech is also doing research on making biofuel sustainable and clean. See:
"Michigan Tech Leads International Study of Social, Environmental Impacts of Biofuel Production," by Jennifer Donovan, posted Aug. 28, 2012 on Michigan Tech News.

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