Hillsborough County hosts "Art of Sustainability" forum

09/17/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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Hillsborough County is looking for ways to get greener as environmental awareness and sustainability grow ever more popular in marketing and politics. Local planning officials and businesses proposed ways to make the region more sustainable this morning at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Tampa. It was the 2nd annual “Art of Sustainability” forum called E3: Energy, Environment, and Economics. County Commissioner Rose Ferlita said that the region will begin to look at its own impact on the environment, starting with purchasing more efficient county vehicles.

Displayed on the entrance promenade of the Performing Arts Center were some state of the art hybrid vehicles that Ferlita says the county is considering using for their fleet.

The Hillsborough County Planning Commission and the utility companies are partnering with Project Get Ready, a non-profit that focuses on helping cities adapt their infrastructure for an influx of electric vehicles on the road. Alan Denham works with Tampa Electric Company, who sponsored the event and works with “Project Get Ready.”

As mobile sources of energy use like cars are undergoing technological transformations in the marketplace, stationary power sources remain a concern for energy rate-payers looking for more renewable energy. So Ferlita says the county is paying more than a million dollars to install solar panels on top of the main courthouse.

And hot air could be powering some solar systems across the area, and Denham says that homeowners have been able to benefit from individually installed systems.

Solar hot water heaters and photovoltaic systems can help homes to create their own renewable energy, and TECO’s Director of Community Relations Stephanie Agliano points out that TECO has installed some large solar systems throughout the community.

But Denham says that TECO has yet to consider plans for centralized solar plants or power production, and is not yet using other technologies like geothermal or wind for renewable energy. He also declined to comment whether nuclear power is being considered for new power generation.

And it is unclear if TECO will ever use enough solar energy to substantially supplement the power it currently generates from coal and natural gas. Denham says that TECO is even offering rebates for saving energy already in use.

Green building is a way for homeowners to cut down on their energy usage without any necessary changes in power generation, but rather in individual energy efficiency. The event’s keynote speaker was Steven Thomas, former host of “This Old House,” and the current host of the Discovery Channel’s Planet Green TV show, “Renovation Nation.” He says that green building can be affordable and easy to understand.

Hillsborough is also looking at streamlining its recycling program with a single bin system for all recyclables. The forum attempted to unite business and government in making a more sustainable community, and it seems that new innovation has only just begun to gain widespread support in Hillsborough County.

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