Event Review

Notes on Greentown Michiana

Greentown Michiana in South Bend was the largest Greentown conference to date.  Keynote speakers were Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and walkable communities advocate Mark Fenton, who outlined a crowd-pleasing plan for making communities healthier and wealthier.  See his video above and check out his  presentation here (PDF).

My favorite presentation of the day was Conservation Design Forum President Jim Patchett’s take on how multipurpose infrastructure can benefit property owners and municipalities, creating opportunities for operational cost savings and revenue generation that could allow major infrastructure projects to potentially pay for themselves.  Among several intriguing concepts, he highlighted how municipalities could employ geothermal, solar and other interesting energy features as part of streetscape improvements, including the development of stormwater management infrastructure with hydroelectric capacity.

Although most of the presentations are available on the Greentown website here, Patchett’s is not.   After some digging, the most informative source online examining the use of stormwater for energy generation was a recent feasibility study by Portland General Electric for Oregon City that determined that while possible, the cost of replacing the infrastructure was greater than the expected payback over a 20-year period.   Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing idea.