One of the most innovative and interesting alternative energy projects in the region can be found at the Grand Rapids Area Library. What started out as a conversation at the Men's Reading Group at the Grand Rapids Area Library turned into the idea of pursuing alternative energy projects to help lower the operating costs of the Library and to create a showpiece for energy conservation and sustainability for the City.
** If you would like to view the Interactive Educational Dashboard on an iPad,
search for "Riverfront Energy Center" in the app store and download the app. **
The Riverfront Energy Center project is a commitment by the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Area Library to provide an educational showcase for alternative energy. The project consists of:
Approximately 750 mmBtu per day of waste heat flows past the Grand Rapids Area Library in the Mississippi River on its way to the wastewater treatment plant where it is cooled and treated. This is enough energy to heat 800 houses in January. The UPM Blandin Paper Mill generates approximately 2400 gallons of waste water a minute with a temperature range from 80 -130 degrees. The waste water travels from the mill to the screen house in the Mississippi River - located adjacent to the Library, and is then pumped to the waste water treatment plant located several miles away.
A 500 sq. ft. building houses a large gap plate heat exchanger. A four inch pipe runs from the screen house to transfer some of the waste water to the plate heat exchanger where the heat is transferred to the glycol side of the exchanger. The heated glycol is then sent to the Library where it is used to pre-heat the air being introduced via heating coils installed in the fresh air supply side of the air handling units. Heat supplied by the plate heat exchanger is also sent through the baseboard heating system and the sidewalk snow melt system, if needed.
The existing natural gas boilers in the Library heating system are only enabled if one of three things happens:
Cost for Natural Gas for the first 4 months of 2011 was $8127
Cost for Natural Gas for the first 4 months of 2013 was $819, 10.2% of the 2011 cost.
The goal is to provide a showpiece for alternative energy that can be utilized by the area schools and Itasca Community College. The heat exchange system was constructed with color-coded pipes to indicate the lines that bring the water in and those that take the glycol to the Library and the lines that bring the water back to the waste stream. The pipes are also labeled to indicate the purpose of each.
One half of the building is set up to be used as an alternative energy education center. K-12 science curriculum elements are incorporated into an interactive video dashboard teaching and testing students on alternative energy sources and consumption and CO2 production. A touch screen computer in the education center provides demonstrations of the heating system and the data being generated, as well as demonstrations of how solar and wind energy is produced, and how the green roof works. The educational portion on the energy production and consumption is also available on the web for all to view.
Students and faculty from the Engineering Department of Itasca Community College have been contributing to the design of the educational portion of the project, including designing for wind and solar demonstration units. They have also been collaborating on the design for the educational dashboard elements that display energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The educational component was a critical element in securing the funding from bothe the Blandin Foundation and the Iron Range Resources.
The next phase of the project will include the completion of demonstration solar and wind energy systems near the building. These systems will provide a valuable educational asset to students and to the community. Data on the energy generated by these systems will also be visible with the educational dashboard. The Grand Rapids Area Library Foundation has raised money for the educational dashboard and continues to solicit funds for the remaining educational components, include completion of the solar sunflowers and installation of a demonstration wind turbine.
One of three planned solar sunflowers has been erected on the hillside north of the Library. The sunflower tilts to follow the sun as it travels across the sky. The solar panels were manufactured in Mt. Iron MN by Silicon Energy. They will eventually provide 3550 kWh/year when all three are installed and connected. Once all three are installed, they will produce enough electricity to provide a small portion of the Library's electricity.
The roof of the new building provides another opportunity to demonstrate green building techniques. The building was constructed with a Green Roof that incorporates plants that absorb water and sun energy to make the building more efficient and limit the storm water impact.
What started out as a conversation at the Men's Reading Group at the Grand Rapids Area Library turned into one of the most innovative and interesting alternative energy projects in the region. The group proposed the idea of pursuing alternative energy projects to help lower the operating costs of the Library and to create a showpiece for energy conservation and sustainability for the City. A team of volunteers and city employees met to explore possibilities.
As the idea was explored, the Grand Rapids City Facilities Manager brought up the idea of using the heat from the UPM Blandin Paper Mill waste water stream to heat the library. The team set a goal to figure out how to utilize the hot waste water from the UPM Blandin Paper Mill to provide heat for the Grand Rapids Area Library and possibility other nearby buildings, and how the project could be funded. The engineering firm SEH developed an initial design concept and cost estimate. The Blandin Foundation committed $50000 toward the project and the Iron Range Resources committed $200000. The remainder of the funding was made up by the Library fund.
This collaboration between the private sector, the non-profit sector and local government in Grand Rapids has produced an example of how community partnerships can create new ways to provide service and reduce cost, conserve energy, and reduce the carbon footprint of a building. The inclusion of Itasca Community College in this partnership has provided innovation and assistance throughout the project on designing ways to educate the community on energy consumption and alternative energy production options.
Thank You Donors!
Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board
Grand Rapids Area Library Foundation
Grand Rapids Public Utilities Commission
Minnesota Energy Resources
(Wisconsin Public Service Foundation)
Lake Country Power
Friends of Cynthia Driscoll
Randy and Kathy McCarty