Friday, April 8, 2011

Sustainability: District energy

West Union, Iowa….WOW, you! With ARRA support, this rural Main Street Community could serve as a model to other small communities across the country, demonstrating that environmental and economic stability, considered together, can keep America’s Main Streets vital and thriving.  
Their mostly brick, two-story building downtown has seen more prosperous days, nevertheless local leaders have not grown complacent. In recent years, with the aim of luring more visitors downtown, they have embarked on an ambitious project that incorporates green technology and design. The center piece of this effort is both age-old and cutting edge: a “district energy” plan that will provide residents and property owners with access to cheap and renewable geothermal power.
According to Preservation Magazine, “at the start of the 20th Century, the notion that multiple buildings could share a heating system, usually a boiler and steam based, was popular; examples survive at colleges and hospitals around the country. But district energy fell out of favor in the 1950’s as suburban development began in earnest, and planners became less interested in Main Street infrastructure.”
Today, with over $8 million in grants, West Union plans to create a neighborhood sized public utility that will draw energy directly from the ground.

The Geothermal Energy Association has a wealth of information about this energy source. And we all know, I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of Geothermal Energy, but rather to stay abreast of the initiatives that spark community enthusiasm, makes us all say "why didn't I think of that"  and improve the quality of life. What’s happening in West Union’s downtown seems to fit that bill.

Here’s the preservation lab news brief

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