Meridian Township sustains its climate pledge

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Communities, including Meridian Township, are contributing to the overall reduction of climate change. 

In addition to the solar panels on top of the fire station, Meridian Township has also finished a project in summer 2021, the installation of 355 solar panels on top of the Meridian Service Center, which is the largest installation of solar panels on Meridian Township facilities.

Since joining thousands of communities in signing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2007, Meridian Township adopted in 2017 a Climate Sustainability Plan to meet the climate action and green community goals of the township.

Some of the biggest strides that that township has made in honoring the Sustainability Plan has been implementing renewable energy sources including solar panels and green transportation, as well as holding citizens of Meridian Township accountable for their energy consumption. 

In Meridian Township, specifically, the township board discussed in the April board meeting that their plan is to “primarily use renewable energy in the future, encouraging residents to consider electric alternatives before they need to replace household equipment fueled by natural gas or gasoline.”

The township board’s goals for energy usage are by 2035, 40% of Meridian’s energy usage will be from renewable sources, followed by 80-90% by 2040-2050.

Meridian Township Environmental Programs Coordinator LeRoy Harvey said that “the board has budgeted money for more renewable energy in 2022,” Harvey said, “and our Energy Team is currently exploring cost effective options at the Municipal Building, Public Safety Building, Okemos Library, and Solar Carports.”

As far as physically implementing renewable energy sources throughout the Township, Meridian has spent the past couple years building numerous solar panel systems on top of city buildings. In November 2020, Meridian concluded a project of installing solar panels on top of the South Fire Station on Okemos Road. The project includes almost 40 kilowatts of electric power production. 

In an interview with HOMTV, Absolute Environmental Solutions Co-Founder Dan Bacon said that “this will produce enough energy that would offset the use of 20 average size single family homes.”

The project cost about $290,000 to install, but the township will save about $875,300 in electrical bills by using this system.

Going forward, Meridian Township Supervisor Ron Styka said, “we have now adopted the 2022 budget to include solar installations.”

The implementation of renewable energy can be expensive, but in reality, “the only limitations are practical ones, such as available locations for solar panels,” said Styka.

Another way that citizens can reduce their carbon footprint is by using green transportation. According to the Meridian Climate Plan, transportation produced 26% of greenhouse gases in 2014. A long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases emitted from transportation could be transitioning to the use of electric vehicles, but something that citizens can do right now to reduce their carbon footprint from transportation is walking or biking. 

Since 2012, Meridian Township has made over 20 miles of trails and 80 miles of pedestrian/bicycle paths for citizens to get to their destinations without using a car. These paths and trails are routinely maintained by Township Parks and Grounds Maintenance Staff. The location of these routes was strategically placed in high traffic areas by the township “to provide a network of interconnected pathways throughout Meridian Township that connect destination points including schools; libraries; parks; public buildings; commercial areas; and connecting routes outside the Township” according to the Meridian Climate Plan.

Despite all the efforts made by the Township to create cleaner transportation and energy, it will not drastically help the environment if citizens of Meridian Township do not also make strides to reduce their energy consumption. 

The first step to implementing new climate-friendly habits is education. Assistant Planner in the Meridian Township Department of Public Works and Engineering Keith Chapman said, “we have several educational efforts planned in the month and year to come,” said Chapman, “next month we are kicking off a Solar and Sustainability Tour in partnership with the American Solar Energy Society.”

This event kicks off in early October, and citizens can visit the Green Meridian booth at the Meridian Township Farmer’s Market in Okemos to speak with climate experts about solar energy, as well as viewing working solar installations and talking to homeowners and installers about their experiences.

Another way that the Township is holding citizens accountable for their energy consumption is by asking citizens to sign the Citizen Climate Commitment, which simply “asks people to consider efficient electric equipment” in their own households, according to Meridian Township’s Energy and Climate Initiatives.