Circuit West project will put Grand Rapids’ sustainability strategy on the national map

July 21, 2017
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It’s a marketing strategy unseen outside Boston and Austin and one also likely to give Grand Rapids some buzz, especially in new economy circles. Rockford Construction and Consumers Energy announced Circuit West, a project focusing on testing and implementing sustainable and renewable energy for businesses and residents in a 10-block area along Bridge Street and Seward Avenue. The project includes distributed power generation through solar, utility scale battery storage, electric vehicle charging stations and added bandwidth capacity for communications and internet. The idea is rooted in preparing an area’s infrastructure for next-generation energy advancements. Consumers spokesmen also noted the project is expected to reduce the number of West Side power outages.

Rockford Construction has invested heavily on the West Side, the boyhood neighborhood home to CEO Mike VanGessel, who also led his company’s LEED certifications, the first Michigan construction firm to attain such certification. Midwest Energy News reported that Institute for Energy Innovation President Dan Scripps clarified the “big takeaway” is the “comprehensive approach to integrating advanced energy resources into neighborhood redevelopment and revitalization.” It is the only such project by Consumers in Michigan.

The city’s West Side, especially along the Bridge Street corridor, quickly has developed into a millennial haven, with local breweries, restaurants, an increasingly long list of musical entertainment acts and affordable housing.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss could not attend the project unveiling but offered a press release comment referring to it as “a critical component to a sustainable Grand Rapids and creates a bridge for further development opportunities while meeting the needs of a rapidly growing community.” The city has, for a decade, set sustainability goals and established several such programs. The city was cited again this summer with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as a Michigan Business Pollution Partner for its Water Resource Recovery Facility. Among the accolades noted was the city’s “continuous improvement to reduce the energy intensity” and cost of operating. Additionally, the cities of Grand Rapids and Walker are expected to announce July 24, with The Rapid transit system, Michigan’s largest fleet of environmentally friendly transit buses. Five of the 33 compressed natural gas-fueled buses are assigned to GR’s DASH routes. The Rapid expects the buses will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a million metric tons over the diesel-fueled models and provide a cost savings of $4.5 million, based on the 60 percent savings over diesel fuel.

Circuit West is an important next-generation infrastructure attainment, but the partnership between the businesses and the city emphasize GR’s most unique characteristic in its sustainability.

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