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See how Holland's snowmelt system works

7:15 PM, Feb 1, 2013   |    comments
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Downtown Holland.

HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - When it comes to driving or walking in snowy conditions, people in downtown Holland have a big advantage. Holland city leaders say the city's snowmelt system is the largest of its kind in the country.

Despite heavy snowfall on Friday, many people were walking around downtown Holland. The winter weather gives city leaders a chance to show off the snowmelt system.

"I believe this is the largest municipally owned snow melt system in the country," says Patty Fitzpatrick, Director of Holland's Downtown Development Authority.

Inches below the ground is piping, filled with warm water, coming from the coal power plant.

"We've been able to recirculate that water, getting it to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and pump it down from the power plant, through large transmission mains," says Dave Koster, General Manager of the Holland Board of Public Works. "It's a beneficial use for the waste heat, which otherwise would go back to the lake and be rejected."

The snowmelt system covers about 500,000 square feet underground. It was built during a downtown renovation in 1988 and 1989. Local business leaders got the idea from Europe.

"They felt it would keep the infrastructure nice, after they were redoing it all, it would help prevent plows from bumping up on the concrete," says Fitzpatrick.

At the time, Holland was one of the only cities to have one, but times have changed.

"We get calls all the time from other communities asking about it," says Fitzpatrick.

The Holland BPW says the snowmelt system is expected to cover a larger area in the coming years, once the new natural gas power plant is built, and there is more heated water available. Grand Rapids and Grand Haven have also added snowmelt systems to their downtown retail areas.

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