ADRIAN — Scientists and professors, researchers, and city leaders from across Michigan provided a high-level overview of the benefits of solar and wind power in a multimedia presentation at Siena Heights University.
The “Sun 101” presentation was produced by Peter Sinclair, a videographer from Michigan who specializes in energy and the environment. What he described as a “video rich” presentation aimed to provide answers to the most common questions about clean energy and other renewable energy sources.
His presentation, he added, also aimed to demystify misinformation about clean energy.
Sinclair, of Midland, presented May 4 at the university at the invitation of the Siena Heights Sustainable College Committee, chaired by Thomas Wassmer, associate professor of biology at SHU. Nearly 30 people attended the presentation in the Rueckert Auditorium of the Dominican Room.
Wassmer, during Sinclair’s presentation, said the major forms of renewable energy – solar and wind power – are the key ingredients for Michigan and the country to move away from reliance on fossil fuels as a primary source. of energy.
Sinclair, who as an activist focuses on climate change, has traveled around the world to various climate change ‘hotspots’, including Antarctica and Greenland, where he helped document the surface Greenland melt as part of the Dark Snow Project. In 2017, the National Center for Science Education named him a friend of the planet.
“What I’m most proud of is having developed a scientific community,” he said. “And about 10 years ago, (scientists and researchers) started inviting me into the field, to places where they do their work, and I was integrated into them.”
When conducting interviews on climate change and renewable energy, Sinclair said he talks to the most reliable sources: scientists, professors and researchers in the field who track and record data.
“Scientists have really become my mentors, my teachers. They challenge me and I challenge them,” he said. “And so, over the last twelve years, I’ve interviewed hundreds, probably over 1,000 scientists and engineers who are at the top of their field, across Europe, America and Asia. I feel like I was able to translate what they are trying to tell us.
A Michigan State University poll that was conducted a few years ago, he said, found that a large majority of people are generally in favor of moving away from fossil fuels and solar power and wind turbine.
Sinclair referenced the Wall Street Journal from at least three years ago, which said wind and solar power represent the cheapest options for generating electricity. The cost of solar power, he added, has come down significantly over the past 10 years.
As long as America continues to depend on fossil fuels, including natural gas, as its primary source of energy, Sinclair said the country will be “held hostage, as long as we are dependent on finite and finite resources in quantity or geographically “. ”
The price of natural gas is “skyrocketing” in the United States, he said, and is “completely off the charts” in European countries.
Wolfgang Bauer, professor of physics and astronomy at Michigan State University, who was one of many experts Sinclair interviewed for his video presentation, said “it’s significantly cheaper” to deploy solar resources today.
Other researchers and professors Sinclair interviewed include Josh Pearce, an academic engineer at the University of Western Ontario and Michigan Technological University; Tommy Cleveland, Solar Photovoltaic Engineer at Advanced Energy; and Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston.
Jeffrey Lake, associate professor of biology at Adrian College, was briefly introduced during Sinclair’s presentation.
Sinclair provided a video clip of a solar facility operated by the University of Illinois. The minute-long clip began at a distance of 1,000 feet from the facility and gradually got closer throughout the video. The aim of the video, he said, was to show the public what such a solar project looks like and how it contains no moving parts, does not produce loud or unpleasant noises from its converters and is surrounded by meadows. Showing the video clip, he said, was a method to debunk misinformation on social media about the appearances and impacts of solar installations.
“It’s not the image that comes out in social media that a lot of people enthusiastically follow,” he said. “And we have leaders in the anti-clean energy movement here in the region.
“…A lot of people have a very distorted picture, and those of us who have been following the difference between Facebook reality and real reality for the past few years have noticed a discrepancy. There are bad actors actively spreading misinformation and they have loyal supporters. »
Disinformation strikes at the heart of democracy, he said.
“We have a very serious problem with bad actors spreading false information and deliberately trying to create conflict in communities,” he said. “And some of these actors are even on the other side of the world.”
Large “titanium” corporations such as Walmart, Google and General Motors, Sinclair said, are becoming some of the biggest buyers of renewable energy. GM, in a video clip, said it plans to receive all of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2050.
Patricia McGarr, national valuation manager at accounting firm CohnReznick, which specializes in real estate valuation, said that after starting in 2017 and conducting 26 studies in 15 different states, statistics have “consistently shown that it doesn’t “There is no consistent measurable negative impact” from solar installations adjacent to properties. At least 50 to 60 appraisers of large-scale solar installations across the country, who were interviewed by McGarr’s team of real estate appraisers, found “no negative impact” on the property value of adjacent homes.
In Michigan, Sinclair said he visited solar farms in Lapeer, as well as the Assembly Solar Farm in Shiawassee County, which at 1,200 acres is Michigan’s largest solar operation and includes nearly 800,000 solar modules. bifacial. Researchers studying these two facilities have found no negative impact from their existence, according to Sinclair’s presentation.
“The really cool thing about solar and wind is you know when the sun is going to come out,” Sinclair said. “You know when it’s going to be cloudy. You know when it’s going to be windy, in fact, with incredible precision.
Because of the predictability of sun, clouds, wind and other weather conditions, Sinclair said, electrical engineers “really like green power sources” because of their predictability.
By 2040, Consumers Energy, he said, plans to have solar installations on 40,000 acres of farmland in the state. He said that seems like a lot until you look at the total number of acres of farmland in the state, which stands at 10 million.
By comparison, he added, there are currently 97,500 acres of land in the state used by golf courses. Corn fields, many growing corn to be used for ethanol, total about 2,350,000 acres in Michigan, Sinclair said, with that acreage number varying from year to year.
“If we want to save farmland, we should probably find a way to save farmers,” he said.
To lend a helping hand to the farming and farming community, Sinclair suggested providing farmers with the means and means to diversify their income, which he says “renewable energy does wonderfully.”
“I grew up in Michigan which was the world leader in technology and manufacturing, and I think we should lead in those categories again,” he said. “The only reason we are not doing it is that the political will has been lacking. I would like that to happen again, and we can do it thanks to renewable energy. We have everything we need.
Sinclair can be followed online at www.sun101.org and www.wind101.info. Those present received several documents and studies concerning solar energy systems. Materials provided were generated by Michigan State University Extension, North Carolina State University, University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy.
All of the information included in Sinclair’s presentation can be found on its websites. Information, he said, should be shared on social media as much as possible, “as a cure for the misinformation that is circulating”.