City of Grand Rapids Implements Sustainability Project

Sept. 15, 2015
The energy efficiency program at the wastewater treatment plant is projected to save $2.2 million over the next 15 years

The city of Grand Rapids, Mich.’s wastewater treatment plant has completed the first phase of an energy efficiency program with OpTerra Energy Services. The energy-focused program is aligned with the city's broader vision for sustainability and will save $2.2 million in energy costs over the next 15 years.

Starting in 2013, leadership at the wastewater treatment plant collaborated with OpTerra to achieve fiscal savings through the implementation of plant upgrades focused on energy performance and expected energy escalation rates. While the development of the project was centered on improving air controls and HVAC efficiency, the city and OpTerra worked together to identify energy efficiency opportunities that would best fit the needs of the city while achieving its rigorous sustainability goals.

As part of their far-reaching sustainability plan, Grand Rapids has integrated a focus on improving sustainability outcomes as a natural extension of effective city operations and high quality of residential life. The wastewater treatment plant is the first city facility that has utilized a performance contract with a concentrated focus on measuring sustainability outcomes tied to economic, environmental, and social impacts tied to building performance. From contributing to broader city sustainability targets like reducing carbon emissions by 10,000 metric tons and increasing energy efficiency and conservation at city facilities by 10%, the wastewater treatment plant has used the performance contract model to fund facility improvements that showcase sustainable impact in motion—all while ensuring uninterrupted and reliable service to rate payers.

The full energy program was designed and developed by a Michigan-based team of OpTerra engineers alongside city and wastewater treatment plant stakeholders. The program includes building envelope enhancement that features energy recovery from final effluent to heat and cool the administrative building, as well as comprehensive boiler replacement and temperature and controls across separate building locations. By reducing its need for as much utility power, the city will also reduce its CO2 emissions by 2,835 tons—the equivalent to removing nearly 600 passenger vehicles off the road every year.

These initial energy efficiency improvements have built a foundation for the possibility of a biosolids application project on site at the plant in the next year. By first reducing energy consumption through the completed suite of energy efficiency measures, the city can now effectively scope how to harness energy capacity on site through a next phase of work.

"It has been a great experience partnering with the city of Grand Rapids to help achieve their sustainability goals across facilities, starting with the wastewater treatment site," said John Mahoney, CEO of OpTerra Energy Services. "Grand Rapids is setting the bar for other municipalities across the country to show how energy efficiency improvements can jumpstart a long-term sustainability plan with multiple benefits to the environment, the economy, and the local community."

The scoping of the biosolids opportunity at the wastewater treatment plant is currently underway.

Source: OpTerra Energy Services

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