Great Lakes

Microsoft buys entire output of Illinois wind farm

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Microsoft took another step toward its goal of becoming carbon neutral, announcing its second enormous purchase of wind energy.

The company signed a 20-year power purchase agreement to buy 175 megawatts (MW) of wind energy — the entire output — of Pilot Hill Wind Project in Illinois. The wind farm is 60 miles from Chicago and will supply Microsoft’s data center there through the grid.

EPA Solicits Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Grant Proposals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a solicitation for a second round of Great Lakes Shoreline Cities Grants. EPA will award grants totaling up to $4.5 million to eligible shoreline cities to fund green infrastructure projects that will improve Great Lakes water quality.

This year, shoreline cities with a population greater than 25,000 and less than 50,000 will be eligible to apply for green infrastructure grants of up to $250,000. Last year, EPA awarded Shoreline Cities Grants totaling just under $7 million to 16 cities with populations greater than 50,000.

“This is an opportunity for more Great Lakes shoreline cities to obtain funding for green infrastructure projects,” said Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. “These GLRI grants will be used for green infrastructure projects that reduce urban runoff and sewer overflows that foul beaches and impair Great Lakes water quality.”

Cities can use the grants to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, porous pavement, greenways, constructed wetlands, stormwater tree trenches and other green infrastructure measures installed on public property. Detailed eligibility requirements are available at

More information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is available at

Champaign County (IL) Volunteers Needed for Low-cost Radon Reduction Pilot Study

The Indoor Climate Research and Training program of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, in its capacity as a member of the Partnership for Advancing Residential Retrofit team of the U.S. DOE’s Building America Program, is conducting a pilot study on radon reduction through low-cost measures.

The aim of this research pilot project is to study the impact of air sealing between the foundation and the living space on radon transport reduction across the foundation-living space floor assembly. It is aimed at reducing radon levels in the lowest living level of the house.  Basements used as a living level are not candidates for this study.

As a part of this study, we are currently seeking homes in Champaign County with crawlspaces or unfinished basements. During this 3 month project, radon concentrations are measured before and after treatment, which involves air-sealing on the underside of the floor and duct sealing. There is no cost to the homeowner. Homes with known radon issues are preferred but not required. Please contact Stacy Gloss at or 217-300-7430 for more information.

We will not be conducting radon education. More information about radon can be found on the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) website or by calling IEMA in Springfield at (217) 782-2700, as well as on the U.S. EPA’s radon website. The U.S. EPA also maintains a Citizen’s Guide to Radon and has a page regarding healthy indoor environments when implementing energy efficiency upgrades.

This is not a health study. We will not be collecting health information.

Without Much Straining, Minnesota Reins In Its Utilities’ Carbon Emissions

Read the full story in the New York Times.

When city leaders and state legislators agreed last year to fund roughly half the $1 billion cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, they attached the usual strings for such projects: It had to be architecturally iconic, employ steel made from Minnesota iron ore and offer at least a few cheap seats.

It also had to be energy efficient, from lighting to building materials to the sources of its power. In this state, that is not unusual. Minnesota has mandated sharp reductions in energy use in every new state-financed building for more than a decade, and in renovated buildings for more than five years.

While other states and critics of the Obama administration have howled about complying with its proposed rule slashing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, Minnesota has been reining in its utilities’ carbon pollution for decades — not painlessly, but without breaking much of a sweat, either.

Today, Minnesota gets more of its power from wind than all but four other states, and the amount of coal burned at power plants has dropped by more than a third from its 2003 peak. And while electricity consumption per person has been slowly falling nationwide for the last five years, Minnesota’s decline is steeper than the average.

After 25 years of growth in the city, the Greening of Detroit comes of age

Read the full story at Model D.

It isn’t easy being a tree in the city.

The average lifespan of an urban tree is just 20 percent what it would be in the wild. For every tree that’s planted in Detroit, four are lost. A number of stressors contribute to this high mortality rate: compacted soil, nutrient deficiencies, and greater susceptibility to pests. Improper pruning doesn’t help matters, and neither do the wounds inflicted by people and machines.

But we need trees in the city, and for more reasons than the obvious ones. Sure, we need them to take our carbon dioxide and give us back oxygen, to provide cooling shade, and to play their part in complex urban ecosystems. Yet a growing body of research suggests that we need them for much more than that. Trees absorb stormwater, helping reduce runoff. They clean the soil. They promote economic vitality, raising property values and subtly encouraging shoppers to spend more time spending money. They reduce our stress levels and might even help reduce violent crime. (Readers ready to dig into some of the research supporting these claims — and a host of others related to the benefits of trees — will appreciate this handy resource list.)

None of this is news to the folks at the Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit working to grow a greener, leafier city since 1989. And while the Greening is well-known for its work promoting, planting, and caring for trees, it remains what Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the Greening of Detroit, calls “an organization on the move” and is continually finding new ways to support a more sustainable Detroit.

Up To $27.5 Million Available From EPA for 2014 Great Lakes Restoration Projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today issued a Request for Applications soliciting proposals from states, municipalities, tribes, universities and nonprofit organizations for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants to fund new projects to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Up to $27.5 million will be available during the current funding cycle. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects in the Great Lakes basin. Applications are due August 25, 2014.

“This round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding will be used for projects that control invasive species, prevent the discharge of nutrients and sediment, and improve water quality in the Great Lakes,” said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. “The work funded by these grants will help to restore and protect waters that are essential to the health and jobs of millions of Americans.”

A webinar explaining the grant application process will be held at 10:00 a.m. Central time on Tuesday, July 29. The Request for Applications and information about applying for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants is available at

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative visit

Michigan DEQ Water Quality Monitoring Grant Application Package, Fiscal Year 2015

Water quality monitoring grants are offered under the Clean Michigan Initiative – Clean Water Fund (CMI-CWF).  Information contained in this Request for Proposals (RFP) is based on existing Water Resources Division guidance as well as administrative rules [Rule 8 (R 324.8808) of Part 88, Water Pollution and Environmental Protection Act, of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, as amended (NREPA)] promulgated for the CMI-CWF grants.  Approximately $300,000 is available for two-year water quality monitoring projects for the 2015 fiscal year. Proposals due by August 29, 2014.

Of particular interest to ENB readers are the RFP’s section on water quality monitoring grants:

The water quality monitoring grants are meant to fund water quality monitoring activities to address local issues of concern and to identify new  chemicals/issues that may be impacting the quality of Michigan’s surface waters. Monitoring activities must support the Water Resources Division’s Monitoring Strategy (available at and are limited to surface waters (i.e., rivers, streams, public access lakes, wetlands, the Great Lakes) and may include ambient chemical, biological, or physical monitoring activities, as well as the development of tools to help with the assessment of such data.

One example of such a project would be monitoring of surface waters for PAH from coal tar sealers.

FY2015 RFP

Required Grant Application Forms

Additional Information

Great Lakes cities clear air

Read the full post at Great Lakes Echo.

NASA recently unveiled a series of satellite generated images that document significant air quality improvements between 2005 and 2011.

Distribution of nitrogen oxide in 2005. Image: NASA

Distribution of nitrogen oxide in 2005. Image: NASA



Distribution of nitrogen oxide in 2011. Image: NASA

Distribution of nitrogen oxide in 2011. Image: NASA

Innovative farm energy projects clash with Wisconsin policy

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

The farming region of central Wisconsin presents a bucolic image, home to rolling fields, numerous dairies and a family-owned chicken processing plant that started in 1925 with two brothers delivering eggs and livestock.

These operations also produce a lot of waste, including countless tons of manure and the detritus from processing poultry.

Now New Chester Dairy and Brakebush Brothers are teaming up through a Milwaukee-based company to turn that unsightly waste into renewable heat and power.