Co. Exec Creates New Office, Community Council of Local Public, Business Leaders to Coordinate Efforts;
More than $2Million Solar Development for ’17 Budget
Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the first initiatives in his 2017 budget proposal, Dane County’s boldest action yet on addressing Climate Change. The County Executive’s budget triples Dane County’s production of solar power, creates the new Dane County Office of Energy and Climate Change, a new Council on Climate Change to coordinate the community’s work to reduce carbon emissions, and accelerates the county’s conversion of snow plows and other fossil fuel burning vehicles to cleaner burning renewable compressed natural gas.
“Dane County has a consistent track record of pursuing cleaner, greener sources of energy, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, and reinventing county operations to make them run better not only for the public, but also the environment,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “This is our boldest action yet to address climate change and lead the way for our community and the State of Wisconsin.”
Office of Energy And Climate Change
Dane County Executive Parisi announced the creation of the Office of Energy and Climate Change, a new division within the County Executive’s Office. This office will lead public and private efforts across the community to implement climate change strategies county government has embraced in recent years. Including the Office of Energy and Climate Change within county government’s highest elected office demonstrates the critical nature and priority this issue deserves in the decades to come.
This brand new office and the corresponding new Dane County Council on Climate Change are the next steps in the work Dane County initiated years ago which resulted in creation of the “Dane County Climate Action Plan.” The Council will include representatives of local governments, business, utilities, and environmental advocates, working together to extend the work of county government. A recent agreement with the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin will help us better assess the impact of the progress Dane County has made to date at reducing carbon emissions, increasing green energy production, and consumption, and making energy efficiency improvements to facilities.
"Thanks to Executive Parisi's leadership, Dane County is poised to be Wisconsin's leader in addressing climate change, the greatest environmental threat of this century," said Mark Redsten, President & CEO of Clean Wisconsin. “Executive Parisi clearly understands the environmental and economic impacts of climate change to this community, and he is providing important solutions. We look forward to working with Executive Parisi to reduce carbon emissions in Dane County, and to replicate the successes in other counties and communities across the state."
Convert County Fleet to CNG
Under Dane County Executive Parisi, Dane County has embarked upon an aggressive conversion of our county fleet of cars and trucks, away from fossil fuels, and toward cleaner burning vehicles that run on renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) that county government produces. Dane County was among the first places in the country to plow snow with CNG powered highway patrol trucks. With funding included in Parisi’s 2017 budget, Dane County will have 75 vehicles running on CNG by the end of next year, including nearly one-third of the county’s highway fleet. This carbon friendly CNG is produced naturally at our county landfill.
Tripling Down on Solar
With Parisi’s 2017 budget, Dane County will soon have the four largest publicly owned solar arrays in the state of Wisconsin. The budget includes the most robust solar power program in Dane County history, allowing more of the county to be self-sustaining and more efficient. Dane County Executive Parisi is proposing more than $2 million in new solar development, more than tripling all of county government’s total solar energy production portfolio next year alone.
New systems for the Dane County Job Center and the Dane County Alliant Energy Center will have enough panels to generate 770 kWh of sustainable sun-powered energy and cut CO2 emissions by 777 tons per year. Combined, these systems will cut direct energy costs by over $2.1 million over the next 20 years.
Under County Executive Parisi, Dane County has prioritized adding solar to new facilities. A maintenance facility at the Dane County Regional Airport was the largest publicly owned solar array in Wisconsin until the county’s new East District Campus opened this year. With well over 800 solar panels, the new “Green Highway Garage,” generates 222 kWh of power to offset our electrical usage.
“Leadership matters, and Dane County continues to lead the way on solar and renewable energy by investing in solutions that are both fiscally and environmentally responsible,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “Solar projects generate energy locally which keeps more taxpayer dollars in the local economy, strengthening the whole community.”
Reducing Carbon Footprint
Dane County has partnered with the private sector to build manure digesters near Waunakee and Middleton which capture the methane equivalent to taking 8,000 cars per year off the road. A new pilot project at the Dane County Landfill captures carbon dioxide and converts it into dry ice, reducing emissions and bettering the air we breathe. When fully implemented, this project will reduce CO2 emissions by 59,000 tons per year, the equivalent of taking 10,000 cars off the road. Additionally, by converting more of the gas in the landfill to clean fuel burning compressed natural gas we can reduce carbon emissions by another 30,000 tons per year.
Green Energy and Climate Change Action
2014 was the hottest year on record until 2015. Now in 2016 the hottest August on record continued a streak of 11 consecutive months that have set new monthly high-temperature records. Given recent analysis from NASA that Earth is warming faster than it has at any time in the past 1,000 years there's every reason to believe this calendar year will top all of its predecessors.
Climate change is happening and it’s not just the polar ice caps melting. It’s happening in Dane County. Lakes Mendota and Monona are not staying frozen as long as it used to. 150 years of recordkeeping of when the lake freeze over and when the ice breaks up shows a long-term downward trend. 150 years ago the ice lasted 4 months on Lake Mendota. Today it lasts only 3 months.
While Congress balks at new emissions restrictions proposed by the President and state experts are prohibited to work on climate change because of an Executive Order from the Governor, local governments are once again in the best position to demonstrate leadership and vision.
“We cannot wait for the state to step up, we must lead the effort to address climate change,” concluded Parisi.