Galena takes charge with sustainability

Galena takes charge with sustainability

BY JOHN KRUSE JOHN.KRUSE@THMEDIA.COM | Posted: Friday, March 4, 2016 12:00 am

GALENA, Ill. — LED street lights, stations to charge electric vehicles and a solar-powered City Hall are just some of the City of Galena’s recent energy sustainability efforts.

“We’ve always believed that change has to happen at the local level,” said City Administrator Mark Moran, who, along with other city officials, has pushed for the past five years to make the city more energy-efficient. “I think we’ve been able to do that.”

Efforts started in 2011, with the establishment of the My Green Galena initiative. Moran said city officials were motivated by rising energy costs for the city.

In 2010, the municipal wastewater treatment plant accounted for 12 percent of the city’s energy costs. In an effort to curb this, Galena installed a $1.3 million solar-array installation on site. Completed in 2012, the 1,444 solar panels now supply half of the plant’s energy, saving the city nearly $50,000 per year, Moran said.

Since then, Moran and city officials have steadily introduced a multitude of projects to promote energy efficiency and sustainability, including replacing 430 street lights with light-emitting diode bulbs, implementing an extensive recycling program and acquiring nearly 200 acres to be transformed into a public park.

In 2014, Galena received the Governor’s Sustainability Award for its sustainability efforts. Moran said the reception has been more than positive.

“I’ve had a number of people coming to me saying that our projects are awesome,” Moran said. “We’re excited to keep moving forward.”

To pay for these projects, the city aligned with several organizations, which supplied grants to assist with the costs.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Galena’s biggest partner, donated more than $800,000 toward the treatment plant solar-array project. In 2010, that foundation and the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation put up $545,000 each to purchase 100 acres and donate it to the city to establish what is now Gateway Park.

Steve Barg, director of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation, said another 80 acres bought in 2015 soon will be added to the park.

“Businesses will come and go, but the parks will remain,” he said. “This is a very good thing for the city.”

The city’s next project is installing a solar array on top of City Hall. Moran said the result will be a building running completely on clean energy. Work on the $85,000 project is expected to start this summer.

Moran said he has several ideas for future projects. After City Hall, he aims to focus on converting city vehicles so they can run on renewable fuels.

“I think we’ve been able to do all this because of the support from everyone, on all levels,” Moran said. “The whole thing has been really interesting and rewarding and fun.”