How green is your hometown? Sault Ste. Marie residents will soon know exactly what their city is doing to reduce its carbon footprint when its online Environmental Initiatives Map launches this fall.
Funded by the city’s Municipal Environmental Initiatives Committee, and being implemented by the Community Geomatics Centre, the website outlines environmental projects taking place within the city. Everything from the hours of operation for hazardous waste depots to major solar projects will be detailed on the site.
“Part of our mandate on the green committee is to make the public aware of what the city’s doing to help reduce our own carbon footprint,” said Marie Alexander, a senior software engineer and developer with the Community Geomatics Centre, who’s working on the initiative. “We want the community to know the city is doing something to reduce their energy emissions, to reduce their energy consumption, and these are the things we want to do.”
The website will comprise three segments: a renewable energy section, which will list renewable energy projects in the city; a section for the city’s environmental initiatives, which will detail projects the city’s undertaken, such as retrofitting lights or reducing fuel consumption; and a section listing energy-related companies in the private sector.
A news feed on the site will update people on the latest developments.
“It gives them a one-stop shop for all the environmental initiatives that the city is doing, whether it’s solar lights, or waste-diversion efforts, or pump station work which is related to water quality,” Alexander said. “So we want to try to incorporate all the different things all in one spot.”
Though its initial purpose was to help inform residents of their city’s eco-friendliness, Paul Beach, the geomatics centre’s manager, believes the site can also serve as a “window” into the progress Sault Ste. Marie has made on the renewable energy front.
Over the last few years, the self-styled “alternative energy capital of North America” has become a key player in the renewable energy sector. In addition to hosting large-scale energy projects—the 189 MW Prince wind farm and twin solar farms—the city claims several private businesses that manufacture and install components for the solar power industry as well as the Ellsin tire recycling plant.
The geomatics centre’s ability to quickly identify some appropriate properties for solar energy generation was key to attracting Pod Generating Group, which completed two 20 MW solar farms in 2010.
“(The map) serves a couple purposes here,” Beach said. “It shows the progress that’s being made, but it could also open the door for even more people to come to Sault Ste. Marie.”
Having information easily and readily available is appealing to private companies looking to reduce red tape and get business done quickly, he added. New solar companies looking for a place to set up will see the Sault already has a solid employment base and recognize there are available sources for the parts they need, added Alexander.
Future applications may include a solar calculator, which residents can use to do a cost-benefit analysis of having a solar power system installed at their home, or an interactive feature that allows residents to submit details of projects they’ve already installed.
Although the platform has been commissioned by the City of Sault Ste. Marie, it can be easily applicable to other communities in the province, Beach said.
maps.cityssm.on.ca (official Flash version)
maps.cityssm.on.ca/Default.aspx (for users without Flash)