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Milford Building A Green Model For Others, Environmentalists Say

Melink's newest headquarters in Milford is net-zero energy, built at a cost of 10% higher than a conventional code compliant building.

Steve Melink, owner of the Melink Corporation, says it really doesn't cost that much more to build a net-zero energy building. He did it for just 10% above the cost of a conventional code compliant building and says the energy savings will pay for the solar, geothermal and other energy efficient equipment in about five years.

Melink was part of the Green Energy Ohio 2021 EV Tour Wednesday and now the Milford business, a global provider of energy efficiency, is encouraging other Greater Cincinnati businesses to go green.

Net-zero means generating more energy than you use.

The company's first building on its Milford campus is also net-zero, but it was retrofitted. This second headquarters was designed that way.

The first thing you see is the solar canopy in the parking lot, where employees are offered incentives to drive electric cars. "We have more Tesla's per capita than almost anywhere in the country," says Melink. This solar array provides 85 kilowatts' worth of energy.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
This is just one of the solar arrays on the Milford campus.

This solar array, combined with geothermal heating systems, provide Melink with clean energy. Melink explains the company isn't burning any fossil fuels. He says there are times when the business has to pull from the grid, but on average, it generates more energy than it uses.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
CEO Steve Melink stands in front of the Edison room. It repurposed wood from a Wisconsin factory.

You'll notice the building has lots of natural light with big windows that open, and skylights. It also has thick insulation. Melink says green buildings are healthy buildings.

"Increasingly, developers and building owners should be viewing their buildings as investments to realize a return on that," he says.

Melink says the cost of solar has gone down 90% and he also hopes to make geothermal more affordable. One way that's possible is by designing a smaller ground loop. Another way is using a thermal battery with the air and water heat pump.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
This is a display of a geothermal system that Melink hopes to make more affordable.

"We're basically making ice at night, when it's cooler at night to make the ice, and oftentimes the electric rates are lower at night in which to make that ice, so we don't have to run our air and we don't have to upsize our air conditioning as much for peak summer days," he says.

Melink has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and is working with Oak Ridge National Laboratories to develop a "phase change" material for the thermal battery.

The city of Cincinnati government will be carbon neutral by year's end, according to Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who visited Melink Wednesday and plugged his Tesla into a charging station there.

"We have to build a movement that embraces electric vehicles - all the parts and jobs and opportunities that go along with electric vehicles - and we need to build a cleaner energy economy."

Highland County is the site of the largest city-led solar project in the U.S. It's the size of 750 football fields. By the end of 2021, Cranley says it will power the lights in his office and other buildings and pump water to Greater Cincinnati residents.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.