MEO and its partners are taking on an ambitious project to transform an abandoned grade school into a local food education and processing center that achieves “zero net energy.” This means the center will produce as much energy as it consumes, a challenging undertaking that requires precise auditing, systems modeling, and creative financing.
Thankfully, Consumers Energy has initiated a pilot program in the state to provide technical and financial support to select projects, including the Long Lake Culinary Center. With their support, MEO and its partners have completed an ASHRAE Level II Energy Audit and a solar photovoltaic and wind assessment to identify opportunities for energy improvement in the building’s systems.
Tamarack Holdings, the building’s owner and a group of food distribution businesses, is leading the transformation into a hub of culinary activity where tenants can share facility resources and have access to organic land for small-scale farming operations. This project is about more than producing clean energy. It’s also about promoting organic, local foods and building resiliency and community economic multipliers.
MEO’s technical assessments for energy efficiency and onsite renewables include estimates of costs, savings, and payback times for the recommended upgrades. Preliminary planned upgrades are expected to save over $24,000 and more than 125,000 kilowatt (kWh) hours annually, helping the center to reallocate those dollars back toward their culinary mission.
Achieving zero net energy is a highly technical process, but with the support of Consumers Energy and the expertise of MEO and its partners, this former grade school could soon become one of the few buildings in the state to achieve this impressive goal. It’s inspiring to see the collaboration of community members and businesses come together to transform an abandoned building into a sustainable hub for local food production and education. It’s a win for the environment and the community.