Green Jobs Now: Illinois

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We estimate that there are over 30,712 workers across core, enabled, and enabling green jobs
in Illinois’ green economy, and there were 9,045 green job openings in the state in 2021. By
comparison, this is more than twice the demand for general accountants in Illinois. Demand for
these green workers is also growing rapidly, which may put a strain on the training community
helping to develop the next generation of green workers. We project that in the next five years,
employment for green jobs will increase by 6.5%.

Green jobs have shown stability in Illinois in recent years. Looking from 2018 through 2021,
there has been steady and significant demand for core, enabled, and enabling green jobs. While
we see demand across Illinois for green workers, the greatest concentration is in the Chicago
metro area with 71.5% of all green job postings in 2021. The strong uptick in green job demand
in 2021 in Illinois is an indication that the green economy in the state is strengthening. Coupled
with projected demand above the national average for the next five years, there is a promising
outlook for green jobs in the state.

Job announcement: Science Writer, University of Illinois Grainger College of Engineering

Closing date: 06/06/2022
Full announcement and to apply

The Office of Marketing & Communications (OMC) at The Grainger College of Engineering seeks a Science Writer who is responsible for writing and editing high-level communications, publications, and materials with research-related subject matter. Designs, researches, and writes technical and research-related press releases, news and feature stories for print and web.

The University of Illinois is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer that recruits and hires qualified candidates without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, disability or veteran status. For more information, visit http://go.illinois.edu/EEO.

Chicago’s air pollution hotspots: New sensor network reveals neighborhood air quality disparities

Read the full story at MuckRock.

This investigation, “Chicago’s Air Pollution Hotspots,” is a collaboration between the Chicago Sun-Times, WBEZ, the Cicero Independiente and MuckRock, with support from Columbia University’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Reporting by Smarth Gupta, Dillon Bergin, María Inés Zamudio, Charmaine Runes and Brett Chase. Derek Kravitz of MuckRock, Dave Newbart of the Sun-Times and Matt Kiefer of WBEZ edited.

When Irma Morales moved to Little Village nearly three decades ago, she vividly remembers the thin layer of dust blanketing the ground. The single mother of five lived about a mile from a coal plant.

“When I walked outside, my shoes would be covered with dust,” Morales said in Spanish.

Morales joined the 12-year community-led effort to close the Crawford Power Plant.

“We shut them down,” said Morales, adding she was diagnosed with a brain tumor during the campaign. “But for what? So they can bring more diesel trucks?”

The plant closed in 2012 and was replaced by a 1 million-square-foot Target warehouse bringing an estimated hundreds of trucks per day to the neighborhood. Morales and other protesters tried to stop the development.

Even the building process polluted the neighborhood. A botched implosion of a 378-foot smokestack from the old coal plant left her neighborhood blanketed in dust in April 2020.

“Why are you selling … [our health] to the highest bidder?” Morales asked of city officials, saying her neighborhood is basically a “sacrifice zone” for industry.

Indeed, in one of the most wide-scale surveys of air quality in Chicago, some stretches of this mostly Mexican community were found to have the highest pollution levels in the city, along with portions of Austin, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Irving Park and Avondale that see heavy traffic or are near industrial areas, an analysis of readings from newly-installed air sensors show.

The data is supplied by Microsoft, which consulted with the city and community groups before installing 115 of the sensors mostly on CTA bus shelters last summer, and has been collecting readings from them every five minutes over the past 10 months.

Even with more than 100 sensors, it’s not nearly enough to cover the entire city and that inhibits a complete analysis of pollution for large swaths of the Southeast and Far South sides — areas long known to have poor air quality. Still, the data provide some of the most extensive hyperlocal measurements of air quality in Chicago, specifically in the high-pollution months of July through October 2021.

This story is part of a months-long reporting collaboration, “Chicago’s Air Pollution Hotspots,” on Chicago’s air quality by the Chicago Sun-TimesWBEZ and MuckRock.

Scientists develop environmentally safe, frost-resistant coatings

Read the full story from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Airports are busy, especially during the winter. As passengers wait to board, delays get longer when airplanes need to be dowsed with thousands of gallons of deicing fluids that help them fight the frigid winter. But as soon as the plane takes off, most of the liquid is gone from the surface of the aircraft and ends up polluting freshwater streams and lakes.

In an endeavor to make a more efficient product immune to ice for such demanding industries and consumers, Sushant Anand, UIC assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Rukmava Chatterjee, a UIC Ph.D. student, have developed a longer-lasting alternative to conventional deicers. They say it could also benefit other industries.

Technology to absorb CO₂ at power plants is promising

ISTC engineer Paul Nielsen stands beside the biphasic solvent system at the Abbott Power Plant in Champaign, IL.

by Lisa Sheppard, Prairie Research Institute

Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) researchers have given the thumbs up to an innovative biphasic solvent system for its efficiency and effectiveness in absorbing CO₂ from flue gas in a coal-fired power plant at the University of Illinois (U of I).

With $3.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory, an ISTC team sought to validate the various advantages of a biphasic CO₂ absorption process (BiCAP) at a 40-kilowatt electric small pilot scale at the Abbott Power Plant on the U of I campus. The system was designed based on the testing results at the laboratory scale under a previous DOE cooperative agreement.

Previous laboratory testing has proved the biphasic solvent-based process concept and has shown that the technique can achieve greater than 90 percent capture efficiency and greater than 95 percent CO₂ purity and has the potential to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce  CO₂ capture cost.

From the recent field testing, the team verified that their technology could achieve 95 percent efficiency in CO₂ capture, compared with 90 percent in conventional methods, with a 40 percent higher energy efficiency. The cost advantages have not yet been determined, but previous laboratory testing showed a 26 percent cost reduction. The system has also been shown to run continuously for two weeks, verifying that it can operate under Midwest winter weather conditions.

“The conventional CO₂ capture process has several disadvantages, and our goal was to reduce the carbon footprint and costs and increase the energy efficiency,” said Yongqi Lu, principal investigator. “These energy-efficiency advantages of the BiCAP system, coupled with reduced equipment sizes when scaled up for commercial systems, will lead to reductions in both capital and operating expenses.”

The BiCAP method uses biphasic solvent blends that can form and develop dual-liquid phases during CO₂ absorption. The solvents, which were tested and selected in previous DOE-funded studies, are highly resistant to degrading from either high temperatures or oxidative atmospheres. Also, less solvent is required for this process.

Although the focus of the study was on CO₂ capture from flue gas at coal-fired power plants, the BiCAP technology can be used in natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants as well, incorporating flue gas from natural gas, biomass, plastics, and other renewable materials.

“The exciting feature of this capture technology is its robust nature and ability to be used on a variety of flue gas sources. We are now ready for commercial partners to assist in moving this technology to the marketplace,” said Kevin OBrien, co-principal investigator for the project and director of ISTC.

Preliminary tests with synthetic NGCC flue gas made of air and bottled CO2 gas have been performed on the small pilot unit recently. Results revealed that a 95 percent CO2 removal rate could be achieved, and the energy use only slightly increased compared with that for the coal flue gas that contains more concentrated CO2.

The concept of biphasic solvents was developed as part of a dissertation research project in 2013–2015. From 2015 through 2018, screening of biphasic solvents and studies of proof of the BiCAP process concept were conducted at the laboratory scale with funding from DOE. After that, the small pilot system was designed, constructed, and tested at the Abbott Power Plant with continued DOE support.

The main research team for this project was transferred from the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) to ISTC in January 2022. Now that the team has collected the data, the next steps are to complete a techno-economic analysis, then scale-up the technology for commercial use.

Media contact: Yongqi Lu, 217-244-4985, yongqilu@illinois.edu or
news@prairie.illinois.edu

This story first appeared on the Prairie Research Institute News Blog. Read the original story.

State Geological Survey gives infrastructure solid footing

Read the full story at FarmWeek.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) is providing a solid foundation for infrastructure decisions.

ISGS offers an online, interactive map denoting locations of mine shafts, surface mines, underground mines and other subsurface features.

One of the most useful features, the “Coal Mines in Illinois Viewer,” allows anyone to type in a specific address and determine the proximity of a coal mine or underground industrial mine.

New piping plover spotted on Rainbow Beach

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The new plover was sighted late afternoon Tuesday, and was identified as a 5-year-old female who usually nests at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan.

How Illinois’ ‘fragmented system’ of monitoring pesticide exposure ‘allows individuals to get poisoned over and over without any brakes’

Read the full story from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

A crew of farmworkers claimed they were sprayed with pesticides. What should have been a “rapid response” was a “big mess.”

Piping plover help wanted: Volunteers needed to monitor Montrose Beach as birders await return of Monty and Rose

Read the full story at Block Club Chicago.

The group that watches over the endangered piping plovers needs 20 volunteers who can commit two hours a week to protect the birds from predators and beachgoers.

Jennifer Holmgren: from alternative fuels pioneer to carbon recycling queen

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

If you’d like to find out whether Jennifer Holmgren can do something, the quickest way is to tell her she can’t.

The Colombian-born chemist started her career in the late 1980s, in a lab in Des Plaines, Illinois, working for a company called UOP that would later be acquired by Honeywell. UOP developed technology for the petroleum and petrochemical industries, and after becoming the company’s director of exploratory research in 2002, Holmgren began pitching the idea of bio-based chemicals and fuels. Given this was a company squarely focused on the fossil fuel industry, she faced plenty of internal pushback from colleagues who thought the whole idea of alternative fuels was something of a joke. Still, by 2006, she’d convinced the higher-ups to create, and let her lead, a renewable energy and chemical division.