recycling

Bowling Green takes ‘green’ part of name seriously

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Amanda Gamby’s new job may fall short of being glamorous. It’s had her tagging garbage bins, going through recycling, and riding bike for the first time in eight years. But as Bowling Green’s first ever sustainability coordinator, Gamby doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. She is a true believer in the city’s environmental sustainability – whether that involves energy production, recycling, bicycling or clean water. Gamby, who spoke Thursday to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club, said the city has already made some serious strides toward sustainability. “We’re really already doing some pretty cool things,” Gamby said. “We’re just not telling about it very well.” So that is part of her job. Gamby, who previously served as the Wood County environmental educator, has expertise in public outreach and education for very young children to senior citizens, and everyone in between. And she wants them all to know that 42 percent of Bowling Green’s electricity comes from renewable sources. “That’s a pretty big chunk of the pie,” Gamby said. The city was the first in Ohio to use a wind farm to generate municipal electricity, starting in 2003. “The joke is that it’s a wind garden because it’s only four,” she said. But even though it’s just four turbines, some doubted the city’s wisdom and investment in the $8.8 million project. “Many people thought Daryl Stockburger was crazy,” Gamby said, of the city’s utilities director at the time who pushed for the wind turbines. But the turbines have been generating power ever since. The turbines are as tall as a 30-story building and generate up to 7.2 megawatts of power — enough to supply electricity for approximately 2,500 residential customers. Debt on the wind turbine project was paid in full in 2015, which was several years earlier than planned, Gamby said. And now, the city is home to the largest solar field in Ohio. The 165-acre solar field consists of more than 85,000 panels and is capable of producing 20-megawatts of alternating current electricity.  In an average year, it is expected to produce an equivalent amount of energy needed to power approximately 3,000 homes.  It will also avoid approximately 25,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year since the energy is generated from a non-fossil fuel resource. The city is also talking about building a community solar field on East Gypsy Lane Road, where city residents and businesses can buy into solar power. “We’re really leaders. Our small community is setting the stage for others,” Gamby said. Bowling Green city officials have been adamant that the wind farm and solar field be open to tours so that others can learn from the alternative energy sites. Tours are allowed under and inside the turbines, and through the rows of solar panels. “That’s pretty unheard of in the industry,” Gamby said. The city is working to improve some of its other environmentally friendly programs, like encouraging more “rain gardens” and educating people to not put pollutants into storm sewers since stormwater is not treated by the water pollution control plant. Bowling Green continues to try to educate residents about its curbside recycling program, in order to keep contamination out of the recycling bins. But the city – with its frequently changing population at BGSU –…

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