By YVETTE C. HAMMETT
Hillsborough County has formed partnerships with several groups to help its homeowners and businesses grow a little greener, and County Commissioner Pat Kemp is the head cheerleader.
Kemp has planned a series of workshop sessions spread throughout May to help citizens get information on the initiatives available, some for discount prices.
Kemp, who represents countywide District 6 on the county commission, hosted the first of four Greener Hillsborough Homes events around Hillsborough County May 3 to help residents make their homes more sustainable and resilient.
Each upcoming session will feature local experts who will share information about creating edible gardens and Florida-friendly landscaping; how to save water with micro-irrigation and cisterns; and options to finance solar panels on homes, and other sustainable initiatives. Representatives of the Hillsborough County Extension program will be available to teach guests about these and other relevant topics.
“I wanted to let people in Hillsborough County know how much we were doing and also opportunities available to them,” Kemp said. “This is about greening up through water or gardening, energy efficiency or solar panels.” She welcomes this opportunity to host these Greener Hillsborough Homes events around Hillsborough County.
The dates and locations for upcoming events include
May 22 — 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Jan K. Platt building, 3910 S. Manhattan Ave., Tampa, FL 33611, Witt Community Room A & B
May 23 — 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL, 33602, First-Floor Multipurpose Room
May 29 — 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library, 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa, FL 33610
Kemp explained that there are a lot of innovations taking place that the county is getting in on, and she wants people to know about them. “For instance, she said, “we have put forward an ordinance to limit applications of septage pump-outs on land. Instead of dewatered septage coming from the treatment plant and going to the landfill, it is being mixed with yard waste to be composted into a commercially viable fertilizer.” That not only saves space in the landfills but also produces a product farmers and home gardeners can use.
“The other thing we did, which is helping us save significantly on energy, was add a chiller system downtown in the courthouse and at the County Center.” Kemp added, “It was such a great model for efficiency and cost savings that the Tampa Housing Authority also did a big chiller, and Jeff Vinik is including them in his new downtown buildings.”
The county also is partnering with a not-for-profit called Florida Sun, a co-op to help communities get solar panels at a reduced rate by buying in bulk. “We had the largest solar co-op kickoff in the country last year,” Kemp said. “The pent-up demand was great.”
There are also federal incentives that reduce the cost of solar by one-third, but they are tax refunds. That incentive is expected to expire at year’s end.
Hillsborough County is also working with Solar and Energy Loan Fund. This not-for-profit, which started in St. Lucie County, acts as a bank to provide loans for those who can’t get conventional loans to install solar, HVAC, roof replacement or insulation. “We are going to have people doing this and get with solar. These solar panels are under warranty for 25 years and they can pay them off in seven years, Kemp added.
“Hillsborough County put $4 million into solar last year” continued Kemp. “We are creating great savings for our community centers, and we are looking at putting panels on the jails. There is plenty of space
“We’ve also have seven libraries cited. The county just moved forward to install $1.4 million in solar panels for libraries and has a five-year program to put LED lighting in all county parks, which is a significant savings,” Kemp said, noting that this also has a seven-year payoff, “and we are going to install LED in all our lighting districts. We should definitely be sending out the message of our county being a model for the country.”