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Oklahoma City receives $5.4 million in stimulus funds to 'green' the city



Oklahoma City's new director of sustainability Autumn Radle just got really, really busy.

She found out April 6 that $5.4 million in federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were released to propel Oklahoma City into a more energy-efficient future.

"It will be really crazy when the money shows up," Radle said.

That's because a long list of projects to make the city more energy efficient will be launched almost simultaneously.

The goals of the grant are simple: "to increase energy efficiency, to decrease energy usage and to reduce fossil fuel emissions," she said.

She was named to the job in August 2009 and has spent her time since preparing strategy to get the funding, including a five- to 10-year energy blueprint. Radle holds a bachelor's degree in environmental science from the State University of New York and master's degrees in environmental studies and community and regional planning from the University of Oregon.

Radle has tackled analyzing the city's vehicle fleet to make it more efficient and other fixes. But now that the funding is imminent, the city will be kicking off several shovel-ready projects.
The Cox Convention Center is at the top of the list for retrofits to make it more energy efficient.

"It's our biggest energy user," she said.

And she said the city's general services department is well aware of which buildings can use new, more efficient lighting immediately.

Radle said the city will install a compressed natural gas, or CNG, fast-filling station to augment its five CNG slow-filling stations for its city fleet. The fast-filling station will allow a CNG vehicle to be filled in about the same time as a regular gasoline-powered vehicle.

A bike-share program downtown will allow people to walk up, swipe a credit or debit card and take a bicycle for up to a two-mile trip. It would be free for the first hour, with a small charge for each additional hour.

"We could see a downtown worker, for example, taking a bicycle to Bricktown for lunch," Radle said.

Three new recycling drop-offs will be added to augment existing drop-offs, with two in downtown and one in rural Ward 4.

And residents can come to the city and apply for up to a $5,000 loan for energy upgrades from a revolving fund. There is an income cap of $100,000 per household.

Radle is also proposing a revision of the building codes and historic district ordinances to allow for implementation of energy-efficient techniques.

"What we want to maintain is the character of historic homes, but we also want to allow homeowners to upgrade homes for energy efficiency," she said.

The city will put together benchmarks measuring energy usage on the city's office square footage, which will be audited.

Radle expects immediate savings from the $5.4 million investment in energy conservation.

"And the quality-of-life payback is equally important," she said.

What $5.4 million looks like:
$320,000 for three staff members in the Office of Sustainability$150,000 to create a five- to 10-year sustainability program$2 million for energy benchmarking, audits and retrofits at city facilities$500,000 for residential energy efficiency loan program (up to $5,000 per household, with a household income cap of $100,000)$134,000 for lighting retrofits and upgrades in 15 city buildings$188,000 for automated energy management systems in six city buildings$130,000 for public education and outreach$200,000 for a bike-share program in and around downtown and Midtown$1.2 million for a compressed natural gas fast-fill fueling station$125,000 for study and creation of building code changes$250,000 for recycling, three drop-off locations and several receptacles downtownphoto Autumn Radle, Oklahoma City director of sustainability, stands beside a new CNG-powered fleet van at Oklahoma City's General Services Department. photo/Mark Hancock

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