Downtown West Liberty after Tornado
Source: National Weather Service
Photo by Allen Bolling

In March 2012, a small community nestled in the foothills of the Appalachia was nearly destroyed by a monstrous tornado. Seven lives were lost, 400 homes demolished, $50 million of damage incurred, and most of the downtown devastated. Rather than view this crisis as a hopeless tragedy, the 3400 residents and local leaders of West Liberty, Kentucky, instead saw an opportunity to rebuild their town as a 21st Century, sustainable community, and to develop a path to create a more competitive, entrepreneurial economy. From the heart of coal country, West Liberty could provide a replicable, energy-diversified model for post-disaster recovery communities across the globe, and – perhaps more significantly – an example for other distressed areas of rural America.

Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise was hired to develop a Rebuilding West Liberty Strategic Report (click here). The plan is based on input from residents, local officials and stakeholders of West Liberty that supported creating a 21st century town at the forefront of green technology and smart, eco-friendly practices. The community learned about Greensburg KS that was destroyed by an E5 tornado that destroyed and all but 3 buildings in this town of 1,400 were destroyed. Greensburg decided to rebuild a green town with a wind farm, 31 green buildings rebuilt and 13 
were LEED certified. Before the tornado, Greensburg had 40,000 visitors per year but now over 100,000 visitors a year come to see how this      
small town rebuilt tself.                                                                                                                                                                                                  

West Liberty decided to create an eco-tourism destination location that leverages its people, as well as its beautiful natural resources, such as Cave Run Lake, Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge State Park and the Licking River. In 2013, Rebuilding West Liberty plan became a Clinton Global Initiative America "Commitment to Action" which includes a multifaceted approach to redevelop this small town in the foothills of coal country as a national model for sustainability -- through the construction of state-of-the-art, energy efficient homes that utilize renewable technologies, and through the educational promotion of its innovations to school children and similarly-situated rural communities across the country.

48 Unit HUD Housing Complex after the tornado. Photo by Tutwiler & Associates Public Adjusters
Frederick Place Apartments built after the tornado with energy efficient design and Energy Star Appartments.

A 48 unit HUD housing complex was destroyed in the tornado. Winterwood Property Management built and is managing a new 48 unit multi-family, energy-efficient development with Energy Star appliances and energy efficient design.

One primary goal of this project is the development of a national model for post disaster recovery. More significantly, this model can be used by other distressed areas of Appalachia and rural America.

West Liberty Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard (EEED)
The West Liberty Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard project has been funded a $94,000+ grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. In addition, Harshaw Trane in Louisville provided a $25,000 match and provided an additional $4,000 discount on the equipment needed to develop this project. Fahe (Federation of Appalachia Housing Enterprise) in Berea is the applicant and administrator for this project. Bobby Clark with Midwest Clean Energy Enterprise, LLC is the project manager. Kentucky Power and Licking Valley RECC provided pulse out meters needed to transmit electricity usage from remote sites.

Winterwood Property Management manages the Frederick Place Apartments is also a sponsor of this project. The Energy Efficiency Education Dashboard (EEED) will monitor and evaluate energy consumption of new highly energy efficient multi-family residences at Frederick Place Apartments and two Habitat for Humanity homes built after the tornado. Two Habitat homes were selected and the grant funded the installation of solar panels on each home. They were designed to be “net zero” so the homeowners in some months would have electric bills that are in excess of the electricity generated by the solar panels. In some months, the solar panels will generate more power than consumed and home owners will receive a credit on the electric bill.

Commercial Bank of West Liberty
after Tornado.
LEED Gold Certified Commercial Bank of West Liberty

Commercial Bank West Liberty that was destroyed in the tornado was rebuilt and is certified as LEED Gold. The bank had 30 wells drilled for a renewable geothermal system. The EEED will monitor and display the energy usage at the bank, the four units at Frederick Place Apartments and the two “net zero” Habitat homes. One additional older home in the county will also be connected to the dashboard. Videos will be developed and existing videos will be available to provide school children utilizing the energy efficiency curriculum. Students will help spread the word to their friends and parents about the opportunities to see how this unique community is transforming itself in to a sustainability focused town in the foothills of coal country.

One primary goal of this project was to teach students and the community about the value of energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities. In December 2016, six teachers (1 High School, 1 Middle School & 4 Elementary) received training and curriculum from the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project and taught student this spring.

Harshaw Trane has a proven track record for implementing Education Dashboards into schools and they have designed and built the EEED. Harshaw Trane provided hardware and software needed to monitor pulse outputs from the electric meters, network engineering to get the data through the internet and into the bank, and all custom graphics, programming, and setup for a display of real-time energy comparison of the various properties.

NEED Project Overview
Almost 35 years ago, The NEED Project began as a one-day celebration of energy education when National Energy Education Day was recognized by a Joint Congressional Resolution. In the same year, President Jimmy Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation stressing the need for comprehensive energy education in our schools, a reduction of our dependence of fossil fuels, and increasing use of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency. Since its founding, NEED has kept its Kids Teaching Kids philosophy as a fundamental principle of NEED programming – encouraging students to explore, experiment, and engage, and encouraging teachers to embrace student leadership in the classroom. NEED trains and assists teachers in harnessing the energy of the classroom – the energy of students.