Category Archives: Environmental Issues

Orange County’s Adopt-A-Highway Program Engages Community Members to Volunteer and Clean Up County-Maintained Roads

Since 1989, Orange County Government has managed a fun and educational program designed to allow citizens to make a positive impact by enhancing the cleanliness of Orange County roads. The Adopt-A-Highway program was conceived in response to roadside littering that was creating an eyesore for residents and visitors to Central Florida.

 

“It gives residents of Orange County a chance to rid their community of litter,” said Princess Poke-Clarke, citizen services coordinator for Orange County Public Works Department Roads & Drainage Division. “The program is designed to provide businesses, neighborhood organizations and individuals a way to volunteer with the goal of cleaning and beautifying a roadway, while also saving taxpayer dollars. It also promotes fellowship among the sponsoring organization and the community.”  

 

Adopt-A-Highway is managed by the Orange County Public Works Department, Roads & Drainage Division. Public Works is responsible for processing all documentation and coordinating with the various participants, as well as scheduling cleanups, conducting safety meetings and providing the safety vests and trash bags for volunteers to use during the cleanups. The County also picks up the collected litter at specified locations and posts Adopt-A-Highway signs acknowledging the sponsor at the beginning and end of their section of the road.

 

“Potential sponsors typically call Orange County’s 3-1-1 call center, which helps gather initial information about becoming involved,” explained Poke-Clarke. “There’s a confirmation and approval process, which usually takes 1-2 days to complete upon receipt of a signed agreement from the participant.”

For the Good of the Community

Sponsors are committed to removing litter six times a year for two years on a minimum of half-mile segment of county road right-of-way. They also need to attend a safety meeting given by the highway foreman of the participating maintenance unit. Once the safety meeting is completed, participants arrange and schedule an appropriate litter removal cleanup date with the maintenance unit foreman every eight weeks.

               

“We have high expectations of what our roads are supposed to look like,” Denise Sedon, assistant general manager of the Hunter’s Creek Community Association said. “Being a part of the program shows our residents we care, and it also keeps up our great relationship with the County.”

 

The southwest Orlando community has adopted more than one road over the years and considers its involvement beneficial to the growing region. 

 

“With an ever-increasing population and the heavier traffic that comes with that, especially on John Young Parkway, there’s unfortunately more garbage strewn about,” acknowledged Sedon.  “Therefore, we need to take responsibility and do our part to keep our roadways clean.”

 

The Trinity Christian School Junior Beta Club first became an Adopt-A- Highway sponsor in 1991, cleaning a section of Roger Williams Road between 436 and 441. Since then, it has remained active in the program. According to Edith Bentley, band director and Junior Beta Club sponsor, it’s a great way for students to better appreciate the environment in which they live.

               

“They’re constantly disappointed at how trashy our road is after only a weekend goes by, but they understand that although they can’t force people to be respectful and not litter, they’re still serving the community at large by their efforts,” asserted Bentley. “It’s an opportunity for them to make a difference and teaches them to be civically responsible.”

 

Over the years, the Adopt-a-Highway program has been successful with cleaning up miles of roadway throughout Orange County, all thanks to caring residents who participate by volunteering their time.

 

“The time they invest in keeping our roadways clear of debris helps build a better community for all of us,” said Poke-Clarke. “It’s about people caring enough to make a difference.”

 

If you or your organization are interested in participating in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, contact the Orange County Public Works Department, Roads & Drainage Division at 407-836-7900 or 407-836-3111.

Everything is Brighter in Orange County … West Orange Solar Co-op Launches

Everything is Brighter in Orange County … West Orange Solar Co-op Launches

Orange County, Fla. — Orange County is building on the momentum of the state’s largest and most successful solar co-op by again partnering with Solar United Neighbors of Florida to bring a new solar co-op to residents of West Orange County. The new co-op is now open and runs through mid-June 2018.

Solar co-ops provide bulk discounts of up to 20 percent for a group of homeowners interested in purchasing solar panels. As part of a solar co-op, each participant signs an individual contract with the group-chosen installer, and all participants benefit from the discount. All homeowners who reside in West Orange County, including in city jurisdictions, are eligible to participate in their respective co-op.

Earlier this year, more than 150 residents of East Orange County formed a co-op and selected Goldin Solar to serve the group. Members of that co-op are now in the process of signing contracts with the installer.

Orange County launched its first solar co-op in the summer of 2016 with 515 participants. Of those households, 79 installed solar through the co-op, accounting for 702.83 kW of new solar capacity in the County. In addition, $1.3 million was invested in solar with this co-op with a total energy savings over a lifetime of solar array of $3.5 million. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and her family were among the 79 households who joined this first solar co-op.

Solar power also supports Jacobs’ goals in her Sustainability Initiative, “Our Home for Life,” which seeks to reduce barriers to alternative energy and increase renewable energy production by 10 percent in 2020 and 25 percent by 2040.

Joining a co-op does not obligate members to purchase panels. The exact price of a Photovoltaic (PV) system is dependent on homeowners’ preference in system size and their home’s energy consumption. Homeowners have the option to install the size PV system that fits their budget.

As part of this initiative, Orange County streamlines the permitting process for solar installations. New solar permits can be processed in a single day.

To learn more and register for an information session, visit http://www.solarunitedneighbors.org or email FLteam@solarunitedneighbors.org. Upcoming information sessions are as follows:

• Thursday, April 19, 2018, 6 p.m. First Green Bank

862 S. Orlando Avenue

Winter Park, FL 32789

• Thursday, May 3, 2018, 6 p.m. Hiawassee Branch Library 7391 W. Colonial Drive Orlando, FL 32818

• Monday, June 4, 2018, 6 p.m. John Bridges Community Center 445 W. 13th Street

Apopka, FL 32703

Additional meetings will be announced on SolarUnitedNeighbors.org.

In partnership with OUC and UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, Orlando is one of nine teams selected for this innovative, collaborative research effort

Solar Energy Innovation Network Helps City of Orlando Evaluate Solar and Solar-Plus-Storage Potential for Affordability and Improved Grid Reliability

In partnership with OUC and UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, Orlando is one of nine teams selected for this innovative, collaborative research effort

April 10, 2018 – ORLANDO, FL – Today, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced Orlando is one of nine teams selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to participate in a collaborative research effort to explore new ways solar energy can improve the affordability, reliability, and resiliency of the nation’s electric grid. Participation in the Solar Energy Innovation Network will assess cost-effective options and pathways to meet the city’s commitment to utilize 100 percent renewable energy for municipal operations by 2030 and citywide by 2050.

“Cities are the front lines, where leading an effort like this can not only help to improve the health of our residents but also help preserve natural resources, ensure environmental protection, create new jobs in the growing clean energy industry and drive even more economic growth to our region,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “We’re committed to taking the steps necessary to make our City resilient and we are proud to have partners on both the local and national level to support these efforts.”

The City of Orlando has partnered with Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) and University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Florida Solar Energy Center as part of the initiative to develop new research and pilot case studies that will utilize solar photovoltaic and energy storage technologies on municipal properties with the intent of broader replication.

“Our commitment to renewable energy is evident in all we do, including our recent announcement of a seven-fold increase in solar energy,” said Linda Ferrone, OUC Vice President of Strategy, Sustainability & Emerging Technologies. “We’re excited to collaborate with the City of Orlando and the University of Central Florida to create innovative energy solutions for our community while maintaining our outstanding record of reliability.”

“We are eager to work hand-in-hand with the City of Orlando to make our community a national model for renewable energy and sustainable living,” said Elizabeth Klonoff, Vice President for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at the University of Central Florida. “Our researchers are already leaders in this field and I can’t think of a better place to implement some of our cutting-edge research than our own hometown.”

Through Orlando’s participation in the Solar Energy Innovation Network, the solutions developed and demonstrated through the project will serve as a blueprint and provide model best practices for other communities to implement and derive benefit.

“We selected teams that are experimenting with promising ideas to use solar power to improve the future of grid security and reliability in their communities,” said Kristen Ardani, who leads the Innovation Network at NREL.

The team’s participation in the program will include financial, analytical and facilitation support services to help identify barriers and create innovative solutions to help Orlando ensure a reliable and resilient plan to power the future.

NREL is operating the Solar Energy Innovation Network with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. NREL pursues fundamental research and development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to transform the way we use energy.

For more information on the Solar Energy Innovation Network, visitnrel.gov/solar/solar-energy-innovation-network.html.