Gary Gilot, Director of Public Works for the city of South Bend, addressed last night’s meeting of the Community Forum for Economic Development on what the city is doing to become good environmental stewards. In addition to measures to protect the aquifer from which we draw our water and to prevent storm runoff into the river, Mr. Gilot spoke about the steps South Bend is taking to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Part of South Bend’s effort to meet the goals set in the Cool Cities pact signed by Mayor Luecke on Earth Day, the city is examining the energy being used and what can be done to reduce demand for fossil fuel.

One of the city’s plans to reduce our carbon footprint is to search for funding sources for the hydroelectric generator on the dam at Century Center (what I have been referring to on this blog site as “on the East Race”; Mr. Gilot clarified that the generator is more accurately described as being “on the dam at Century Center”). Mr. Gilot also noted the generator’s plans included a world-class viewing chamber allowing visitors to watch the generator’s powerhouse as well as migrating fish.

What About Wind Energy?

At the meeting tonight, a member of the audience asked if South Bend had looked into wind turbines on some of the city’s rooftops to capture wind energy. Mr. Gilot said he had looked into wind energy a while back but according to his research, South Bend apparently did not have sufficient wind patterns to justify the capital investment. However, he also noted someone had suggested to him he was “looking too broadly” and that wind energy could still be a feasible option for the city.

It seems that if there is cost-benefit data on specific sites in the city, wind energy could be an option in South Bend. One person who may be able to provide more information about this question is Dr. Shrader-Frechette in the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Shrader-Frechette has written extensively about the market successes and cost-effectiveness of wind energy. (Her recent research “Miscellaneous Data on Renewable-Energy Technologies, 4/20/08” is apparently not yet available in publication, however her article Five Myths About Nuclear Energy does a nice job of explaining the benefits of wind over nuclear energy.)

Now that the city is looking seriously at hydro power and other ways to reduce our carbon footprint, could wind energy in South Bend be a research project for some graduate students of Dr. Shrader-Frechette’s?