Member Spotlight Archive

Bowling Green, Ohio

Pioneering Energy Resources
Published April 2012

The city of Bowling Green, Ohio, is steeped in a tradition of energy development, dating back to the 19th century. Located in northwest Ohio, this progressive community can credit its success to its own natural resources, from oil and natural gas, to wind and solar power.

A history of energy exploration
First settled in 1833, Bowling Green serves as the county seat of Wood County. Its location on the edge of the Great Black Swamp, a glacially caused wetland in northwestern Ohio and northeastern Indiana, delayed its development due to the swamp’s dense forests and vast expanses of brackish water and mud that made travel difficult. In the mid-19th century, Bowling Green resident James Hill’s invention of the Buckeye Traction Ditcher made it possible to drain the Black Swamp, providing excellent farmland and leading to the development of railroads through the area.

With the discovery of natural gas deposits in the region during the 1880s, Bowling Green’s population surged and businesses flourished. In 1888, the four largest employers were all gas companies. Soon after, the discovery of oil in nearby North Baltimore brought even more economic development.

Bowling Green received its name in 1834 from postal carrier Joseph Gordon, who previously resided in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The settlement was officially incorporated as a village in 1885, and received its city status in 1901. Nine years later, the state legislature established the State Normal College, known today as Bowling Green State University (BGSU). As of 2010, the city’s population totaled more than 30,000 residents.

Continuing the pioneer spirit with renewable energy
In keeping with its pioneer past, the city of Bowling Green led the effort to harness wind power and convert it to electric generation. In 2003, Bowling Green gained prominence for becoming the home of the American Municipal Power Wind Farm, Ohio’s first utility-scale wind farm.

The completion of two 1.8-megawatt (MW) wind turbines in November 2003 fueled interest from nine other Ohio public power communities, prompting the construction of two additional units in 2004. The participating communities, together with Bowling Green, formed the Ohio Municipal Electric Generation Agency Joint Venture 6 (OMEGA JV6), and purchased the wind farm at the project’s completion. Today, the four-unit installation boasts a total generating capacity of 7.2 MW. The city of Bowling Green is the largest recipient of generated power, at 4.1 MW, just over half of the project’s total capacity.

Bowling Green has also used solar energy to help power its educational facilities. In 2004, the city’s municipal utilities partnered with BGSU to install 31 kilowatts (kW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof of the University Ice Arena. In 2006 an additional 10 kW was added to the Ice Arena roof. Also, in 2000, two of Bowling Green’s six elementary schools installed 1 kW solar electric PV systems that serve as a unique educational tool, as students monitor and record the current and voltage from their classrooms.

The city prides itself on the diversity of its energy portfolio, with 20 percent of its electricity used being generated by sustainable resources that include wind and hydro power. This will increase to 35 percent by 2015 with the help of Bowling Green’s participation in AMP’s Ohio River hydroelectric projects currently under construction.

Business and development
Bowling Green is ideally located on I-75 and U.S. 6 and is approximately 14 miles south of the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/I-90). The city is aided in economic development by the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, a public/private partnership organized exclusively to promote the general economic welfare of the community. This collaborative effort has helped to construct several business and industrial parks such as Wood-Bridge Business Park, Bellard Business Center, Hoffman Commerce Park, and Innovative Technology Park. These and other incentive programs have helped to maintain and grow a diverse business community. The city’s largest employer is Bowling Green State University.

Arts and recreation
The city of Bowling Green gives a nod to its geographical history by hosting the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The three day event is held each year in September, providing a venue for both visual and performing artists from around the country to perform, display, and sell a variety of artwork. The Black Swamp Arts Festival was first organized by a group of downtown business owners and members of the community who had an interest in spotlighting the arts in Bowling Green. The festival has grown to include 100 juried artists, 42 local artists, three musical stages featuring 30 different acts, performance art and youth arts.

Bowling Green has been the host to the National Tractor Pulling Championships since 1967. The event is held in August at the Wood County Fairgrounds and attracts 60,000 spectators.

BGSU offers many activities throughout the year ranging from the arts to quality athletic programs. The Falcons play Division I football and basketball in the Mid-American Conference and the men’s hockey team was the 1984 NCAA champion.

Public services and AMP participation
Established in 1942, the City of Bowling Green Department of Public Utilities (Municipal Utilities) currently serves more than 14,000 residential, commercial and industrial meters. It manages and operates the city-owned electric distribution, water and sewer system, water treatment plant and wastewater treatment plant. As a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3) recipient, Bowling Green has received national recognition for providing its customers with the highest degree of reliable and safe electric service. RP3 is an American Public Power Association (APPA) program that recognizes public power systems based on criteria such as reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. Of the nation’s more than 2,000 public power utilities, Bowling Green is one of only 154 that have earned the RP3 recognition.

As a member of AMP, Bowling Green actively participates in numerous AMP programs and projects that help provide reliable energy and other benefits to the community and its citizen/owners. These include:

  • Business/Economic Development
  • EcoSmart Choice, a green pricing program that enables municipal electric utility customers to offset 100 percent of their electric usage with renewable energy. 
  • Efficiency Smart, an energy-efficiency program offering financial rebates, incentives and technical assistance to help customer-owners make energy-efficient choices.
  • Landfill Gas Energy, landfill gas-to-energy sites in northern Ohio with a combined capacity of approximately 27 megawatts of generation.
  • Municipal Energy Services Agency (MESA), which provides technical assistance, such as planning, design and engineering, field services and training assistance, to members.
  • Mutual Aid Program, a network of municipal electric systems that assist member municipal systems during catastrophic utility emergencies.
  • OMEGA JV2, a joint venture of 36 communities owning three gas turbine distributed generation units and 35 diesel units at sites located across Ohio.
  • OMEGA JV5, a joint venture of 42 communities featuring an AMP-built and operated 42-megawatt hydroelectric plant on the Ohio River, plus back-up generation sources located throughout Ohio.
  • OMEGA JV6, a joint venture of 10 communities featuring four AMP-built and operated 7.2-megawatt wind turbines.
  • OSHA Compliance Program, designed to help members comply with all state laws governing the workplace safety of public employees.
  • Hydroelectric projects under construction on the Ohio River.
  • Prairie State Energy Campus, a state-of-the-art generating station that will be among the cleanest coal-fueled plants in the U.S.

For more information on all that Bowling Green has to offer, visit its website.