Cuyahoga County is Doing its Part to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

by Mike Foley , Director of the Department of Sustainability
Key projects are helping to improve lives and transform our region’s energy production and consumption.

Ohio is a state still largely reliant on carbon intensive forms of electricity generation to power our lights and computers and machines. Over 80% of our state’s electricity generation comes from fossil fuels with just over 60% coming from coal, which is the worst fuel source for Co2 purposes you can think of. The County has an opportunity and a responsibility to help make this county a better place to live, work and play. To that end, we are taking steps to improve lives and to transform our region’s energy production and consumption. 

Producing clean energy is a vitally important endeavor. Climate change is a dramatic disruption of the living conditions on Earth. From rising sea levels to new forms of diseases, from dramatically changing ecosystems to pressures on whole regions of the world to move because of drought and heat; climate change is enormously destabilizing. has all of the gory details about climate change. 9 of the top 10 hottest years in history have occurred since 2000. Arctic ice is melting at a record pace. Land mass ice in places like Greenland is doing the same. Carbon dioxide (Co2) levels are at their highest level in over 650,000 years!!! June 2016 was the hottest month of any June in recorded history. And it was the 14th time in a row that we could say that about the preceding month. It is a depressing and scary list of ever-increasing firsts. 

Below are three projects which we know will contribute to reducing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
  1. Offshore wind/vacant land solar. Many people are aware of the LEEDCo offshore wind project which will begin to be built in 2018 about 9 miles off the shores of Cleveland in Lake Erie. The first phase will consist of 6 wind turbines producing about 21Mw’s of power a year. The hope is that the pilot project will succeed and that in 10-15 years 100-150 wind turbines will be in the lake generating clean energy and producing lots of local jobs. The County provided funding for the initial research to prove out the potential for the project. And we have stepped up as a major customer for the new energy source. After all, in order for the project to work financially, it must have a consistent customer base for at least 16 years. County Executive Budish recently introduced legislation for the County to use our electric purchasing power to buy up to 8.6% of the power coming from the wind turbines and feed it through Cleveland Public Power lines into our buildings. In addition to this, we are putting together a project to develop up to 25 acres on currently vacant (and in some instances environmentally challenged) land with solar panels. We will be putting non-productive, abandoned land back into productive use and turn brown fields into green fields for one of the first projects like this in an urban environment in Ohio.
  2. The Clean Energy Finance Hub. Last year, we created the Clean Energy Finance Hub to help local municipalities, non-profits, churches, and businesses find private capital resources to become more energy efficient and produce renewable energy through solar installations on their rooftops. Recently, the first two projects went out to bid for Cleveland Heights and Highland Hills to fund respectively $4.5 million and $750k in energy efficiency upgrades in city-owned buildings. These projects will save both money and the environment as they reduce bills over the long haul and emissions from electrical and heating usage over the years. On the solar front, cities like Parma Heights and Independence are currently working through the financial, mechanical and engineering issues to put rooftop solar to work for their buildings. As these cities pursue solar we are hopeful that the others will join them and capitalize on the over $5 million in rooftop solar development available through this program.
  3. The Cuyahoga Solar Co-op. My hope is that at some point in the not too distant future, most homes will have solar panels on them and I’ll be a cranky old grandpa telling my grandkids about the day the solar installers came and put panels on the roof, and my grandkids will roll their eyes and say “Oh grandpa, not that story again!!” Well, in order to get from here to there, you need to start somewhere, which is what we are doing with the Cuyahoga Solar Co-op. Together with the City of Cleveland and others we are working to encourage as many participants as possible to get educated on residential roof top solar and do group purchasing and group procurement through the co-op. As of August 1, 2016 we had just over 100 households sign up with the expectation that we will at least double this before the co-op closes registration in late fall.

Many people in the world recognize that climate change is a huge problem. Institutions, governments, businesses, and people from all over this country and around the world are working to address solutions to reduce Co2 and other greenhouse gases and to stabilize emissions to a less harmful output. 

Here in Cuyahoga County government we are working hard to scale up projects for greenhouse gas reductions. Our work here is crucial and we are committed to developing impactful programs and initiatives that will directly impact our residents’ quality of life.