Last spring, students at Knox College in Illinois traded their notebooks for shovels and planted a rain garden on campus. The garden is not just a bunch of pretty plants. It's designed to reduce stress on the campus drainage system during heavy rain.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By J.C. Kibbey
The Clean Energy Jobs Act that was introduced Thursday would move Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and make the state a national leader in clean energy and climate action.
The bill (SB2132) would rapidly ramp up renewable energy in Illinois towards the 100 percent target by 2050, starting with a target of generating 45 percent of our electricity from renewable sources — and none from fossil fuels — by 2030. That rapid expansion of clean energy would place Illinois at the forefront of job growth, investments, customer savings and health benefits from renewable energy.
A good backup generator can help you keep your home running smoothly, even in the event of a major power outage. And, when you choose a solar generator, you can power your home using clean, renewable energy from the sun. By contrast, gas and diesel generators burn fossil fuels, and are extremely loud and spew harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Here are the best solar power generators available today that can provide a cleaner alternative for home generators.
Goal Zero<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Portable-Inverter-Generator-Generators-Emergency/dp/B08MBDN4VK" target="_blank">Yeti 6000X</a> is actually a portable power station that can be used for off-grid camping or powering an RV. With 6,000 watt-hours and two 2000W AC charger ports, it will give you plenty of power for your home. With a home integration kit, it's easy to use the Goal Zero Yeti 6000X to power essential circuits.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Though it isn't exactly cheap, the Yeti 6000X power station is a great all-purpose backup generator, including a top-of-the-line charge controller and two robust AC outlets that make it easy for you to keep your household essentials up and running. It can even power a full-size refrigerator or microwave.</p>
Renogy<p>Renogy produces several different power stations and chargers, but we especially like the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Renogy-Powerbox-Portable-Outdoor-1075WH-Generator/dp/B01N6BCDZD" target="_blank">Lycan Powerbox</a>, a solar power solution that's only a little bit bigger than a suitcase. It comes with an easy-grip handle and heavy-duty wheels, making it one of the most portable solar generators around while still offering 1200W of output, which is enough power for most electronic devices and some appliances.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> The Lycan Powerbox can provide 1075 watt-hours of continuous power without the noise or fumes associated with gas generators. It offers great portability and includes an LCD display and easy, intuitive controls that allow you to switch between DC power and AC power as needed, as well USB ports and 12 volt car charger ports.</p>
Jackery<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083KBKJ8Q/?tag=best-solar-generator-20" target="_blank">Jackery Explorer 1000 portable power station</a> is one of the best all-around options, equally suited for outdoor activities and for emergency power readiness. Though it's rated for 1,000 watts, it can actually get closer to 2,000. The lithium battery pack offers a capacity of 1,200 watt-hours, and Jackery's professional MPPT technology makes it easy to get your unit fully charged in a relatively short span of time (usually just eight hours if you have two panels going).</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Jackery is one of the leading names in outdoor equipment and in clean energy products. This portable power station is a great pick for campers and can also be a very effective home backup power solution for small appliances and electronics thanks to its pure sine wave inverter AC outlets.</p>
Westinghouse Outdoor Power<p>Westinghouse is another company that specializes in solar powered generators, most of which are more ideally suited for camping trips. Their <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Westinghouse-iGen600s-Portable-Generator-Lithium-ion/dp/B08SJ8JBBC/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&m=A2MDFVW08TGIW8&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&qid=1614289724&s=merchant-items&sr=1-2" target="_blank">iGen600s</a> portable generator, however, offers a wattage of up to 1,200 peak watts, which can certainly function as a decent emergency backup for certain household appliances and small devices.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>For a portable yet still very versatile solar generator, Westinghouse is a company to keep on your list. The iGen600 power system can run a mini fridge for up to 42 hours or a CPAP machine for up to 46 hours thanks to its lithium-ion battery that offers 592 Watt-hours of energy and a long battery life.</p>
EcoFlow<p>The <a href="https://www.amazon.com/EF-ECOFLOW-Portable-Station-Generator/dp/B083FR3762" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">EcoFlow DELTA power station</a> is a wonderfully rugged, dependable backup generator that can help meet your power needs during a blackout. For one thing, the charging time is incredible; you can potentially go from zero to 80 percent in under an hour with a wall outlet. Should you ever find yourself facing a power outage, this is an emergency energy solution you'll be really thankful for.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> The DELTA station from EcoFlow offers a lot of value and usability; in particular, it has one of the fastest recharging times of any solar generator, which may be reason enough for you to choose it over the competitors. The DELTA unit offers 13 ports, meaning it's compatible with pretty much any device or appliance you could ever need to charge.</p>
Bluetti<p>For a heavy-duty emergency power solution, look no further than to MAXOAK, and particularly to a product called the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/BLUETTI-Portable-Station-Generator-Emergency/dp/B08MZJW9Y5" target="_blank">Bluetti AC200P</a>. With a 2000 Watt-hour capacity, this is one of the most robust solar generators you'll find anywhere.</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> MAXOAK's Bluetti AC200P is the one you're going to want for really heavy-duty home energy backup. With massive AC inverters that offer up to 4800W surge capacity, it can provide more than enough power to fuel all your most critical home appliances, even some HVAC units. Also note the two-year warranty, a generous consumer protection.</p>
Point Zero Energy<p><a href="https://www.pointzeroenergy.com/product/titan-solar-generator/" target="_blank">Point Zero Energy</a> is one of the foremost names in disaster preparedness, and when you take a look at their product specs, you'll see why. Their Titan model solar generator offers almost twice the storage of similarly priced units with a high-capacity 2,000-watt-hour battery capacity and 3,000 watt high-efficiency inverter.</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>On a purely technical level, this is the beefiest generator on our list, though of course, it's also one of the priciest. The unit is made with high-efficiency components, meaning it doesn't waste a lot of energy running the system; instead, it just supplies you with plenty of functional electricity when you need it the most.</p>
By Jeff Deyette
Despite the Trump administration's ongoing attempts to prop up coal and undermine renewables—at FERC, EPA and through tariffs and the budget process—2018 should instead be remembered for the surge in momentum toward a clean energy economy. Here are nine storylines that caught my attention this past year and help illustrate the unstoppable advancement of renewable energy and other modern grid technologies.
A new report written by Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club, revealed widespread pollution of the groundwater surrounding 90 percent of reporting Illinois coal ash dumpsites.
It would appear that the Trump Organization's business practices aren't any more environmentally friendly than the policies of the current president, who ran it from 1971 to 2017.
A failed gas station empire owned by the family of Vice President Mike Pence has left communities in his home state saddled with millions of dollars in ongoing cleanup costs, the AP reported this weekend.
Illinois environmental groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that a utility company is violating the Clean Water Act by letting coal ash leak into a protected river.
By Kari Lydersen
Four years ago, the Illinois legislature passed a law to regulate high volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after months of contentious negotiations between oil industry interests, environmental watchdogs and community groups.
Leading up to the law's passage, companies had secured hundreds of leases to potentially frack in Southern Illinois.
Illinois state legislators announced Friday a series of legislative proposals that would block any weakened environmental and worker protection standards from taking effect in Illinois, and also respond to President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.
By Susan Cosier
On the final day of the Illinois State Assembly's 2016 session, a bill was passed that environmentalists can celebrate—one that significantly increases incentives for renewable energy and energy-efficiency requirements. Though the Democratic-led congress debated the Future Energy Jobs bill for months, legislators and Gov. Bruce Rauner worked together on a bipartisan compromise. And just in time.
2 Republican governors pass major clean energy bills https://t.co/YRN5HaIAzU via @EcoWatch— EDF Climate & Energy (@EDF Climate & Energy)1482359483.0
Since the November election, the incoming Trump administration has threatened to cut back federal funding for clean energy and climate change initiatives, pull out of the Paris climate agreement and drop the Clean Power Plan (currently stalled in the Supreme Court).
But a handful of midwestern states are refusing to abandon their growing clean energy and efficiency industries, which support roughly 113,900 jobs in Illinois, 87,600 jobs in Michigan and 100,800 jobs in Ohio. Soon after the Prairie State passed its promising energy bill, Michigan enacted two of its own. And in late December, when a bill that threatened to kill Ohio's renewable dreams appeared on Gov. John Kasich's desk, he gave it the ol' Hell-naw veto.
Ohio Gov. Kasich vetoes #renewable #energy freeze https://t.co/y1gYTpqkIW via @EcoWatch #climate #globalwarming… https://t.co/tfIshBSvLQ— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1482959283.0
"We have a very interesting message coming from the heartland," said Henry Henderson, director of Natural Resources Defense Council's Midwest program. "These policies come from the most energy-intensive part of the country, and there has been a bipartisan embrace of clean energy as good for the public, good for the economy and good for states."
The broad appeal of the new bills is indeed hopeful. According to Henderson, they won support from moderate Republican governors and Democratic and Republican lawmakers who were making practical, not ideologically driven, decisions.
Gabe Pacyniak, a climate change mitigation specialist with the Georgetown Climate Center, agrees that there is broad public support for clean energy. "Many states see significant economic benefits from clean energy, including in-state jobs," he said.
Here's a closer look at how Midwesterners have been sticking up for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Aside from California's energy policies, the Future Energy Jobs bill "might be the most significant state energy legislation passed in the U.S. in decades," wrote David Roberts on Vox. Though several media outlets have called the legislation a bailout for two Illinois nuclear plants, it does much more than that. Of the money coming from various provisions in the bill, just 30 percent will go to the nuclear plants. The remaining 70 percent will go toward clean energy and energy-efficiency programs, including retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient, green jobs training, and money for communities to access solar power.
Wind turbine tower segments being transported.Heritage Wind Energy
The bill keeps the state's existing requirement that utilities get 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, but it fixes certain structural barriers within the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in order to help Illinois reach that goal. For instance, the revamped RPS now redirects dollars to developing in-state renewable projects (instead of buying renewable credits from out-of-state operations) and will, at a minimum, bring 3,000 megawatts of solar and 1,300 megawatts of wind to Illinois.
The bill also protects people who generate their own renewable energy (think rooftop solar panels). Energy companies wanted to prohibit the sale of such electricity back to the utility when the homeowner wasn't using it. The practice, called net metering, doesn't just make for a more stable electric grid, but it also helps encourage more small-scale renewable energy installations. The new legislation allows net metering to continue.
And that nuclear power provision? It gives the plants money to operate for another decade, allowing time for investments in efficiency and renewables to scale. This would ease the eventual transition away from nuclear power to a more distributed grid. Previously, they were going to be phased out over the next six years as natural gas facilities, which emit more carbon, took their place.
Just two weeks after Illinois made its climate intentions known, Michigan lawmakers also passed two pieces of legislation that boost the state's solar and wind industries. Michigan's laws are more modest than its southwesterly neighbor's, but in a state where energy efficiency and renewable standards were almost removed, these bills are strong steps in the right direction. Senate Bills 437 and 438 increase Michigan's renewable energy standard, requiring the state to generate 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2021. The state reached its previous goal of 10 percent renewables in 2015 and Pacyniak said it already looks like it's on track to hit the new target.
Stoney Corners Wind Farm in McBain, Michigan.Heritage Wind Energy
The bills also offer bigger incentives for energy efficiency. The goal there is to meet 35 percent of the state's energy needs through a combination of energy conservation and renewable energy by 2025. Although this target is non-binding, it shows that Michigan is looking ahead and optimistic about its renewable energy future.
The bill Gov. John Kasich vetoed at the end of 2016 would have given electric utilities a pass for not complying with renewable energy and efficiency requirements. Ohio requires energy companies to get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewables and cut consumer energy use 22 percent by 2025. In 2014, however, the state froze that mandate for two years. A bill passed by the state legislature in November would have extended the time frame of that clean energy freeze, but Kasich vetoed it, saying the bill "amounts to self-inflicted damage to both our state's near- and long-term economic competitiveness."
When more than 60 green energy businesses and advocates testified against the freeze before the Ohio Senate in November, they said the state needed to be more hospitable to renewables if it wanted more alternative energy companies to move there. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, 227 solar companies employ 4,800 people in the state. By vetoing the bill, Kasich said he's also encouraging the growth of energy options prized by high-tech firms, ones that could bring jobs to the state.
On top of ending the freeze, Kasich also vetoed a bill that would have given $264 million in tax breaks to oil and gas companies. The message behind Kasich's double whammy is pretty clear: Ohio is ready for a change.
Susan Cosier is OnEarth's Midwest correspondent. Cosier previously worked at Audubon magazine and has written for a number of science and environmental publications. She's a graduate of New York University's science journalism program.
Three Midwestern states are closing out the year with big clean energy changes on the horizon.
4 Reasons Why Gov. Kasich Must Veto Ohio's Energy Bill https://t.co/aP2A3nPK1j @energyaction @RenewablesNews— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482185408.0
"Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth," Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund, said. "The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment."
Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute, agrees. "Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," he said.
Will Gov. Kasich Save Ohio's Clean Energy Economy? https://t.co/wYcT2UWdpj @BusinessGreen @CSRwire— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481422205.0
In Minnesota, while a Republican legislature could curtail progress on the state's emissions reductions plans, some policymakers have hinted that clean energy policies could be ground for bipartisan compromise.
Michigan, Ohio, Illinois: Midwest Energy News
Commentary: Crain's Chicago Business, Will Kenworthy op-ed
Despite an appeal over the controversial Rocky Branch strip mine permit still pending with an Illinois Department of Natural Resources administrative judge, Peabody Energy defiantly closed down public roads and moved massive mining equipment in Saline County yesterday, in preparation to carry out its already violation-ridden and state-subsidized mine operation.
Rocky Branch, Illinois. Photo credit: Jeff Lucas / Gutting the Heartland
Calling out clear violations of the state's mine permitting process, civil rights and environmental justice policies, besieged farm residents facing toxic mine blasting and water contamination within yards of their homes and wells have appealed to Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to halt the state's flawed mine permit process.
"I feel the Attorney General has abandoned us by dragging her feet and letting Peabody destroy a community," Rocky Branch resident Jennifer Dumbris said. "She has the power to stop what is going on until investigations are through but seems to rather look the other way, while Peabody is conducting business as usual."
Last spring, thousands of Illinois residents appealed to Madigan to investigate the numerous inconsistencies and permit violations in the Rocky Branch mine process. Where does the AG stand now?
On behalf of civil rights and environmental justice in Rocky Branch?
Or with Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce, who declared in Australia last week that "coal always wins."
In truth, Peabody was named as a party subject to discovery in a recent law suit over the Prairie State coal-fired plant, “a scheme by Peabody," according to Illinois state residents, "to create a market for its high-sulfur, high-ash coal reserves in Southern Illinois.” A UK judge also ruled this week that Peabody's "clean coal" ad campaign is misleading.
Photo credit: Shawnee Hills and Hollers
If Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan can step in and halt the proposed Banner strip mine, why can't they step in and halt the violation-ridden permits of the proposed Rocky Branch strip mine?
If Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan can step in and halt petcoke coal dust, a "serious public health threat facing the residents," why can't they step in and halt the admitted unprotected health threat of toxic coal dust in Rocky Branch?
According to the IDNR permit for Rocky Branch, released earlier this spring, toxic coal dust from blasting, which will occur only a few hundred feet from resident homes, farms and wells, is not even considered:
If Quinn and Madigan can campaign to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, why can't they stop the unnecessary and CO2-exploding Peabody mine in Saline County from being loaded onto barges and shipped for dirty coal-fired plants overseas?
"Why is it that electric cigarettes are more important to make a decision on than the health and well being of a community of 70 and 80-year-olds that are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens," Dumbris added. "It is nothing but profit over people."
Yesterday, as equipment trundled across the state highway and down public roads in Saline County, Rocky Branch residents protested and held signs, "God Save Rocky Branch."
That it—until Gov. Quinn, Attorney General Madigan and the courts uphold regulatory laws and fair mining practices, as well as civil rights and environmental justice.
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