The "treasure hunt" builds on Orlando's GreenWorks program, which has produced six LEED-certified fire stations. [Photo: Gregg Matthews]
Orlando has embarked on a series of "treasure hunts" searching for ways to become greener and create more jobs.
The city is part of a pilot program by General Electric and the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund to identify ways to reduce waste, save money, minimize emissions and conserve natural resources. The "Ecomagination Treasure Hunt" program relies on teams of employees and outside environmental experts to recommend energy-efficient projects.
In Orlando, the program is focusing on two main projects: A wastewater treatment facility, where a "treasure hunt" in August identified opportunities for $177,000 in annual energy savings; and the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, which is in line for a full renovation.
"New construction is not feasible, to a large degree, like it was in 2005-06, but energy refits are a good possibility," says John Ippel, the city's sustainability manager.
The Citrus Bowl survey is being funded by a $300,000 grant from GE and the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. Plans call for inviting operators of other stadiums around the state to participate as observers.
GE approached Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer about the project during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June, Ippel says. The city seemed like a natural fit because of its ties to GE through the company's Universal Studios park and, most important, the city's thriving GreenWorks sustainability program — which earned the city a designation as one of 24 Solar American Cities by the U.S. Department of Energy.
GE's goal is to determine what kinds of products and services it can develop to tackle some of the larger issues cities, businesses and even residents face in retrofitting for sustainability and how they can be paid for outside the grant process and still be profitable.
Ippel says he hopes to have a sustainability plan under the treasure hunt program developed by the first part of next year, with public input, and then have improvement programs under way by the beginning of 2012.