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Bemidji City Council: Energy study sought for BREC

The city's Sustainability Committee on Monday will ask the Bemidji City Council for support in hiring a consultant to examine solar energy viability at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

Erika Bailey-Johnson, a member of the Sustainability Committee and sustainability coordinator for Bemidji State University, has requested that the city consider spending $5,000 toward the cost of a consultant who would assess solar energy opportunities at the BREC.

The council is expected to consider the request during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

In a letter, Bailey-Johnson said the Sustainability Committee plans to apply for a Rural Energy Development Initiative grant that would allocate $10,000 toward the hiring of a consultant.

The grant requires matching, local funds, and the Sustainability Committee is asking the city to contribute $5,000.

The consultant would be full-time for three months to determine the best location for a solar photovoltaic system in the south shore redevelopment.

Once a location is identified, the consultant would apply for a Solar Energy Legacy Grant with the potential of receiving $150,000 to purchase and install the system.

The BREC will utilize a geothermal heat-pump system.

"Geothermal is a fantastic energy source since it utilizes the fairly constant temperature of the earth's crust below the surface to circulate a pre-heated or pre-cooled surface (either air or water)," Bailey-Johnson wrote. "The disadvantage of geothermal is the inefficiencies in circulating the substance."

Pumps, usually using fossil fuels, are required to circulate the substance.

"The use of fossil fuels, many feel, negates the advantages of using geothermal," Bailey-Johnson wrote.

The Sustainability Committee would like to substitute the peak energy use for the pumps with a renewable energy source, such as solar power.