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* Michigan electric generators are on track to reach the 10 percent renewable energy standard set forth in state law, says the Public Service Commission. And under provisions of that law, Michigan will have established a floor of no less than 10 percent renewable power for the future, though the PSC thinks the figure will keep going up: “The amount of renewable energy generated during each year is expected to continue increasing after 2015 because electric providers’ current renewable energy plans show continued development of additional renewable energy projects.”

Other notable findings:

-- Wind is the dominant choice for renewable power, at 93.8 percent of the renewable capacity.

-- Prices for large-scale wind contracts are trending down.

-- Wind power is cheaper than new coal-fired generation, under the PSC’s calculations.

-- The “cost” of conserving energy through conservation methods (think insulation, as one prosaic example) is $20 per MWH – or a quarter of the average cost of a renewable MWH and about 1/6th the cost of a coal-fired MWH.

It will be interesting to see if this report and other information on renewable and energy conservation pricing trends affect policy-making at the State Capitol.

* Bridge reported recently on the economic advance in the Traverse City region. Much was made of the community’s entrepreneurial culture.  But could another e-word – education – be more important?

According to these figures from the 2011 American Community Survey, Traverse City has 27.2 percent of residents age 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree; 12 percent have a graduate or professional degree. Compare those figures to other Michigan metropolitan and micropolitan areas:

Ann Arbor -- 50.9, 25.9

Battle Creek -- 17.8, 6.4

Bay City -- 18.8, 5.4

Detroit/Warren/Livonia -- 27.8, 10.2

Flint -- 18.1, 6.4

Grand Rapids/Wyoming -- 27.8, 9.7

Holland/Grand Haven -- 29.6, 10.1

Jackson – 18.5, 6.2

Kalamazoo/Portage -- 29.3, 11.0

Lansing/East Lansing -- 31.0, 13.0

Marquette -- 25.2, 7.1

Midland -- 31.6, 12.9

Monroe -- 17.4, 7.4

Mt. Pleasant -- 25.0, 11.6

Muskegon/Norton Shores -- 17.7, 5.7

Niles/Benton Harbor -- 24.1, 9.9

Owosso -- 14.3, 4.8

Saginaw/Saginaw Township – 19.9, 6.1

Note the grad/pro results. TC’s percentage is higher than any other smaller community in Michigan, except Midland (home to Dow Chemical). TC’s percentage also exceeds or rivals figures in large college communities such as Mt. Pleasant (CMU), Kalamazoo (WMU), Lansing-East Lansing (MSU) and Marquette (NMU).

* This is a pretty good deal – free breakfast, free lunch and the opportunity to hear key players discuss how Michigan can revamp its economy to take advantage of its natural resources, its universities and its scientific know-how. Sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan, the “New Michigan Summit” will be in Lansing on March 11.

* Another wonderful by-product of climate change – expanding ranges for alligators. “The northernmost point of their range in the wild is traditionally thought to be in North Carolina, about a dozen miles from the border with Virginia. But it wouldn’t take much of a temperature shift to allow them to move north. In fact, they have probably already slunk into the Commonwealth.”

* As for changing temperature zones, take a look at this plant hardiness mapfrom the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States. This is mostly a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005. In contrast, the 1990 map was based on temperature data from only a 13-year period of 1974-1986.” An older version of the map can be found here.

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