A group of Holland residents participates in a discussion of the city’s energy future lead by Don Triezenberg of the Community Energy Advisory Group
At a neighborhood gathering Tuesday, Sustainability Committee Vice-chair Don Triezenberg presented an overview of the energy choices that currently face Holland: spend $300 million on a coal-fired power plant, or spend $150 million on a natural gas plant and use the remaining $150 million to install district heating and create a loan-fund that can spur energy-efficiency city-wide.
The Community Energy Advisory Group is organizing a series of shareholder meetings spanning the next several months, with the goal of educating Holland on the energy choices their City Council is facing. CEAG believes that an investment of this magnitude is a community issue; the group is devoted to informing stakeholders of the decisions Holland faces and the options available to meet the city’s energy needs.
An open meeting will be held next Tuesday, June 19, at 6:30pm at Holland New Tech High School. CEAG also welcomes invitations to present at any local group and has ambitious outreach goals in place for the next several months. In order to meet these goals, CEAG has partnered with DwellTech Solutions to offer a free home energy audit for Holland residents that volunteer to host an energy plan meeting for their friends and neighbors. Email CEAG at HollandCEAG@gmail.com to volunteer!
Traverse City residents are getting a hand with rising electricity costs thanks to a partnership between the City and Traverse City Light and Power. TC Saves is a part of a state-wide program called BetterBuildings for Michigan, which provides discounted home energy assessments to homeowners and reduced-rate loans to follow through on the audit recommendations.
The program, launched last October, was designed to save homeowners money on their electric bills and increase the comfort of their home; local weatherization experts are contracted through the program, keeping jobs and investments in the area. The project is administered by the city of Traverse City in partnership with two local non-profits: Michigan Land Use Institute and SEEDs.
“Conserving energy in our homes is an important way to save money, stay more comfortable, and make our community a better place,” said Traverse City Manager R. Ben Bifoss in a press release. “TC Saves connects homeowners to qualified local contractors who will show you exactly how your home wastes energy, figure out how to plug those leaks, and save you money.”
Traverse City Light and Power has been an early adapter among state utilities for many years. The municipally-owned energy provider became the first Michigan municipal utility to install a utility-scale wind turbine in 1996, and in 2010 had the highest percentage of wind-generation to total generation than any other utility in the state.
Johnson Controls, Holland Facility
Milwaukee recently announced a financing program for home energy improvements in partnership with Johnson Controls Inc., the Wisconsin-based company that operates an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland.
The Me2 Clean Energy Financing Program will operate with funds made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act–no local public funds will be used. The program connects property owners with contractors and lenders in order to decrease the cost of energy improvements. As the efficiency measures reduce energy consumption, cost of the improvements will be recouped.
“The city of Milwaukee has created a program that will lead the nation and serve as a model for other cities to promote and help enable widespread private-sector energy efficiency,” said Iain Campbell, VP and general manager of Building Efficiency at Johnson Controls. “These projects will bring Milwaukee tremendous benefits at no cost to local taxpayers.”
For more information about the Me2 Clean Energy Financing Program, visit SmartEnergyPays.com/businesses.
The Leonard Street Fire Station will soon be heated and cooled by geothermal energy. Image: City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids will be installing geothermal heating and cooling units at two of it’s fire stations for a cost of $274,000, at the recommendation of an energy audit the city underwent in 2010, according to an MLive article published recently.
The project will be funded by $200,000 of federal stimulus money, with the remaining funding coming from the fire department. According to MLive, investment in geothermal costs more up front, however after an estimated 7.5 years of use the system pays for itself, and electricity is generated virtually free on site.
Mayor George Heartwell of Grand Rapids has set an ambitious energy-use goal for the city: 100% of it’s energy will come from renewable sources by 2020. The geothermal capacity at the fire stations is a step toward this goal for the city, which is actively working with Consumers Energy to expand their renewable portfolio.
Hope College was recognized in the third annual Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges as one of the nation’s 322 most environmentally responsible schools.
Hope's sustainability efforts are getting national recognition.
The guide is published in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the group responsible for LEED standards and certification. In it, prospective students will find information about each school’s sustainability initiatives as well as typical admissions data on enrollment, tuition, and financial aid. Everything from availability of on-campus recycling to presence of environmental studies programs is included in the guide.
“Green Highlights” for Hope College include President Bultman’s 2010 signing of the Talloires Declaration, campus upgrades to more efficient lighting, an environmentally conscious grounds department, and the LEED-silver requirement for all future college buildings. The scores are based on responses to a 2011 survey. Schools are not ranked within the guide, but must have scored above an 83 (out of 99 possible points) to be included.
The Netherlands Embassy, Washington D.C. Photo: Wikepedia Commons.
Holland, Michigan isn’t the only place where the Dutch are going green. The Netherlands Embassy recently became the second LEED certified foreign embassy in Washington, D.C. The silver-level certification is the result of a collaboration among Embassy colleagues, which began in 2010 with a benchmark study of the building’s carbon footprint.
According to the Embassy’s website, funding for major green improvement was not available, so they focused on simple, cost-effective upgrades to office light fixtures and air handling units. Now the Embassy reports a yearly energy savings of $50,000.
After the initial upgrades, the Embassy drew on experience and knowledge shared within the Green Embassies Forum, a State-Department led coalition formed in 2009 by Secretary Clinton, to make additional energy-saving changes to facilities. The Embassy is now the proud bearer of a LEED silver certification and is completely carbon-free in their energy use.
Last night’s forum on wind energy was well-received by a full auditorium at Herrick District Library in Holland. Panelists at the discussion represented a variety of aspects of wind technology, from Kelly Slikkers of Energetx Composites discussing the molding process of making turbine blades, to Sue Browne from the Blue Green Alliance sharing the positive stories of Ironworkers involved in a renewable energy project at Kellogg Community College. Rich VanderVeen of Mackinaw Power, developers of the largest wind farm in Michigan, was also on the panel, and discussed the importance of involving landowners in each stage of the planning process.
Predictably, the buzzword of the night was “jobs”–jobs in turbine manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. Holland-based Energetx employs about 50 people currently, and Slikkers says they have plans to hire between 50 and 70 laborers and technical workers in the next six months. Eric Justian from West Michigan Jobs Group spoke about the potential of the industry to bring even more jobs to the area; he encouraged audience members to “make some noise about it” in their communities, because local support is often a major factor in the success of new projects.
The event was covered by several local news outlets; Newschannel 3 broadcasted live shortly before the event began, the Holland Sentinel ran a story with several pictures last night, Fox 17 aired a live broadcast after the event wrapped up, and the Grand Rapids Press ran a story this morning.
If you were one of the many people who attended the forum, share your opinion with us! Did you learn anything that changed your views of wind energy? Have any lingering questions after the discussion?
Earlier this week Mac TV’s City Connections aired a special episode with Ryan Cotton, the new Holland City Manager. You can watch the streaming video on MacMedia’s website.
In the episode, Mr. Cotton sits down with Nancy DeBoer to discuss growing up in Michigan, his career background, and his excitement in coming to Holland.
Currently the village manager of Spring Lake, Mr. Cotton has also served the City of Grand Haven, as well as cities outside Michigan as he details in the interview. He replaces interim city manager Greg Robinson, who took over the role after the retirement of Soren Wolff last year.
Whether Holland realizes it or not, the energy planning process it began several years ago is already an example for other communities in the region. The city has a comprehensive, ambitious plan in Garforth’s recommendations; what happens next is of interest to a wider audience than just Holland residents.
Muskegon Pier Lighthouse. SpringChick, via Flickr
City Planner Mark Vanderploeg was invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition (MASC) on February 27; he gave an overview of the city’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy planning process. Even though the process is hardly complete, members of MASC were interested in how the initiative began and what the first steps toward long-term energy planning look like. Although Muskegon’s situation differs from Holland’s in that they do not own their electric utility, the initiative Holland has begun is inspiring them to take an active approach to planning their own energy future.
The Community Energy Advisory Group has continued efforts to educate and engage residents because we–like you–understand this decision isn’t to be taken lightly. Visit our community action page for ways you can get involved, like hosting a City Energy Plan discussion or sending a personalized note to City Council.
If you’ve read the Garforth report or attended any presentation on the proposed energy plan in the months after its release, this may sound familiar. In fact, it was predicted in the report itself, which listed six goals; one of them is to “be a leader in developing regional energy productivity strategy.”
Not to pressure you, Holland, but people are watching.
On February 8th the Community Energy Advisory Group met with Leadership Holland to discuss the City’s long-term energy strategy. Paul Lilly and Don Triezenberg, and other members of CEAG, have been giving presentations to various local groups for several months, gathering positive feedback for the City Energy Plan that continues to foster discussion and involvement in this important decision.
In a group discussion, members of Leadership Holland emphasized the importance of officially adopting a long-term strategy that will fully embrace the commitments City Council and the Sustainability Committee have made to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency. Maintenance of future flexibility in fuel source and energy generation is also extremely important to consider, given the difficulty of making predictions involving the long-term energy market.