In 2008, Popular Science Magazine named Thousand Oaks one of the 50 Greenest Cities in the United States. The City has accomplished many things to deserve this designation, including the planting of several hundred new trees every year, maintaining 112 alternative-fuel vehicles as part of its 209 vehicle fleet, renewable energy generation at the Hill Canyon Wastewater Treatment Plant (HCTP), using recycled tires in asphalt to pave roads, continually expanding the extensive bike lane system, procuring over 7 mWh of green power per year through Direct Access, and many more environmentally-conscious practices. Despite the accolades, Thousand Oaks has not rested on its laurels. Nearly five years later, the City continues to make strides in resource conservation, process optimization, and renewable energy generation.
In May 2012, the City Council approved an Energy Action Plan and established the Energy Management Team, a group of staff from various departments. While considerable progress had been made up to this point, much of it was accomplished by individual departments and it became increasingly clear that an integrated approach was necessary to advance to the next level. The Team set a goal of reducing energy use at City facilities by 10% over the next five years – a seemingly modest goal at first glance, but not necessarily in consideration of the improvements that had already been made.
Soon after this goal was laid out, new projects began materializing. The City’s first fully-owned solar array, located atop the previous City Hall building, went online in 2012. The 300 kW array is able to generate nearly 50% of the energy needs for the building, which is currently occupied by the Conejo Recreation & Park District and the National Park Service. New advancements in technology have made some projects more affordable. For example, multiple LED conversion projects are currently in the works at various City facilities, saving approximately 300,000 kWh per year through the replacement of 700 high pressure sodium and metal halide fixtures. With the onset of new electric vehicles, the City is readying its electric vehicle charging network. Currently, there are twenty charging stations strategically placed at eleven locations throughout the City. To augment this network, the City’s Transportation Center became home to Ventura County’s first Level III fast charging station in June 2013.
HCTP is the City’s crown jewel of efficiency and is the model for many treatment plants across the country, as evidenced by the number of treatment plant operators who visit to learn more about the Plant’s operations. Through a single-axis 500kW solar array, a fats/oils/grease receiving station, and cogeneration units, HCTP is able to produce much of its energy needs renewably, onsite. Two more improvements are slated for completion in 2013 and early 2014. The first is a new air conditioning chiller, about 40% more efficient than the existing one. Second, two of the existing cogeneration units will be replaced by a single unit with larger capacity. These two projects will make HCTP 100% energy self-sufficient, with excess energy being fed back onto the grid.
In May 2013, Thousand Oaks received a grant for the installation of a Utility Management and Sub-metering System. The new system will allow staff and residents to see energy usage at select public facilities in real-time. This data is tremendously useful for identifying when high usage occurs, where additional savings can be realized, and benchmarking our progress.
Despite this current wave of projects, there is still much progress to be made in the near future. Some of the primary objectives will be to work with the energy utility to receive credit for the excess energy produced at HCTP, expanding the current network of electric vehicle charging stations, and encouraging the community to pursue energy efficiency projects at home. Thousand Oaks is well-positioned to navigate the challenges ahead successfully and remain among our Nation’s greenest cities.
Written By Mayor Claudia Bill de la Peña and Akbar Alikhan, Public Works Analyst, for the City of Thousand Oaks.