Clean Energy Network promotes green energy in Northeast

Greg M. Schwartz

CUYAHOGA FALLS – Green Energy Ohio, the city of Cuyahoga Falls and the Kent Environmental Council partnered last week to hold a Clean Energy Network meeting at the Cuyahoga Falls natatorium to raise awareness about renewable energy issues in Northeast Ohio.

“Public awareness is really the name of the game,” said GEO’s Katya Chistik, the organization’s Northeast Ohio project coordinator. “We want companies and consumers to get on board with renewable energy.”

Cuyahoga Falls is a role model city for GEO’s efforts. The city is one of approximately 90 communities in Ohio that owns an electric utility system. GEO’s Chistik said that such municipally-owned systems are more open to renewable energy.

Becky McCleary, Cuyahoga Falls’ Public Utilities Customer Advocate, said that having their own system helps the city save money and be able to choose to utilize as much renewable energy as it can.

“We as a city feel like we are making an impact,” McCleary said, “but we need to network and reach out.”

One way Cuyahoga Falls supports renewable energy efforts is by their 25 percent ownership stake in the Bowling Green Wind Farm. It is Ohio’s first commercial wind farm and opened in 2003. Renewable sources make up 16 percent of Cuyahoga Falls’ energy.

“It replaces generation from coal or nuclear or natural gas, because it’s a renewable resource,” said Steve Watts, a GEO staff researcher. “They’re (Cuyahoga Falls) buying the green attributes and are displacing the fossil fuel energy they’d buy otherwise.”

Harold Walker, a board member of the 35-year-old Kent Environmental Council, also spoke at the meeting. He said the KEC has been working on a strategy to develop energy conservation issues.

“We want to expand our efforts to city and county policy,” Walker said. “We found problems because we found the city of Kent has contracts with utility companies – that limits what can be done.”

Walker said the KEC started recycling in Kent in the late ’60s, which led to recycling becoming an official project of the city. The KEC works with Kent State student organization Students Eliminating Environmental Destruction, and has a SEED representative on its board.

One of the programs that the KEC and SEED have implemented together is the “Throw and Go” recycling program for old furniture that students often leave by garbage Dumpsters.

Contact public affairs reporter Greg M. Schwartz at [email protected].