Community infrastructure received long-overdue upgrades, benefiting government, business and residents alike
These days, many cities are starting to think critically about energy sustainability. But the forward-thinking City of Holland, Michigan, has been leading the sustainability conversation since leaders installed an innovative snow-melt system 30 years ago. That system pipes waste heat under downtown streets and sidewalks for slush-free winter walking and driving. It’s just one part of the city-owned municipal energy system, but it might help explain why Hollanders have above-average energy literacy compared to most cities.
Consider, for example, Holland’s master plan, which included a discussion about the future of electricity generation. Forecasts showed the city wouldn’t be able to make enough energy to meet demand, and leaders were also concerned about future, ongoing sustainability. The city commissioned a community energy plan with the goal of becoming a world-class city in energy efficiency while honoring the community’s core Dutch values of practicality and stewardship.
“The Holland Community Energy Plan embraces the values that have been central to the community throughout their history,”
Schneider Electric Account Executive, Ty Miller.
Miller continues, “It represents public/private collaboration, financial investment and personal commitment. It is driven by real people who desire a better energy future. We support the city’s vision to be a thriving world-class energy efficient community that generates energy cleanly, uses it efficiently and distributes it reliably and affordably. And the plan is already yielding real actions and results.”
Learn more about the City of Holland's innovative energy plan in this video:
Combining a Master Plan with Energy Efficiency Goals
However, while Holland had big goals for their master plan, the city had few resources to make it happen. City leaders partnered with Schneider Electric to weave the city’s energy goals into the larger master plan. Schneider Electric showed the city how it could use energy savings to address a number of deferred infrastructure retrofits and updates — while also achieving its sustainability goals.
One such improvement was the 35-year-old community pool, which needed serious mechanical and structural renovations. The project helped the pool reduce undue waste and added in a new, safer chlorine generation system. “That was a really large project that we could just never figure out how to address,” says Mark Vanderploeg, Director of Community and Neighborhood Services. “Now it’s like we have a new community pool.”
In addition to the pool renovations, the city was able to update all 300 city lights to more modern, efficient LEDs, saving 65% on pedestrian energy bill and reducing its carbon footprint by 75 metric tons of CO2 annually. The lighting upgrade was a huge relief for officials, especially in the park where lighting outages had been both a headache and a security concern. Now park lights not only work consistently, but they’re also motion sensitive (which improves safety) and only work at full capacity when they’re really needed.
At the city hall, old, drafty windows were replaced with new, extremely efficient historically-replicated windows. A city-wide smart automation system allows officials to automate lighting and HVAC systems for better control and efficiency. Meanwhile, Schneider Electric found energy block grant money to help the city invest over $16 million and completely renovate the city’s 100-year old community center.
Along with energy savings, all of these upgrades yield a dramatic drop in maintenance and an improved quality of life for residents.
Upgrades and Reduced Energy Usage for Individual Residents
The partnership benefits didn’t stop at city infrastructure. Energy experts also helped the city move toward its goal of helping all city residents reduce energy usage 30% to 50%. Key to that plan is an on-bill, low-interest financing option that allows homeowners to pay for energy upgrades in their own homes over future years and bundle those costs with their existing utility bill. Along with developing a viable program to handle those requests, Schneider Electric also worked with the state legislature to make it legal for the city to implement the first-of-its-kind program in Michigan.
The city also wanted to expand its waste heat system to help area businesses and the local college save energy and reduce their carbon footprint.
“We can harness waste heat to provide energy-efficient, cost-effective bundles of services such as steam and compressed air to our industrial customers,” says Vanderploeg. “The program is tailored to meet individual corporate energy goals and allow the industrial park to circulate waste energy among industrial park businesses.”
In addition, the city plans to use audits and retrofits to achieve at least 50% savings from 40 small (less than 50k square foot) buildings.
Pioneering the New Model of Master Planning
The city’s master plan and community energy plan are coming together to not only save businesses and residents money, but also to inspire other communities to follow Holland’s lead of making sustainability and economic vitality go hand in hand.
This plan intends to yield high-quality industrial jobs and local labor opportunities. At the same time, it’s reducing the cost of capital and adding value to businesses and residents alike. The city is doing all of this while offering a more secure and flexible energy supply.