Energy News Roundup: Federal money pours in to accelerate energy transition

Energy News Roundup: Federal money pours in to accelerate energy transition
May 3, 2024 Nicole Pollack, Great Lakes Now

There’s been plenty of federal attention aimed at the Great Lakes region over the past couple of weeks. The Biden administration last Thursday announced four new “workforce hubs” in Upstate New York, Michigan, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The hubs — which join the five announced last year in Columbus, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Augusta, and Phoenix — are intended to help communities access training for jobs in the clean energy space. The White House hopes its continued investments in workforce development will spur additional local economic growth.

New regulations for coal ash contamination, which were finalized last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alongside strict new emissions standards for power plants, impose tighter limits on water pollution from aging coal ash storage sites. Coal ash, the material left behind after burning coal, contains toxins like mercury, lead and arsenic that can leach into nearby water sources. There are 88 coal ash storage sites within two miles of the Great Lakes, an Earthjustice report found last year. The EPA rule is expected to force plant operators to clean up such sites.

The EPA’s Solar for All grant competition will distribute $7 billion among 60 programs that will provide solar power and battery storage to residences in low-income and disadvantaged communities across the country. Over $1 billion of that funding was awarded to Great Lakes states for initiatives like reducing barriers to solar access, providing technical support and helping to fund new installations. Another $62.3 million will go to 35 tribes in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin for similar efforts.

Decarbonizing iron and steel production is still a focus for the U.S. Department of Energy, which is giving $28 million to 13 projects in nine states to advance lower-emissions technologies. Researchers in Illinois, Minnesota and Pennsylvania were awarded more than $6 million collectively to pursue different ways of reducing iron ore that don’t require burning coal in blast furnaces. This latest round of funding follows the Biden administration’s recent announcement of $6 billion to reduce emissions from heavy industry.

Battery manufacturer Natron Energy opened the nation’s first sodium-ion battery plant in Holland, Michigan, on Monday. Billed as an alternative to the lithium-ion batteries that make up almost all of today’s grid-scale storage, sodium-ion batteries are comparable in many ways to lithium-ion batteries and avert the need for mining lithium and other critical minerals. But they’re significantly larger in size than lithium-ion batteries, limiting their portability. Natron executives highlighted the technology’s relative safety during an opening ceremony at the plant.

More energy news, in case you missed it:

  • Electric utility FirstEnergy donated $2.5 million to a dark money group to aid in the election of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, new records show, sparking fresh concern in Ohio about campaign finance disclosure laws.
  • Toyota Motor Corp. plans to invest $1.4 billion into its assembly plant in Princeton, Indiana to expand its electric vehicle manufacturing capacity, creating an estimated 340 jobs.
  • A Madison monastery is building battery storage for its solar panels and a geothermal well system, putting it on track to become the first retreat center in Wisconsin to reach net-zero.
  • Solar power generation grew in Ohio for the ninth straight year, while wind generation languished.
  • A federal judge upheld the preliminary injunction blocking a disputed land swap needed to complete a Wisconsin power line.

Catch more news at Great Lakes Now: 

Energy News Roundup: Even the solar eclipse is an energy issue

Energy News Roundup: State senators advocate for ‘community solar’ projects, proposed natural gas plant gets renewed scrutiny


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