Columbus, Cleveland and other Ohio cities could keep millions of dollars in their economy by generating more of their energy through such means as wind and solar power, an Ohio State University researcher says. Parwinder Grewal, the director of OSU’s Center for Urban Environment and Economic Development, specifically studied Cleveland. He concluded that renewable-energy sources could help that city save $28.7 million to $1.76 billion annually — money now being spent on imported energy — while reducing its carbon footprint.
“Control your destiny,” Grewal said. “The money stays local.” He looked at energy data for Cleveland, converted all energy use to megawatt-hours and determined that the demand is 22 million megawatt-hours per year. He then produced four scenarios, each of which involves a combination of wind and solar power, waste-to-energy conversion and biofuels. These include a facility that Cleveland plans to build to convert solid waste to energy, and a demonstration wind project off the Lake Erie shore scheduled for 2015.
Grewal would increase the amount of power generated by the wind farm, place solar panels on city roofs, and produce biodiesel fuel from algae grown on vacant land. “It provides encouragement to move in this direction,” he said of his study.
“Cleveland has exceptional potential in wind power,” Grewal added. “In some cities, wind power may not be as practical. But at the same time, some other cities could exploit solar power more than Cleveland.” Cleveland is committed to reducing energy consumption while moving toward renewable energy in its buildings and operations, said Jenita McGowan, chief of the city’s Office of Sustainability, “While there are many considerations that could affect the feasibility of his analysis,” McGowan wrote in an email about Grewal’s study, “there is momentum in the city in terms of on-site renewable-energy production, biomass waste-to-energy, using vacant land to increase sustainability, energy efficiency in the commercial and residential sector, as well as offshore wind and solar power.”
The savings wouldn’t come immediately, Grewal said, although taking advantage of the planned waste-to-energy plant and offshore wind turbines could be accomplished within a year. The more-aggressive scenarios would take about a decade, depending on public will, he said. The city could provide tax incentives for companies and individuals, Grewal said.
Such ideas would work in Columbus, too, he said. The city might not have the same potential for wind as Cleveland does — no big lakeshore here — but Columbus has plenty of warehouses with flat roofs for solar panels. In fact, the city is placing solar panels on the roof of its fleet facility on Groves Road, said Erin Miller, Columbus’ environmental steward. They will provide a third of the electricity the building needs, Miller said. Although they will save the city little money, they will help reduce its carbon footprint, she said, which is important for slowing climate change.
In addition, the city has an agreement to buy power from a digester plant that quasar energy group operates on Jackson Pike, said Susan Ashbrook, Columbus’ assistant director for sustainability. The plant mixes sludge from Columbus’ sewage-treatment plant with food waste and bacteria to make methane gas to burn to generate electricity.
The city also generates power at O’Shaughnessy Dam for American Electric Power, said Greg Davies, Columbus’ utilities director. Others in the city also are turning to renewable energy. On Dec. 1, Ohio State began buying enough electricity from a wind farm in western Ohio to supply 20 to 25 percent of the power needs of the Columbus campus, said Gina Langen, spokeswoman for OSU’s office of energy and environment.