Work to start on Energy Farm this year

TRAVERSE CITY – Plans are progressing for the Energy Farm at the Historic Barns Park planned for the southern end of Grand Traverse Commons, thanks in part of a $22,000 donation from Cherryland Electric Cooperative.

"It's a great community project," said Tony Anderson, Cherryland's general manager. The project helps fulfill a state mandate that requires power companies to save a certain number of kilowatt hours per year.

Anderson said the company would be on board with the project even if it weren't for the state mandate, despite the fact that it encourages people to use less of its product.

"We look at it more as 'Why would we want people to waste energy?'" Anderson said.

The Cherryland gift is the first donation to the Energy Farm, and will likely allow work on it to begin sometime this year, said Debbie McKeon, director of North Sky Non-Profit Network, which wrote the business plan for the barns park. North Sky is a program of Rotary Charities of Traverse City and created the concept of the energy farm.

The project doesn't have a targeted fundraising amount. "It will never be done," McKeon said. "It's about always bringing in new energy technologies."

The first part of the project involves installing ground source heat pumps for the barns. The system will use the naturally temperate properties below the surface of the earth to heat the barns in the winter and cool them in the summer.

"It's used in a number or homes in the area already today," Anderson said.

The project also calls for interpretive materials to inform people on the different technologies featured at the park.

"We're hoping people will come for training and to learn about 21st Century sustainable and renewable energy," McKeon said.

Northwestern Michigan College plans to use the demonstration to teach its alternative energy students, said Ed Bailey, director of the college's technical disciplines.

"This is one more installation our students will have access to," he said. "It's a great learning opportunity.'

In addition to keeping the people inside the barns comfortable as they attend farmers markets, receptions or shows, the project will also teach people about alternative energy.

The energy park will complement other improvements planned for the Historic Barns Park and Botanic Gardens. That project is in the second of a three-year drive to raise $1.5 million to renovate the barns, starting with the Cathedral Barn, for community events. BN