energy

Tom Remick / wikimedia commons

American Electric Power officials say reactor no. 2 at the Cook Nuclear Plant in southwest Michigan came back online Saturday after a 38-day refueling and maintenance shutdown.

Cook Nuclear Plant is located north of Bridgman, Michigan.  

From an AEP press release:

Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook Nuclear Plant Unit 2 returned to service today at 4:47 p.m. following a refueling outage that began March 21. In addition to refueling the reactor and performing regular maintenance and testing work, the 38-day, 16-hour outage also included the installation of new main output transformers.

ABC 57 reports reactor no. 1 will be refueled next year.

Wyoming Upper Green River Valley / Flickr

This is a speech I recently gave to a Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism meeting in Detroit on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing.

BENEFITS

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek report, we are seeing an unprecedented drop in the price of natural gas in comparison to oil prices.

Oil is hovering around $100 a barrel. In 2002, oil was about $20 a barrel.

Natural gas is currently at 2002 prices. In fact, the price of natural gas is half of what it was one year ago.

Why? Because of abundant supplies of natural gas, what the U.S. Energy Information Administration calls “robust inshore production.”

There is a glut of gas.

This increased supply is mostly due to hydraulic fracturing. More importantly, a newer way to use the drilling method, horizontal hydraulic fracturing. Horizontal ‘fracking’ has made it easier and cheaper to extract natural gas from shale deposits in the U.S. and other sites around the globe.

Horizontal fracking has meant a boom in gas drilling and production. It’s meant more jobs in certain areas of the country. It’s meant greater dependence on domestic energy, and less dependence on foreign energy.

Because burning natural gas emits about half of the CO2 emissions of coal or oil, it means less of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.

It’s meant families can heat their homes more cheaply.

That all sounds good, right?

Well, it’s not ALL good.

Marathon Oil Company

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is in the process of expanding its facility to process heavier crude oil from Canada.

The expansion brings the company's new refining equipment closer to Detroit's Oakwood Heights neighborhood.

Marathon has been offering to buy homes in this neighborhood to create a buffer zone between the refinery and other residential areas.

Some homeowners in Oakwood Heights have signed on with the buyouts, others have stayed put.

The Detroit News' Jim Lynch reports Marathon has upped the amount it's willing to pay:

This month, Marathon officials said 86 percent of the owners have chosen to enroll in the buyout program — meaning they are willing to have their home appraised and see a monetary offer from the company.

Marathon is sweetening the pot, too, as it initially set a minimum appraisal price of $40,000 per home but already has bumped that figure up to $50,000.

The buyout plan is expected to head off lawsuits from those who live in this area. So far, the program has avoided legal entanglements, but it has generated plenty of hard feelings.

Oakwood Heights is an area surrounded by heavy industry. In addition to the refinery, there's the city's sewage treatment plant, a salt mine, a steel factory, and other industries.

Photo courtesy of Carbon Green BioEnergy

The ethanol refinery for Carbon Green Bioenergy rises up out of the cornfields outside Lake Odessa Michigan.

The refinery was built in 2006. Mitch Miller, the CEO of the company, says a lot of refineries were popping up then.

“Five years ago, ethanol was a craze,” he says. “It was the next best thing.”

Now, not so much. Refineries aren’t being built. Politicians aren’t stopping by with platoons of reporters.

Seriously, when is the last time you heard anyone talk about ethanol?

NRC

DTE Energy has shutdown its Fermi 2 nuclear power plant for refueling and maintenance work.

The Monroe News reports the shutdown is expected to last more than a month.

The company began reducing reactor power Sunday night and the plant stopped producing electricity early Monday morning, officials said.

Besides replacing about a third of the fuel in the reactor, the work will include upgrading the cables that connect the emergency diesel generators to the plant and upgrading the piping that supplies cooling water to the generators. The four big generators are designed to kick on to supply electricity to operator controls when there’s a power outage at the plant.

New equipment also will be installed at the transmission switchyard to improve grid reliability.

DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo told the Associated Press more than 1,500 supplemental workers are in town for the work.It's the 15th refueling and maintenance shutdown at the plant since it began commercial operation in 1988.

A new analysis by the Associated Press found no correlation between domestic oil drilling and gas prices in the U.S.

So this famous line will get you applause...

... but it won't get you lower gas prices.

"Drill, baby, drill has nothing to do with it," said Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist at ITG investment research. Two other energy economists said the same thing and experts in the field have been making that observation for decades.

And it's not just Republicans who make these kind of claims.

Placing blame for high gas prices is low-hanging, point-scoring fruit for any politician.

The Associated Press points out that on the campaign trail in 2008, then presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said "here in Ohio, you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas, 2-1/2 times what it cost when George Bush took office."

He's not blaming the White House occupant these days.

The Associated Press' Seth Borenstein and Jack Gillum wrote "statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."

Energy Conversion Devices

Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., a technology company based in Auburn Hills, Michigan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today.

The company makes thin laminates that convert sunlight to energy and "has manufacturing facilities in Auburn Hills and Greenville, Michigan, as well as sites in Mexico and Canada," according to the Wall Street Journal.

wikimedia commons

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Palisades nuclear power plant in southwestern Michigan is being shut down temporarily for maintenance.

Spokesman Mark Savage said in a statement that control room operators removed the plant from service Thursday night. The plant is near Lake Michigan in Van Buren County's Covert Township.

Savage says the plant was being cooled down Friday morning.

The maintenance work involves the system that controls the nuclear reactor's power level.

There are 45 seals that form a boundary between the cooling system and the atmosphere inside the building that houses the reactor. Officials say one of the seals is showing signs of wear and will be replaced.

Savage says the plant will return to service when the job is finished. Palisades is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp.

user wheat_in_your_hair / Flickr

12:16 p.m.

As it turns out, the planned power outage in parts of Detroit and Highland Park were over by the time the post was put up below. The Associated Press reports:

A planned power outage has wrapped up earlier than expected in part of Detroit and Highland Park after crews worked to repair some underground lines.

DTE Energy Co. said Wednesday's outage affected about 3,500 customers in Detroit and the Detroit enclave.

Officials said the power was shut down to the area as planned about 6 a.m. EST. The power was back on before 11 a.m, more than three hours earlier than expected.

11:35 a.m.

Around 3,500 DTE Energy customers in Detroit and the Highland Park area have had their power cut while the utility company performs "routine maintenance."

Some question whether the timing of the routine maintenance was wise given the cold temperatures.

Fox News in Detroit reports the maintenance was originally scheduled for this past fall:

DTE Energy told FOX 2 the routine maintenance was originally slated for late September or early October, but together with city officials and community leaders, they decided January fourth would be better. That way schools aren't impacted.

A video posted by the Detroit Free Press shows at least two customers in the area are taking the outage in stride.

The Free Press reports that three activity centers have been opened as warming centers in the area:

...the City of Detroit has designated three recreation centers as warming centers.

The warming centers are Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Road; Butzel Family Center, 7737 Kercheval, and Farwell Community Center, 2711 E. Outer Drive.

The power is expected to be turned back on at 2 p.m. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is following this story as well.

Photo by Meg Cramer

by Tanya Ott for The Environment Report

It’s cold outside… and maybe inside, if your house isn’t properly insulated. Home energy efficiency is a big issue and a new study gives Michigan kudos for making it a priority.

Randy Rice has lived in his Southgate, Michigan house for 13 years. He’s lived there – and often shivers there…

“Certainly believe that the air was leaking upstairs. We could feel some breezes. I just saw dollars flying out the window.”

Rice replaced the windows five years ago and it helped… but he still worries about leaks around the windows. So he called in...

“Amanda Godward, with Ecotelligent Homes. I’m the owner and energy auditor.”

Godward’s first step is to interview customers like Randy Rice. She takes house measurements, checks out insulations in the attic and windows. Then…. she goes all high tech with the “thermal infrared scan.”

“We use this to find flaws in the insulation, in the walls, without having to do any destructive testing.”

She turns on a fan that pulls all of the air out of the room. It creates a vacuum so cold air from the outside is pulled inside. She can see, on a scanner, all the little cracks and holes where air is sneaking in.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Palisades nuclear power plant on the Lake Michigan shoreline has restarted after a shut-down caused by a problem with its water pumps.

Operators of the southwestern Michigan plant say it returned to service and reconnected to the electric grid late Thursday night. Both of the plant's feed water pumps automatically shut down
Wednesday afternoon.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. owns the plant, which is in Van Buren County's Covert Township. Palisades is about 35 miles west of Kalamazoo and about 80 miles east-northeast from Chicago across the lake.

Palisades has had several recent operating problems, with two shutdowns in September and one each in August and January.

Michigan lawmakers are debating this week how to help low-income families pay their heating bills. It’s turned into an urgent problem because of federal budget cuts... and a court decision that has tied up millions of dollars. Here’s how it works: there’s a program called the Low-Income Energy Efficiency Fund. If you get your power from DTE or Consumers Energy, you pay into that fund when you pay your energy bills... somewhere between one and two dollars a month. There’s been about $90 million dollars in that fund annually.

Steve Burt / Flickr

Colder weather means squirrels are looking for indoor homes and places to cache their food. Some are more aggressive in establishing their indoor domiciles than others.

From the Associated Press:

Officials at Consumers Energy are blaming a squirrel for knocking out electrical service to about 10,000 customers yesterday in the Grand Rapids area. The critter managed to get into a piece of equipment at a substation, briefly knocking out power.

Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical first unveiled its solar shingle two years ago, with plans for a limited release in mid-2010.

Now the company announced that the shingles will be available to some customers starting this month. The company says they're starting in the strongest markets for solar this month. The shingles will first be available in Colorado, and a "rolling launch" will occur in markets from California to the "East Coast."

In a press release, Dow said the shingle "protects the home like a standard roofing shingle while providing energy that saves the homeowner money":

Dow can now serve the need of homeowners who want to go solar, but aren’t willing to accept the complexity and sub-optimal aesthetics currently offered by bulky, rack-mounted systems.

Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris called Dow's solar shingle "a game changer that will address an estimated $5 billion market by 2015."

From Booth Mid-Michigan:

Dow hasn't reported a price for the shingles, but said the cost to homeowners will be set by the channel to market, and will depend on the size and configuration of the home and desired power generation. Dow officials said the cost of solar shingles can be thousands of dollars less than solar panels installed on top of a roof.

user whizzer's place / creative commons

The state House could vote soon to let Michigan companies ignore new federal efficiency standards for incandescent light bulbs. But they could ignore the law only if they sell the bulbs exclusively to Michigan customers.

That’s because the federal government regulates interstate commerce.

The new federal standards for incandescent bulbs will start to phase in next year.

State Representative Tom McMillan says if his bill passes, it might mean Michigan manufacturers will jump into the incandescent bulb business.

"So I think there's a chance. There's no chance if we don’t pass this. If we do, I think there's a very legitimate chance."

There are currently no factories making incandescent bulbs in Michigan. There is at least one making the new energy-efficient bulbs.

*Correction - This story has been corrected to clarify that the new federal efficiency standards do not ban the sale of incandescent bulbs. The new standards will, however, phase out the common incandescent bulb as we know it.

courtesy of Duke Energy

The Midwest relies so heavily on one source of power that some call us the "coal belt."

Coal is cheap and plentiful, but that’s about to change.

A wave of government regulations is about to hit the electric industry.

Ed Malley, a Vice President at industry consulting firm, TRC Corporation has a name for all the new rules coming down the track: “The train wreck.”

That "train wreck" is the list of environmental regulations expected to be in place within the next few years.

Electric utilities say this will mean the shutting of power plants, leading to higher prices and less peak capacity for hot summer days. Environmentalists say: about time.

user braun / Flickr

There was a fire this morning at a Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit. The Associated Press reports the fire was contained by the company.

Authorities say a fire at Marathon's southwest Detroit oil refinery has been contained by the company's on-site crews.

Some evacuations of contractors were reported following the Thursday morning fire, but people were returning to work.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Marathon officials gave the Detroit Fire Department a "courtesy call" at 8 a.m. this morning:

Smears of dark smoke could be seen from Detroit’s east side.

No Detroit firefighters or equipment were dispatched.

Marathon officials declined to release details of the fire, but said contractors working in the area left the scene but are now returning. No injuries were reported.

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State University says 220 top nuclear scientists from around the world are coming to the East Lansing campus for a three-day meeting starting Thursday.

The university says it's the first joint user meeting of researchers who work at four of the nation's leading nuclear science facilities.

Those are Michigan State's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory and its upcoming Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, the Argonne Tandem Linac Accelerator System at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, and the Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility at Oak Ridge National laboratory in Tennessee.

The meeting runs through Saturday at the Biomedical and Physical Sciences building.

The university says scientists are coming from 48 institutions in 23 states and nine countries.

Energy conservation in Detroit

Aug 16, 2011

 

The “Detroit Youth Energy Squad,” or D-YES, teaches high school students about energy conservation. The students then visit homes in Detroit and make the homes more energy efficient. As part of our What's Working series, we spoke with Justin Schott, founder of the group.

Andy Dolman/Creative Commons

Tons of trees felled by a spring storm that swept across Calhoun County will be used to help generate power for residents and businesses in Mid-Michigan.
    

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that a two-story pile of limbs and branches will be fed into the Genesee Power Station in Flint, which uses wood fuel to create electricity.
    

The debris pile has been growing at the Community Compost Center in Marengo Township, about 110 miles west of Detroit.
    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The federal government will suspend two energy grants in the city of Flint because of the potential misuse of funds.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Energy are investigating stimulus funded grants dating back to 2009, according to the Flint Journal.

Flint Mayor Dane Walling said his office is cooperating with the probe and has launched investigations of their own into the energy grant programs:

mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan ranks seventh worst in air pollution on a list the Natural Resources Defense Council calls the “Toxic 20.” The NRDC study found almost half of all toxic air pollution comes from coal and oil-fired power plants. Detroit Edison’s Monroe Power Plant ranks fourth among power plant polluters in the country. Ohio took first before Pennsylvania, Florida and Kentucky.

Hugh McDiarmid is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He says Michigan is on its way to less toxic energy usage.

"We’re on sort of the verge of a new era where we’re going to use as much renewables as we possibly can, we’re going to look at efficiency because that provides power to about one tenth the cost of a new coal plant and we’re going to maximize those two efforts," McDiarmid said.

McDiarmid says Michigan’s rank on the “Toxic 20” is an opportunity to work toward less harmful energy use in the future.

The "Toxic 20" are:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Maryland
  6. Indiana
  7. Michigan
  8. West Virginia
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
  11. South Carolina
  12. Alabama
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Tennessee
  16. Missouri
  17. Illinois
  18. Wisconsin
  19. New Hampshire
  20. Iowa 

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

NRC

DTE Energy plans to submit an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that would allow the company to operate the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant through 2045.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The utility’s license to operate Fermi 2 expires in 2025 and the application, if approved, would allow DTE Energy to operate it for an addition 20 years.

Fermi 2 began commercial operation in 1988. The renewal is in addition to the utility’s request to the NRC for a new nuclear power facility located at the Fermi site. DTE filed that application in 2008, but the licenses has not been issued yet.

Christoper Sessums / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Severstal North America

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Energy Department says it has loaned $730 million to the North American arm of one of Russia's largest steel companies to modernize its Detroit-area plant.

The government and Severstal North America on Wednesday officially announced plans to upgrade and expand facilities in Dearborn that make steel for the auto industry. They say the project will employ around 2,500 construction workers and create 260 factory jobs.

The money comes from a $25 billion low-interest loan program created in 2007 to help car companies retool older factories to build green cars.

Severstal bought the Dearborn factory in 2004.

DETROIT (AP) - State officials have approved a permit for a coal-burning power plant in northern Michigan.

The state Department of Environmental Quality is announcing the decision Wednesday.

The Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative Inc. now may proceed with its 600-megawatt, coal-fired steam electric power plant near Rogers City, about 210 miles north of Detroit.

Wolverine Power provides electricity to more than 220,000 customers

screen grab from YouTube video / sWestern Lake Erie Waterkeepers and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund

Power plants around the region are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish each year, according to an investigative report from the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's environmental reporter, Michael Hawthorne, looked at thousands of pages of industry reports documenting fish kills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hawthorne reports that the reports "highlight a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years."

John Tebeau / Artist/Illustrator

The Environment Report from Michigan Radio has been recognized for excellence in broadcast journalism by the Radio Television Digital News Association with a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award.

The Environment Report received the award for Best Audio News Documentary in the Radio: Large Market category for “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future.

In the series, The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams, Mark Brush, Lester Graham and Shawn Allee take an in-depth look at the future of coal in this country and the true costs of our dependence on coal. The series explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living. “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future” takes listeners on a journey from their light switch back to America’s coal fields, and takes a closer look at the technologies that promise to deliver coal into the new green economy.

The Environment Report was the only news organization in Michigan to receive a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award, and one of seven public radio stations nationwide. This award is the third national Murrow Award that The Environment Report has received. The news service also received a National Murrow Award in 2010 for the five-part series “Dioxin Delays” and in 2002 for a story about the reproductive decline of mallard ducks in the Great Lakes region.

nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

user pencefn / creative commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it
hasn't abandoned the plan.

Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.

The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great
Lakes would be risky.

The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.

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