Michigan Green Communities bestows “gold status” to the City of Grand RapidsPart II: Greening the municipal infrastructure

On July 12, Rapid Growth Media shared how a Michigan Green Communities award highlighted the City of Grand Rapids work on helping residents become more climate resilient in the face of hotter, wetter weather and more severe weather events. The award also speaks to the city’s commitment to decrease its municipal carbon footprint, increase recycling efforts and responsibly manage its water system.
“We're really focusing on energy efficiency and reducing how much energy we're using first, but we also have our renewable energy,” Alison Sutter, the city’s sustainability and strategy officer. “That is 100% renewable energy for all of our electricity for city operations, by 2025. And at the end of last calendar year, we were at 44.4%.”

Biodigester yields fuel for city vehicles

Located at the Water Resource Recovery Facility on Market Avenue, the city’s biodigester uses bacteria to turn organic waste matter into burnable fuel — fuel that powers The Rapid transit system buses as well as some of the city’s fleet vehicles.

“It’s a no carbon emissions, renewable natural gas that can be used to replace regular gasoline and reduce the emissions associated with it,” Sutter says. “Not only is it helping to reduce the carbon emissions, but it's also helping to reduce other air pollutants that are emitted from buses that really contribute to bad air quality.”

The city hopes to install charging stations for electric vehicles, acquire more electric vehicles for its staff and implement an electric vehicle ride-share program that targets income challenged neighborhoods where it is more difficult for people to purchase their own electric vehicles.

Solar array at pumping plant

Since June 2022, a .09-megawatt solar array at the city’s water pumping plant near Lake Michigan in West Olive has been reducing the plant’s reliance on fossil fuel energy as it pumps Lake Michigan water to residents not only Grand Rapids, but also to individuals living in Kent and Ottawa counties.

“First and foremost is always ensuring safe drinking water and our water department does a phenomenal job with that,” Sutter says. “We are fortunate that we have a plentiful source of water. But our site is located on the lakeshore and therefore it takes an enormous amount of energy to both treat the water to make it safe and consumable but also pump it all the way to Grand Rapids and our customer communities.”

With power generated by the solar array, the Grand Rapids Water Department expects to save $200,000 a year in electricity costs and eliminate approximately 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of removing an estimated 230 passenger vehicles from the road. Another way the city is cutting electricity use is by transitioning 18,000 streetlights to LEDs.

These are just a few of the strategies that the City of Grand Rapids is utilizing to reduce its carbon footprint and more effectively manage waste. A comprehensive overview of all of the city’s green strategies can be found in its Strategic Plan.

“We are working with partners on a lot of different [green] initiatives,” Sutter says. “We partner with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. We partner with the Right Place — our partnerships are very broad, from businesses and educational institutions to community-based organizations and residents.”

Written By Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor
Photos courtesy City of Grand Rapids


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