I attended a the energy & sustainability planning event hosted by the UMN Department of Economic Development. International and regional speakers presented different projects that where succeeding in these areas.
The keynote speaker was a delegation from Saerbeck Germany including the Mayor. The city has been a strong leader in the European community for long term energy planning and implementation of green systems. They where able to look at the conversation of un-utilized military properties into highly effective energy solutions for their community. State of the art wind turbine, solar farms, bio gas, and bio methane have been integrated into unified energy grid. Down town, pilot projects created central heating & air solutions across multiple government buildings, schools, and other municipal facilities. These climate solutions are now being replicated to support over 60% of the residential homes.
Saerbeck’s integrated climate protection and climate adaptation concept (ICCC) is the model roadmap for achieving the climate protection
goals. It contains the key projects and measures. These plans, milestones, and metrics are attributed to being the key to long term success and growth of sustainable models. Due to this concept Saerbeck was honored as NRW (North Rhine Westphalia) climate community of the future in 2009. Saerbeck’s commitment has been continually acknowledged and honored often: European Energy Award 2010 and 2013, GermanSustainability Prize 2013, Energy Community 2013, Georg-Salvamoser-Prize 2014.
Interested parties visit from Germany and abroad to learn from Saerbeck’s model. Delegations visit from Germany and abroad to learn from Saerbeck’s model including representatives from Europe, Japan, Minnesota, and Georgia. Over 30,000 people visited Saerbeck by 2013 and over 20,000 of them attended the Bioenergy Park’s official opening day.
Some key learnings from the presentation is the long term view the European cities are taking in planning. These plans are decades in length and it shows both an entirely different level of commitment and investment models for not only a sustainable environment, but sustainable progress.
The second series of speakers was a delegation from Minnesota Duluth. The cities aging infrastructure is creating the need for significant investment. Large scale projects that would pull up streets in the downtown also create the opportunity to replace a wide range of infrastructure, but require extensive research and planning into many aspects of advanced solutions. The risk is making the right investments for the long term vs. simply replacing old systems to get by. The city planners have been looking at solutions all over the world and partnering with other planning organizations. For Minnesota this project stands to yield some best practices and ultimately real world learnings that hopefully can be replicated elsewhere.
City of St. Paul planners also featured an overview of the demolition and repurposing options for the Ford Manufacture Plant in St. Paul. This is an extensive sight with a strategic location in St. Paul. There was equally a fair number of challenges, as well as, opportunities for what this site could evolve into for the city. While this project is far from over, it bares watching over the coming years.
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