Upper Arlington's wind-energy deal latest in series of environmental sustainability initiatives

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
The city of Upper Arlington operates DC-Fast electric vehicle charging stations, which can be used by the public, at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road, and these shown at the Public Service Department, 4100 Roberts Road. It's one of a number of steps city officials have taken toward a goal of eliminating all waste, pollution and emissions by 2030.

The city of Upper Arlington has completed the latest step in its effort to achieve "zero waste, zero pollution and zero emissions by 2030."

City Manager Steve Schoeny authorized the city to enter into a three-year contract Jan. 13 with Baltimore-based Constellation NewEnergy Inc., a subsidiary of Exelon Corp., to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to meet 100% of the city's annual energy supply.

The switch became effective Feb. 11. 

RECs, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, are a market-based instrument that represents the property rights to the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource an allow for the accounting, tracking, and assigning ownership to renewable electricity generation and use.

"Under this contract, 100% of the city’s energy supply will be sourced from various wind energy facilities across the country, helping to support the operation and development of facilities that generate clean, renewable energy," said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington community-affairs director.

According to Finance Director Brent Lewis, the city's costs under the new contract will drop from a previous energy rate of $0.04700/kwh, to a $0.04562/kwh "for estimated annual savings of about $5,600 over the 36-month period."

Cost savings wasn't the sole motivation for this move, according to Schoeny.

He said Upper Arlington City Council has directed him to look to implement environmentally friendly initiatives whenever possible.

"One of our priorities and one of the priorities (council members) have given to us in the budget is to look for ways that we can embrace environmental sustainability and have sustainability appropriate practices, with a goal toward achieving zero waste, zero pollution and zero emissions by 2030," Schoeny said.

He added that the wind-energy deal is an example of Upper Arlington being "able to do well by doing what's right."

Wind energy is just the latest way the city has sought to reduce its carbon footprint.

While many of Upper Arlington's “green” initiatives have been launched within the last decade, others date back further – including being recognized by the national Arbor Day Foundation and National Association of State Foresters as a Tree City USA every year since 1990.

The city operates two electric vehicles, maintains an EV charging station at the Municipal Services Center and hosts five CoGo bicycle-sharing stations that are designed to reduce motor-vehicle traffic and emissions and promote healthier lifestyles.

The city's website says Upper Arlington has a 45.2% recycling rate, which represents the amount of recyclable material from the community that is diverted from the Franklin County Sanitary Landfill. The state average was 28.4%, according to a study commissioned by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in February 2019. 

Speight said the city is one of the few in central Ohio that allows solar-panel installations at the fronts of residences and businesses, and all traffic signals, pedestrian walk signals and street lights use liquid-emitting diode lighting that is more energy-efficient than traditional light bulbs.

"LED and other efficient lighting has been installed at the Municipal Services Center and Public Services Center," according to the city website, which also notes that Upper Arlington earned a grant for energy-efficient outdoor lighting at Northam Park after participating in AEP Ohio’s Community Energy Savers Program in 2014.

"The city has been proactively implementing energy-saving projects for the past decade," Speight said. "This has included transitioning to LED lighting in our buildings, traffic signals and streetlights.”

Upper Arlington’s sustainability efforts have earned it a platinum-level designation from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s Sustainable2050 program. They joined the program as an original member in 2017, and reached platinum status a year later, according to MORPC Principal Planner Jennifer Noll.  

Noll said 11 of the 34 Sustainable2050 members – including Upper Arlington – have achieved platinum level, the highest available through the program. A variety of actions contribute toward the designation, including reducing the percentage of vehicle commuters in a community, adding alternative-fuel vehicles and infrastructure and reducing the amount of solid waste per capita that is disposed of in the landfill.

Other platinum members include Bexley, Columbus, Delaware, Dublin, the Franklin County Commissioners office, the Franklin County Engineer's Office, Franklin Soil & Water Conservation District, MORPC, Westerville and Worthington.

"Platinum is the highest designation in the program, recognizing members who have made progress on at least 40 out of a possible 52 sustainability-related activities, based on the goals and objectives of central Ohio’s Regional Sustainability Agenda," Noll said, MORPC principal planner. "Upper Arlington sets a high bar.

"In addition to their progress on renewable energy, another example that stands out is the city’s unique partnership with SWACO (Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio) and Ohio State to study the effectiveness of food-waste diversion,” she said. “UA was among the first central Ohio communities to offer a food-waste diversion program (community composting) for its residents. So this is a great opportunity to learn about what works as more communities consider similar programs."

Noll said Upper Arlington is one of nine central Ohio jurisdictions to have adopted a "Complete Streets" policy, which is another sustainable activity.

"Complete Streets policies provide a framework for communities to accommodate the needs of all roadway users – people who walk, bike, use transit, etc., in addition to driving – in their road improvement projects," she said. "Not only does this make our streets safer, but it also can encourage more central Ohio residents to walk, bike or use public transportation, all of which are sustainable forms of travel.

"We are very proud of Upper Arlington and all our Sustainable2050 members for creating tangible, sustainable changes across central Ohio."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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