Statewide: January 14, 2011 Archive
Posted at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2011
by Mark Steil
What could be simpler than turning sunlight into electricity? Apparently, many things. Among them: turning wind into electricity, turning coal into electricity and turning atoms into electricity.
Solar power is talked about a lot as part of the solution to the nation's energy problems, but so far it hasn't made much of a dent in our total electricity supply.
A coalition of groups in Minnesota plans to boost efforts to generate energy through solar power. Ken Bradley, director of the Environment Minnesota organization, says their idea would create jobs and reduce pollution, while at the same time spread the solar energy message all across the state.
Bradley wants the state to adopt a hard goal: that 10 percent of Minnesota's electricity come from solar power by 2030.
"We know that we have a reliable resource that everyday is going to be there for us," says Bradley.
Right now Minnesota is far behind other states in solar power production. The Minnesota output is about 3 megawatts a year, enough electricity to supply about 800 homes. The very largest wind turbines put out about 2.5 megawatts.
So Minnesota's total yearly solar output is little more than one big wind turbine. California, the nation's solar leader, produces 250 times as much sun power as Minnesota, more than 700 megawatts.
Bradley says the 10 percent by 2030 can be accomplished. He says the goal would be about 5,200 megawatts of solar electricity in 20 years. To do that, he thinks the state should try to add about 53 megawatts a year for the next 10 years, then ramp production up sharply in the final 10 years.
The solar question will be the subject of next week's "Green Ideas and Ham" breakfast forum in Minneapolis. The forum is a monthly meeting to discuss the state's most pressing environmental issues. The solar meeting is next Wednesday, January 19, at 8 am at the Red Stag Supperclub in northeast Minneapolis.
Posted at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2011
by Julie Siple
Filed under: Hunger
In the first major change in student meal requirements in more than a decade, school lunches would get healthier under new rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Schools would have to cut sodium by more than half -- plus serve more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, and either low-fat or fat-free milk. Students would receive only one cup of starchy vegetables per week -- which means no more daily French fries.
So far, it's only a proposal. If approved, it could be years before schools would be required to follow all the new guidelines.
Rosemary Dederichs, director of food service in the Minneapolis Public Schools, supports the new rules. She also considers them necessary, given the obesity rates and other health challenges facing America's children.
Dederichs, who sat on the committee at the Institute of Medicine that developed the new guidelines, said schools have a unique opportunity to expose kids to healthy eating.
Minneapolis Public Schools have already started doing so by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables on school menus and eliminating all fried food.
The new guidelines apply to lunches subsidized by the federal government. But I wonder how they affect children who struggle with hunger. What will they mean for kids who consume a large percentage of their daily calories at school, and for those whose parents can't always afford to buy fresh produce?
Dederichs doesn't differentiate between children from low-income households and other students.
"It doesn't make any difference to me," she said. "We serve the same nutritious meals to everybody because that enhances their learning."
Still, I'll be looking closely at school lunch and breakfast programs over the next year, as I dig into issues of hunger in Minnesota.
For some kids, those meals are one of the most consistent places to get food, nutritious or otherwise.
Julie Siple reports on hunger and related issues for Minnesota Public Radio News. MPR is a partner in the Hunger-Free Minnesota project, which helps fund her reporting.