Pima County has met more than half of the goals it set five years ago when it decided to implement environmentally friendly practices in its operations.
The county says it has also saved more than $7.2 million during that time in energy costs, mostly as a result of acquiring solar panels at some county facilities and following new energy- and water-use guidelines, according to a report it released last week.
Despite the savings, the county has not met its goal of reducing energy expenditures below $15 million per year, due partially to an increase in how much the county pays for energy and making infrastructure improvements to treat wastewater.
The County Board of Supervisors adopted a sustainability plan in 2008. Since then, the county has focused on buying alternative-fuel vehicles, buying open land and improving recycling efforts.
“It’s important because we can have a large impact on the region and leading by example,” said Alex Oden, the county’s sustainability program coordinator.
According to the report, 44 percent of all county vehicles are now flex fuel, alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles.
The vehicles include new Chevy Tahoes for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department and Toyota Priuses for other departments.
The county replaced older vehicles that were scheduled to be retired with the newer SUVs and hybrid cars.
There were no additional costs for buying the Tahoes, but the Priuses were more expensive than the cars that were replaced, said Frank Samaniego, director of fleet services for the county.
The Priuses are about $23,000, compared with the older cars, which were about $16,000, Samaniego said. However, the hybrids get better gas mileage, resulting in lower fuel costs, he said.
The county added 5 megawatts of solar to its renewable-energy portfolio, mostly through the addition of solar panels at five county sites, said Linda Mayro, director of the county’s Sustainability and Conservation Department.
Other goals that were met included increasing the number of parks served by reclaimed water, obtaining LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credits and certifications for some of the county’s newer buildings, and installing 16 electric-vehicle charging stations for employee and public use.
Some goals were not met, including as employee participation in trip-reduction programs and reduction of water consumed at county buildings and at some landscape projects.