Heartwell’s call for additional climate action by private sector sets new bar

January 17, 2015
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Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell outlined his priorities for the city in his annual — and last — address, once again challenging both the private and public sectors to accomplish new objectives related to environmental preservation issues. Eleven years ago, as the mayor noted, he evoked some amount of ridicule from community business leaders. In that time, however, Grand Rapids developers, architects, business and education leaders, among others, have completed so many LEED-certified projects the city ranks among the top “green” cities in America. And it is undoubtedly a point of pride, even for those who stand on the sidelines. The tide of ridicule has changed and now challenges those who are not part of the process. That is leadership, in a world that sees far too few examples.

With that and willing city commissioners Heartwell may well be able to initiate what is likely to be the most controversial of his proposals: a moratorium on extracting natural gas anywhere in the city limits using hydraulic fracturing.

But the mayor laid out far more objectives under this particular initiative. He also will direct use of funds that have been set aside to convert the city street lamp system to LED fixtures. Heartwell noted the combination of technology and funding availability has now made such a project viable. In Heartwell style, he is challenging businesses throughout the city to step it up, too, advocating distributed power generation systems, rooftop rain capture and treatment, and “small” wind turbines to supplement business power needs. That leadership is likely to inspire action. In fact, he noted a meeting already planned:

The “Office of Energy and Sustainability is partnering with the Institute for Energy Innovation, the West Michigan Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and a broad range of private sector leaders to create the Grand Rapids 2030 Energy District Challenge, a high performance building efficiency district. As an immediate follow-up to today’s announcement the Institute for Energy Innovation and the city are convening building owners and managers in the Rockford Construction LEED Platinum offices to launch this initiative.”

Heartwell also anticipates RFPs delivered for the Butterworth Acres Solar Initiative to produce power for the Waste Water Treatment Facility. He expects to issue RFPs yet this month for the partnership project with Wyoming for a bio-digester at the waste water treatment plant. Heartwell said the two projects are expected to produce “approximately 5Mw of power every year, enough to power 820 average-sized homes.”

Noting the partnership with West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Grand Valley State University, Heartwell said the city will incorporate the 32 recommendations of its Climate Resiliency Report.

The Business Journal has little doubt the Mayor will have his way, and inspire the private sector to make its own lists of initiatives.

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