Source: Sherman Publications

Orion leading the ‘going green’ way

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

April 20, 2011

While “going green” remains a current environment saving trend, the added savings involved have seen a number of municipalities adopt energy saving measures.

Orion Township started looking into becoming more energy efficient in 2009 at the Michigan Township Association Annual Conference. There, they began talking extensively about the green initiatives and incentives available from the federal government. Thanks to funds provided from federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants, a number of Orion Township owned buildings have become a little more efficient.

“We’ve installed and changed things in the township hall that have saved us a lot on our energy bills,” said Township Clerk Penny Shults. “We now have occupancy sensors that that turn on the lights when the room is in use, and vice versa, we use our computers’ hibernation settings so they go into sleep mode and use less electricity when not in use, and we also moved a Friendship Park employee to the township offices from the park building so we wouldn’t have to heat the building all winter.

“We don’t know how much we’ve saved total, but we do know that the energy bills we pay have gone down a lot.”

In addition to simply turning off appliances not in use, Shults said insulation and a new roof had been installed at township hall to save not only on heat and air conditioning, but the electricity needed to run the space heaters which were used frequently before the insulations installation. Township Operations Manager Allan Feys said the rebuilding of the roof was funded in part by a grant from DTE.

“The DTE grant is funding a lot of these new initiatives, like the new lightbulbs were putting in, but I think the biggest things we’ve done is replacing the old roof,” said Feys. “When we were in the process of replacing it we found that the old one had virtually no insulation.

“We have a bizarre building in that it was built in phases, but we make sure our energy savings systems are reviewed to work as efficiently as possible.”

Four township fire stations, the DPW garage, and the new senior center have all been improved to become more energy efficient. The new senior center, in particular, has become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, and according to Supervisor Matthew Gibb is about as “‘green’ as a building can get.”

“In the senior center, we’re using rain gardens that collects rain water which is used for irrigation, all our electrical zoning is arranged so it will only be on when it’s in use, and we’re even using low energy wiring,” said Gibb. “We’re also purchasing the gas used for the building from a wholesale cooperative, which is a company that is authorized to resell natural gas.”

The township is also hoping residents and business owners in the township do their part to “go green” as well. Shults said one of their first initiatives to encourage this is the changing of ordinances to allow for more modern clean energy use.

“As part of the Rebuild Michigan program from Department of Labor and Economic Growth we updated some of our ordinances for solar and wind power. Now if anyone in the community wants to install a wind turbine or a windmill, it would be an easier process,” she said. “We also want people to be able to install battery recharging stations because we want to become a well-known destination for electric car drivers.”

Despite the breadth of the energy saving efforts perpetrated by the township over the past two years, Shults said the township isn’t finished improving.

“We really want to heighten awareness as well, and part of the way we’re doing that is to host the Growing Green Earth Day Expo (GGEDE),” said Shults. “We want to leave a great planet for out kids.”

Part of increasing awareness involved urging children from Paint Creek, Carpenter, and Pine Tree elementaries to enter into a coloring contest at GGEDE. Shults personally delivered the prizes - low energy bulb disposal kits - to the kids on Monday.

The GGEDE happens annually, every Saturday closest to Earth Day and is in its second year of existence.