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Published: Wednesday, 9/21/2011

Geothermal mulled as better energy option

Wind turbines, solar panels deemed too obtrusive

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

OREGON -- Because wind turbines or solar panels are too obtrusive on the landscape, geothermal energy may be a better option for developing renewable energy in the city, Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian said.

"To us, it's more appealing when it's underground," Mr. Seferian said at a city meeting last week.

Several Oregon City Council members said they want to explore geothermal energy options for heating and cooling local homes, businesses, and government buildings. Using geothermal energy -- natural heat found underground -- could be a cheaper alternative as propane costs rise and some Oregon residents live too spread out to tap into natural gas, some said.

"I'm in total support of this," said City Councilman Sandy Bihn. "I would love to see this thing happen in our community."

But Ms. Bihn said more information is still needed, such as how many residents are actually interested in hooking up to a proposed geothermal energy network. Other councilmen said they wanted to know what the actual cost saving on utility bills would be.

At the Sept. 12 meeting, the council's public utilities and environmental committee voted to write a letter of intent to show it wants to explore geothermal energy options without spending any city dollars. The issue will go before the full city council Monday, City Administrator Michael Beazley said.

"We're committing the time to do it, is what we're saying," Councilman James Seaman said about the purpose of the letter of intent.

Daniel Skiba, president of two Indianapolis-based companies that install and operate geothermal energy units, told committee members it would take two to three years to hook up 114 Oregon homes and six businesses at a cost of $2.5 million as part of a proposed private-public partnership.

In return, residents would save 15 to 40 percent on their utility bills compared to using propane or natural gas, Mr. Skiba said.

Mr. Seferian said the biggest cost-savings to the city would be on the Oregon Municipal Building's utility bills.

"It has the efficiency of zero," he said.

Geothermal is becoming more popular in Michigan, especially in the Detroit area.

In Northwest Ohio, one example of geothermal heating is the indoor practice field at the University of Toledo's Savage Arena.

But there is a push for more "green" energy options in Lucas County. In April, 2010, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority received a $15 million federal grant to make homes and businesses in the region more energy efficient.

In other action at the Sept. 12 meeting, Oregon City Council President Clint Wasserman resigned from his post to take a position as an assistant prosecutor with the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office. He said the decision to leave the council was "bittersweet."

"I tried diligently to do what's best for the city of Oregon," Mr. Wasserman said at the end of the council meeting. "I wish you good luck for the remaining of the term. I leave the city in your hands."

Mr. Beazley said there is not an urgency to fill the vacant seat of the two-term city councilman because of the upcoming general election scheduled Nov. 8.

Council members congratulated Mr. Wasserman on his new job. "I can truly say we had fun," Mr. Seferian told him. "It was really a pleasure having you sit here."

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com or 419-724-6026.



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