Solar energy project planned for Addison golf course

DuPage forest preserve commissioners in July are expected to find out how much it would cost to build a proposed clubhouse at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison. If built, the building would have a pro shop, a restaurant and bar, and outdoor terraces.  Courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

DuPage forest preserve commissioners in July are expected to find out how much it would cost to build a proposed clubhouse at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison. If built, the building would have a pro shop, a restaurant and bar, and outdoor terraces.Courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

By: Robert Sanchez for Daily Herald

DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioners on Tuesday rejected an idea to install solar panels on a proposed clubhouse at The Preserve at Oak Meadows.

But they agreed to expand the project to include the installation of a solar power system for a cart storage building at the district-owned golf course in Addison.

"It's not a home run," forest preserve President Daniel Hebreard said. "I would like a better vision. But we did a great thing in adding a responsible environmental project to the construction project."

The Preserve at Oak Meadows -- formerly Oak Meadows Golf Course -- had a clubhouse for decades until the structure was destroyed in a 2009 fire. Now officials are going to seek price quotes for a new structure.

Construction of the clubhouse is estimated to cost roughly $12 million. That number could change once the results of the bids are known in July.

If commissioners agree to move forward, the project would break ground in late September or early October.

The board discussed the possibility of adding solar panels now so it could be factored into the project's total cost.

Before the board made its decision on Tuesday, Hebreard advocated for the panels to be included on both the clubhouse and the cart storage building.

"This is an opportunity for us to be a real environmental leader," the Woodridge Democrat said.

But adding solar panels to both buildings would have increased the project's total cost by roughly $518,000, according to one estimate. And while the panels are expected to provide all the cart storage building's power, they would generate just 51 percent of the clubhouse's power.

Commissioner Jeff Redick said the board has a responsibility to be good stewards of both the environment and the money it receives from taxpayers.

"That involves an evaluation of what the value is for the dollars spent," the Elmhurst Republican said.

Redick said the clubhouse will be environmentally friendly by using a green roof, bird glass (which reduces the likelihood of birds flying into the surface), sustainably sourced wood, and LED light systems.

Adding solar panels to the cart storage building is estimated to cost roughly $166,000. The district may qualify for incentives to help pay for the work.

Meanwhile, the course's golf carts would be fully powered by solar energy.

"I believe it would be the first fully solar cart system in the Midwest," Redick said. "That is leadership."

The clubhouse reconstruction comes two years after the district spent $16.8 million to improve The Preserve at Oak Meadows. That project included restoring a stretch of Salt Creek that flows through the 288-acre property and consolidating two golf courses into a single 18-hole facility with greater flood resistance and more stormwater storage capacity.

source: Daily Herald

RIP Coal. Long Live Coal Country

Jobs in southeast Kentucky's coal mines are vanishing. Can green jobs replace them?

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By Elizabeth McGowan for

Scott Shoupe didn’t want to follow his classmates into the coal mines when he graduated from Harlan High School in 1993. His ticket out — “to make something of myself” — was a baseball scholarship 130 miles north at Morehead State University.

But when his favorite sport started feeling more like a job than fun, the headstrong outfielder dropped out two years short of a bachelor’s degree. Shoupe returned home to Harlan County, an isolated and impoverished patch of southeast Kentucky, and like his father before him, signed up to mine coal.

“That’s all there was,” Shoupe said. “It was the one thing I could do to make money.”

King Coal has dominated this part of Appalachia for more than a century, powering local economies and offering lucrative, if dangerous, steady employment. That era is vanishing as mines shutter and coal companies across the country file for bankruptcy. So Shoupe is following his father, Carl, once again. But this time, it’s into a career that’s less about unearthing energy and more about using it super-efficiently.

At 43, he’s about to become the third graduate of a “new energy internship” for the region’s displaced coal workers. It’s a project of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, a local nonprofit. Enrollees in the program earn full-time wages and health benefits for six months while immersing themselves in the intricacies of lighting, weatherization, solar panels, and decoding utility bills.

Despite President Trump’s campaign mantra about championing miners and “putting our great coal miners back to work,” the industry continues to shed jobs. And that means people like Shoupe need a hand to move from an old, carbon-heavy economy to a new, green one.

Coal once defined southeast Kentucky’s character. Starting in the 1930s, miners in Harlan County went on strike against their employers, demanding fair wages and safer working conditions. Their efforts led to pitched battles with employers over the decades, sometimes turning the area into a “war zone,” with bombings and shootouts.

All those union mines have shut down, along with plenty of others. Nearly 6,600 Kentuckians worked in coal at last count, down roughly 80 percent in three decades, according to statistics from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. Some 41 percent of people in Harlan County live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau, more than triple the national average. And surrounding counties aren’t much better off.

Mechanization has played a role in the region’s struggles. Enormous machines now do the same work that miners once did by hand. But the main reason is that the country is weaning itself off the dirty fossil fuel. Hydraulic fracturing has created a glut of cheap natural gas, and technological advances have made solar and wind competitive. The result: a growing bounty of green jobs and fewer and fewer people heading from high school to the mines in Appalachia.

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Electrifying news: Solar and wind power has quintupled in a decade

By Nathanael Johnson

Across the United States, workers are covering fields with solar panels, and big rigs are hauling massive turbine blades to wind-scoured ridgelines. This is what it looks like when renewable energy expands exponentially.

The amount of renewable electricity generated in the United States has doubled in the last 10 years, according to number-crunching out Tuesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

And as impressive as doubling in a decade is, it understates the case. That’s because about 90 percent of that growth came from wind and solar: 57 million megawatt hours in 2008, and 301 million megawatt hours in 2018 — increasing more than fivefold in a decade.

So where do we stand after accounting for all that growth? Well, some 17.6 percent of the country’s power now comes from renewables.

It’s mainly electricity generated by hydroelectric dams (6.9 percent). Even after all that massive growth, wind only provides 6.5 percent and solar 2.3 percent of our electricity. Renewables like biomass and geothermal generate the last 1.9 percent.

Nuclear plants (not considered renewable but, hey, no greenhouse gases!) provided 19 percent of U.S. electricity in 2018. The remaining 63.4 percent came from fossil fuels.

That’s just electricity. If we zoom out to include all energy (petroleum for cars, natural gas for furnaces and water heaters) it’s a different picture: Renewables account for around 11 percent.

So we still have a long way to go. But consider this: If renewables sustain this rate of growth, the United States would be roughly on track to get all of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2050. The question, of course, is whether that exponential growth can continue. The size of the job is staggering. Those solar-panel covered fields will have to be five times as big in 10 years, and 25 times as big in 20, and 125 times as large by 2050. Crazier things have happened.

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