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Energy

File photo

Town of Brookhaven is harnessing the power of the sun.

Tara McLaughlin, Brookhaven’s deputy commissioner of planning, announced at the July 12 board meeting the town had received the bronze designation from SolSmart, an organization funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, which helps municipalities across the country expand solar energy options and recognizes the ones that do so. Brookhaven applied for the designation in 2017, according to McLaughlin.

“As I am a competitive person always striving to achieve more, I am confident with small changes and installation of solar panels on several town buildings, next year we will at least attain the silver award,” she said.

The deputy commissioner said the town processed about 2,000 permits for solar power installation last year and expects to process at least that many in 2018.

“The world is changing, people are realizing, why not use the sun,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said.

In addition, the town is planning to install solar panels at Town Hall, the Pennysaver Amphitheater and Brookhaven Calabro Airport. The Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, a government department that selects projects to provide financial assistance in the form of tax reducing agreements, announced July 9 it had accepted applications for economic incentives for the airport and Town Hall installations, pledging to provide $4.6 million in assistance.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and the town board have taken steps that would allow the construction of a power plant in Yaphank, complicating the status of Port Jefferson's LIPA-run plant. File photos by Alex Petroski

It’s one step forward, two steps back for Caithness Energy, LLC in Brookhaven.

After securing a win in its efforts to advance the construction of a 600-megawatt power plant in Yaphank earlier this month, Caithness Energy LLC, an independent, privately held power producer informed by Brookhaven Town its special use permit for the site expired July 15.

The special use permit, initially approved in 2014,  granted Caithness permission to build a power plant on the site, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. It was granted for two years and  one-year extensions were approved twice, which is the limit under town law.

“We’re looking into it, but believe it has no bearing and we look forward to the next steps before the Planning Board,” Caithness President Ross Ain said in a statement.

The possibility that the permit might have expired was first raised by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) during a July 12 meeting. She abstained from voting on a motion to lift a restrictive covenant preventing the project’s advancement due to amendments made to Caithness’ original 2014 plans, which included a reduction to the plant’s output capacity and updated technology. The other five councilmembers and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) voted to remove the covenant.

“They’ll have to file a new application for the special permit and we’ll certainly accept it,” Eaderesto said.
The town attorney noted Caithness still has a pending site plan application before the Planning Board, which would remain as such as a new special use permit is sought.

The proposed project has drawn opposition for its potential environmental impact from groups like Sierra Club Long Island and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

In addition, Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant has spoken out against the proposal, warning the construction of a second Caithness plant could push her community “off the economic cliff.”

The village has argued a way to make good with Long Island Power Authority over its decreasingly needed plant — and LIPA’s legal contention its Port Jeff plant’s property tax value is over-assessed and has been for years — could be to increase its output capacity. If constructed, the Caithness II plant, which would be built nearby the company’s first Yaphank plant opened in 2009, could theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plan, according to the village.

Port Jeff Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with LIPA, that will likely result in a gradual decrease in revenue from the plant’s property taxes, which help fund budgets for the village, Port Jefferson School District, the fire department and the public library.

Hurdles remain for project, which could have environmental and economic implications

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

They’ve got the power.

Brookhaven Town voted 6-0 with one abstention in favor of lifting a restrictive covenant on an application by Caithness Energy LLC to construct a new, 600-megawatt energy generation plant in Yaphank at a July 12 meeting. When the board approved the independent power producer’s initial 2014 application, when it sought to construct a 750-megawatt facility, it imposed strict regulations aimed at preventing Caithness from making any changes to its plans, or face starting over from square one getting approvals. The power company asked town officials to lift the covenant for its present-day plans that feature newly available technology — which is what required the second vote, preceded by a June 26 public hearing.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) abstained from the July 12 vote after voting against the application in 2014, which passed 5-2. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) voted “no” in 2014, but approved the lifting of the restrictive covenant this time around.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright voted against Caithness’ application in 2014, and abstained from the vote to remove a restrictive covenant on the application July 12. File photo by Erika Karp

“In requiring such covenant proposed in 2015, the town board did not intend to require the applicant return for covenant amendments when technology changes or improves, or to construct a less impactful energy generating facility,” Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto read from her office’s findings on the matter. “In fact, the town board finds that in consideration of the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the town, the town shall not regulate or restrict the technology that may be used by the applicant.”

Caithness President Ross Ain said in a statement the company was pleased to hear the town had repealed the restriction.

“We now look forward to consideration and approval of the site plan filed with the Planning Board for what will be the region’s cleanest, most fuel-efficient, and most water-conserving power plant,” Ain said.

Cartright explained she was abstaining from the vote to repeal the restrictive covenant because she thought a vote to either approve or disapprove of Caithness’ entire application would be more appropriate. She also raised a concern about the special use permit issued to Caithness in 2014, which according to her interpretation of town law, expired July 15, 2018.

“That’s under consideration,” Eaderesto said of Cartright’s concern in a phone interview.
The town attorney said she expected the Planning Board to decide if Caithness will be required to reapply for the special use permit for the Yaphank site this week.

Don Miller, a spokesman for Caithness Energy, did not respond to a question raised by email regarding Cartright’s suggestion the company’s special use permit expired Sunday.

Caitness’ renewed request comes as Port Jefferson Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with Long Island Power Authority over the utility company’s contention its Port Jeff plant’s property taxes are over assessed based on the decreasing energy demand. The settlement would smooth the impact of a potential substantial loss of revenue for the village, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and Port Jefferson Fire Department based on a reduced assessment of the plant. It would also prevent the village from being held liable for years of back pay should it have chosen to play out the legal battle in court and lost rather than settling the case. The village has argued a way to make good with LIPA over its decreasingly needed plant could be to increase its output capacity. If constructed, the Caithness II plant, which would be built nearby the company’s first Yaphank plant opened in 2009, could theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plant.

However, according to Ain, as of June 26 LIPA has made no commitment to purchase power from the company should a second facility be constructed in Yaphank. It does purchase power from the first Caithness plant.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff.”

— Margot Garant

The June 26 public hearing drew comments from those in favor of the proposal, many of whom being Longwood school district residents who would likely see a reduction in property taxes, similar to what Port Jeff residents enjoy currently for housing the Port Jefferson Power Station. Environmental groups and other residents opposed the plan, as did Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who each submitted statements to be read into the record by Cartright against the proposal and urging the board to vote it down June 26.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff at the end of the proposed period of gradual reductions, while leaving us to deal with an enormous, closed, unusable industrial site which will need serious environmental remediation,” Garant said in her letter read by Cartright. The mayor said she has sent a similar inquiry to the town board as was raised by Cartright regarding the life of the applicant’s special use permit, though has yet to hear back from Brookhaven.

A representative from Sierra Club Long Island, a local chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to environmental advocacy, spoke out against Caithness II during the June 26 hearing.

“The Sierra Club strongly opposes any attempt to construct a new gas plant on Long Island, and we oppose the Caithness II proposal regardless of the technology involved,” said Shay O’Reilly, an organizer for the nonprofit. “It is absurd to argue that building more fracked gas infrastructure will allow us to meet our clean energy and pollution reduction goals.”

This post was updated July 17 to include comment from Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant.

Caithness Long Island approaches town about building new 600-megawatt plant

Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski 

Another player has emerged to complicate the legal battle with Brookhaven Town and Port Jefferson Village in one corner and the Long Island Power Authority in the other.

Representatives from Caithness Energy LLC, an independent, privately held power producer with a Yaphank plant, went before Brookhaven’s board June 26 requesting permission to construct a 600-megawatt plant, which would be called Caithness Long Island II. This is not the first time, as the power company originally approached the town with plans for a power station in 2014.

“Caithness is seeking an amendment to the covenant and restrictions so it can utilize cleaner, more efficient equipment that recently became available,” said Michael Murphy during the June 26 hearing, an attorney representing Caithness.

“The new equipment has rapid response capability, thereby creating critical support for intermittent renewable energy resources.”

— Michael Murphy

In 2014, Caithness Energy had plans approved by the Brookhaven Town to construct a new 750-megawatt plant in Yaphank powered by two gas-powered turbines and a steam generator. Both Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) voted against the 2014 proposal, though it passed 5-2.

The project has been on hold ever since as energy demands on Long Island are projected to decrease, according to recent annual reports from PSEG Long Island. Then, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated in August 2016 that 50 percent of New York’s electricity needs come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

The 600-megawatt power plant would be constructed on 81 acres of vacant land zoned for the use based on the 2014 approval. The proposal has several differences from the 2014 plans in addition to the reduced energy output including a reduction from two exhaust stacks to one; use of newer, more efficient technology; and a reduction from two steam turbines to one.

“It creates a platform for renewable energy,” Murphy said. “The new equipment has rapid response capability, thereby creating critical support for intermittent renewable energy resources. So, this facility will not compete, in essence, with solar and wind.”

The request comes as Port Jefferson Village and the town have said a settlement is nearing in an eight-year-long legal fight with LIPA over the utility company’s contention its Port Jeff plant’s property taxes are over assessed based on its decreasing energy demand. The settlement would smooth the impact of a potential substantial loss of revenue for the village, Port Jefferson School District, Port Jefferson Free Library and Port Jefferson Fire Department based on a reduced assessment of the plant. It would also prevent the village from being held liable for years of back pay should it have chosen to play out the legal battle in court and lost rather than settling the case. The village has argued a way to make good with LIPA over its decreasingly needed plant could be to increase its output capacity. If approved, the Caithness II plant would theoretically kill plans to repower the Port Jefferson plant.

However, according to Caithness President Ross Ain, LIPA has made no commitment to purchase power from the company should a second facility be constructed in Yaphank. It does purchase power from the first Caithness plant, with a 350-megawatt natural gas fire power generating facility operating in Yaphank since 2009.

The public hearing drew comments from those in favor of the proposal, many of whom being Longwood school district residents who would likely see a reduction in property taxes, similar to what Port Jeff residents enjoy currently for housing the Port Jefferson Power Station.

“There is no denying that these [revenue] reductions will cause significant hardships to all segments of our community, which is also your community.”

— Margot Garant

Environmental groups and other residents opposed the plan, as did Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) each submitted statements to be read into the record by Cartright against the proposal and urging the board to vote it down. Garant has taken to social media to urge Port Jeff residents to submit written comments to the town on the proposal.

“There is no denying that these [revenue] reductions will cause significant hardships to all segments of our community, which is also your community,” Garant said in her letter read by Cartright, referencing the impending LIPA settlement. “But at the end of these reductions, our community would still be left with an operating power plant which could produce a significant amount in tax revenues.”

The village mayor painted a dark picture for Port Jeff should the proposal earn board approval.

“The construction of a Caithness II facility will have the inevitable effect of pushing our community off the economic cliff at the end of the proposed period of gradual reductions, while leaving us to deal with an enormous, closed, unusable industrial site which will need serious environmental remediation,” she said.

A representative from Sierra Club Long Island, a local chapter of the national nonprofit dedicated to environmental advocacy, spoke out against Caithness II during the hearing.

“The Sierra Club strongly opposes any attempt to construct a new gas plant on Long Island, and we oppose the Caithness II proposal regardless of the technology involved,” said Shay O’Reilly, an organizer for the nonprofit. “It is absurd to argue that building more fracked gas infrastructure will allow us to meet our clean energy and pollution reduction goals.”

Jack Kreiger, a spokesperson for the town, said he did not know when the board would vote on the proposal.

Port Jefferson is fighting to keep property tax revenue flowing from the power plant and to prevent restrictions from being lifted on peaker unit output. File photo by Lee Lutz

By Alex Petroski

Port Jefferson Village officials and residents, as well as Brookhaven Town officials and Suffolk County legislators, flocked to Port Jefferson Village Hall for two public hearings March 22 to voice opposition of a National Grid petition seeking elimination of restrictions on output of small peaker units located at the Port Jefferson Power Station. Peaker units are additional power generators generally used only when there is high demand for power.

National Grid issued the petition Feb. 28 to the New York State Public Service Commission. The hearing was hosted by the commission and overseen by Administrative Law Judge David Van Ort.

Trustee Bruce Miller speaks at the hearing. Photo by Alex Petroski

Both Village Mayor Margot Garant and Port Jefferson School District Superintendent Paul Casciano at respective board meetings this week called the petition and subsequent hearings “pieces of a larger puzzle” in relation to the eventual fight between the village, the district and the Long Island Power Authority, who is a partner with National Grid in supplying power to the area. The village and district are both part of a pending lawsuit filed in 2015 about LIPA’s assertion they pay too much in property taxes. The power authority reiterated that claim in a Feb. 14 annual report on property tax reduction. Both the village and district receive substantial amounts of revenue from the power authority in the form of ratepayer tax dollars.

National Grid is seeking to eliminate the 79.9-megawatt cap on output on the peaker units and allow for maximum output. According to Van Ort, the company has cited greater efficiency as the reason behind their desire to lift restrictions on output, which were established in 2001.

“We, the people of Port Jefferson, believe that this hearing is a thinly veiled attempt to add extra capacity to the grid,” Village Trustee Bruce Miller said during the hearing. “Peakers are dirty. This expansion plan forecloses the clean air, cost-effective alternative that Port Jefferson offers for Long Island with the repowering of our baseload plants.”

In a letter submitted to the commission by Garant, she stated the village has been pursuing the repowering of existing older steam units in the village for more than 10 years. A spokesperson for National Grid did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and representatives from the company in attendance at the meeting declined to speak on behalf of National Grid.

“We need cleaner, cheaper energy on Long Island now,” Miller said. “We need to take dirty peakers off line and replace them with a modest plant with modern technology.”

Village resident Kathleen Riley also voiced opposition to the proposal.

Residents pack Village Hall for the hearing. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Please be finally advised of our deep concern regarding this entire situation, ultimately and especially because Port Jefferson Village depends upon the revenues of the power plant,” Riley said. “The village’s financial viability relies on this power center.”

Riley also expressed concerns about the environmental impact of increased output from the peaker units.

“[LIPA] makes the argument in part that the Port Jefferson Power Plant is functionally obsolete and should be closed,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said during the hearing. Romaine went on to argue considering the power plant functionally obsolete while simultaneously filing a petition to lift restrictions on peaker units are “contradictory assertions.”

Deputy Mayor and Trustee Larry LaPointe also provided testimony during the hearing.

“They’re increasing their ability to shut down the main plants in Port Jefferson forever, throwing this village under the bus, throwing our schoolchildren under the bus, throwing this community under the bus, throwing our senior citizens under the bus,” LaPointe said. “But of course that doesn’t seem to matter.”

Peaker plants are generally run using natural gas and are less efficient and more expensive to operate than baseload plants, like the Port Jefferson Power Station, which used steam.

Garant was expected to speak at a second hearing March 22 which occurred after the time of print. The commission will continue to take comments from the public until March 28 by email, on the department website or by phone.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Jane Bonner. File photo

Long Island residents who go to National Grid for their gas may be paying more come January 2017, but not if the Town of Brookhaven has anything to say about it.

The Brookhaven town board passed a resolution, with a unanimous vote June 30, opposing the company’s proposed rate increase that was announced in January. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) sponsored the resolution, though all six board members asked to be added as co-sponsors prior to voting.

“This is an outrageous rate hike — it will impose a burden,” Romaine said in a phone interview last week. “We think it’s far too great.”

The increase would cost National Grid’s approximately 570,000 Long Island customers about $160 annually on top of what they already pay, according to a statement from the company in January. The increase would be about 12 percent.

Wendy Ladd, a spokeswoman for the company, responded to the resolution in an email Tuesday.

“We feel our proposals and the costs associated with them are essential to provide customers with safe and reliable gas service, enhance storm resiliency, expand the availability of gas service, help reduce methane, support our neediest customers, and to make the investments required to upgrade and modernize aging infrastructure and grow the system to meet the needs of a 21st century clean energy economy for years to come,” Ladd said.

Romaine said there is a precedent for the town intervening in battles over costs with utility companies. Last year, Brookhaven took on Long Island Power Authority in a similar case.

“LIPA now knows that we, if nothing else, will be watchdogs for the citizens of Brookhaven,” Romaine said.

National Grid New York’s President Ken Daly commented on the matter in January.

“National Grid has invested more than $4.5 billion over the past decade to modernize and build a safer and more reliable natural gas system for our customers. During this period of time, we have also maintained stable delivery rates for our customers,” he said in a statement. “Now, as we respond to the need to invest even more into our aging gas networks and prepare for the future needs of our customers, the investments required to provide this service have increased. The proposals will allow us to accelerate our gas main replacement program, improve critical customer service, and ensure that we have a modernized and technologically advanced natural gas system for our customers and the communities we serve, now and in the future.”

The Brookhaven town board is not against a rate hike altogether, though members said they would like to see it greatly reduced.

The resolution read in part: “the cost of living on Long Island is already astronomical partly due to high utility costs, placing a heavy burden on the residents of Long Island … residents are leaving Long Island in search of better opportunity and a lower cost of living.”

The resolution concluded with the board’s intention to “send a letter in opposition to the proposed rate hikes by National Grid and the Department of Public Service.”

National Grid’s January statement said the rate increases would allow them to significantly increase the gas main replacement program and improve technology in flood-prone areas, among other benefits.

The proposal will be reviewed by the New York State Department of Public Service before it is approved.

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Village Center file photo by Heidi Sutton

Let there be light.

Representatives from Johnson Controls, an energy performance contracting company, presented a plan to the Port Jefferson Village board of trustees at a meeting Tuesday that would save the village about $1.6 million on energy costs and electrical supplies over 20 years.

The project would entail providing Village Hall and the Village Center with more than 500 LED lighting upgrades, LED lighting fixtures for the village’s more than 1,100 streetlights and 60 new tennis court lights.

“We really haven’t done a lot of upgrades to the existing lighting in forever,” Mayor Margot Garant said during the meeting Tuesday. She called the proposed project “a thing of beauty.”

Dan Haffel, Johnson Controls’ liaison to the village, estimated during the presentation that the project would pay for itself in about 11 years. Port Jefferson would pay the company $1.8 million out of their energy savings — “it’s completely self-funded; there’s no out-of-pocket exposure,” Haffel said — for the consulting and improvements over the life of a 15-year contract, with an interest rate somewhere in the 2 to 3 percent range.

The agreement would come with a guarantee from Johnson Controls.

“The project is guaranteed to pay for itself in 15 years — we’ll pay the village a shortfall if there is one,” Haffel said.

Rob Rolston, the lead project manager from Johnson Controls, said it would be ideal to complete the project before winter, given the complications cold weather and winter storms could present. That would require quick movement from the village.

But the company also put forth a more conservative potential timeline as part of their presentation. If the board approved the proposal in July, fixtures and lights could be ordered by August and construction could begin in September. The job could then be completed in May 2017.

Many of the upgraded lights in Village Hall and the Village Center would incorporate motion sensors as another means to save electricity. The streetlights come with a 10-year manufacturer warranty.

Johnson Controls is a nationwide Fortune 100 company that has been in the field of performance contracting for about 30 years. They have received awards for their environmental impact and energy efficiency from entities like Newsweek and utility PSEG Long Island.

Port Jefferson school district is working on a contract with Johnson Controls for a similar project, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister. He called the proposed upgrades, which still require school board-approval, a “win-win” for the district for the energy and cost savings it would present in a phone interview last week.

The village board has not yet set a date to vote on the proposal.

A satellite view of the Steck-Philbin Landfill site that the County plans to repurpose in cooperation with the Suffolk County Landbank. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

A North Shore-based group has answered the county’s calls to revitalize the site of a former landfill in Kings Park.

The Suffolk County Landbank Corp., which is a not-for-profit entity that works with the county to redevelop tax-delinquent properties, put out a request for proposals to completely rejuvenate eight brownfield spots across Suffolk, including the former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. This week, Stony Brook’s Ecological Engineering of Long Island answered with a proposal to build Long Island’s first community-owned solar farm.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the county wanted to team up with the private sector to revitalize the various brownfield sites and described them as blights on their respective communities. Shawn Nuzzo, president of Ecological Engineering of Long Island, said his group’s plan had the potential to pump renewable energy into the Island’s power grid almost immediately.

In a statement, Nuzzo described the 6-megawatt solar farm proposal as the largest landfill-to-solar project in New York state that could generate nearly 8 million kilowatt hours of solar electricity in its first year.

“Unlike other recent utility solar projects on Long Island – where large developers have proposed to clear-cut forests, raze golf courses and blanket farmable lands – our proposal takes a dangerous, long-blighted and otherwise useless parcel and revives it as a community-owned solar farm,” Nuzzo said. “The Kings Park Community Solar Farm will be a quiet, low-intensity land use generating nearly no automobile traffic after installation. As equally important, we will return proper ecosystem services to the site through the ecological restoration technique of phytoremediation — using native, low-light, low-lying and drought tolerant plants known for their long-term soil restorative properties.”

Related: Former landfill in Kings Park to be repurposed

A property is classified as a brownfield if there are complications in expansion or redevelopment based on the possible presence of pollutants or hazardous materials, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The site on Old Northport Road is still owned by Richard and Roslyn Steck, according to the Suffolk County Landbank Corporation Request for Proposals, though penalties and interest bring the total owed in property tax on the roughly 25 acres of land to nearly $1.5 million. The property has been tax delinquent since the Richard Steck, Gerald Philbin Development Co. was found to be using the site to dispose of waste that it did not have a permit for in 1986. It is located less than a half mile east of the Sunken Meadow Parkway and about a half mile west of Indian Head Road.

The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.
The former Steck-Philbin Landfill on Old Northport Road in Kings Park is one of the eight blighted brownfields that the Suffolk County Landbank requested proposals for repurposing. Image from Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

The property is next to the future location of a multisport complex being developed by Prospect Sports Partners LLC. The $33 million plan for the 44-acre site was approved in July 2015.

“This has been a long time coming and creating policies and procedures for the Landbank has been an arduous task, but I’m beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said earlier this year when the county sought private sector support to revitalize the site. Cilmi is a member of the board of the Landbank. “Hopefully, soon we’ll see the remediation of this and other properties, which benefits our environment. We’ll put the properties back on the tax rolls, which means millions of dollars of savings for taxpayers.”

Nuzzo said Ecological Engineering of Long Island would finance, build and operate the solar farm through a crowdfunding campaign seeking small investments from everyday Suffolk County residents. The plan, he said, would be to sell 25,000 “solar shares” in the farm at $500 a piece.

“We calculate that the Kings Park Community Solar Farm will generate more than $24 million in gross revenue over a typical 20-year power purchase agreement. We will offer our investors a guaranteed 150 percent return on investment with annual payments deposited over the 20-year lifetime of the agreement,” he said. “Through design efficiencies we will maximize photovoltaic energy output to not only increase profit for our investors but also to decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, which today — despite many residential and commercial PV installs — still represents the majority of Long Island’s energy production.”

The plan has already received support from various North Shore elected officials, including state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who threw support behind Nuzzo in a letter to the Suffolk County Landbank Corp.

“I am always happy to see younger members of our community active in civics, so it was especially heartening to this vibrant young man at the helm of my local civic association,” he said. “Mr. Nuzzo has also worked with the Setauket Harbor Task Force and was responsible for securing the donation of the use of a ‘solar trailer’ from a local solar installer to power our Setauket Harbor Day Festival last September with renewable solar energy.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) described Nuzzo as a “knowledgeable leader on environmental issues” who was “well versed in many modern environmental technologies and practices, including solar projects, LEED process and green technology.”

The Suffolk County Landbank was established in 2013 after its application was approved by the New York State Empire State Development Corporation. Some of the other brownfields included in the request for proposals include Hubbard Power and Light and a gas station on Brentwood Road in Bay Shore, Lawrence Junkyard in Islip and Liberty Industrial Finishing in Brentwood, among others. Cumulatively, the eight properties owe more than $11 million in delinquent taxes as of August 2015.

Program makes it easier for residents to save money

An infrared temperature gun measures the surface temperature of a home. Photo from Neal Lewis

It just got easier for homeowners on Long Island to monitor their energy costs.

The not-for-profit Long Island Green Homes Initiative is a public-private partnership that launched Nov. 10 with the goal of setting up homeowners with a professional energy audit at no cost. The program links residents with the state’s Energy Research and Development Authority to generate savings, stimulate jobs, boost economic development and promote sustainability, organizers said.

The initiative is headquartered at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College and is partnered with three non-profits: Community Development Corporation of LI, LI Green and United Way of Long Island. A state program that offers similar services has been in effect for several years, but some said it wasn’t getting its message across to enough people.

Neal Lewis, executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy, said some residents argued that the state government website was too confusing to use.

“The conclusion was that the key way to get more participation was to provide resources to homeowners to help navigate the process,” Lewis said.

That was how the Green Homes Initiative was born.

It started with the goal of providing an easy-to-use website coupled with energy navigators who help answer any questions a homeowner has. Lewis said the energy navigators then schedule a free home energy assessment that provides an in-depth analysis of a home’s energy efficiency for each homeowner.

It was crafted after similar programs in neighboring municipalities, but has tweaked pieces of the process with hopes of making it better, supporters said. In an earlier version of this program started in 2008 in Babylon, an average homeowner saved about $1,000 each year in energy costs, according to a press release.

LIGH has also partnered with five towns, including Huntington and Smithtown along the North Shore, to further encourage residents of those towns to take advantage of this program.

“I am proud this newest LI Green Homes Initiative is kicking off in Huntington Station,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement. “This is a prime example where much of the housing stock dates before the first energy conservation codes were adopted in the 1970s and can benefit dramatically by upgrading insulation and heating systems that are at or near their useful life expectancy.”

Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said this program incurs few out-of-pocket expenses for homeowners.

Many improvements that require homeowner investment are eligible for cost reductions of up to 50 percent, depending upon household income, according to Cuthbertson.

In an interview, Lewis said the only contractors providing the free home energy assessments were licensed, local, insured, and certified by Building Performance Institute. The contractors test a house’s insulation, heating and hot water systems, ventilation and more.

Once the tests are completed, the homeowner is given a comprehensive report that includes where and how their home can save energy, a fixed cost for each recommended improvement, and projected dollar savings on their utility bills for each recommended improvement.

If a homeowner decides to go ahead with those suggestions, the program would then assign them a performance specialist to do the work on their property.

The LIGH program can pay the entire cost of the improvements, and under a contract with the homeowner, the town sets up a monthly payment plan, Lewis said.

LIGH also structures the payment so that your savings cover your monthly bill. If a homeowner saves $100 a month on energy costs, they only owe the town $90 a month.

“We’re trying to get people to test their homes and make them more energy efficient,” Cuthbertson said.

The Initiative is funded for three years by a Cleaner, Greener Communities competitive grant award from NYSERDA of $2.3 million, and a supplemental grant from the Rauch Foundation in Garden City.

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Extreme low temperatures caused enough demand to require use of the Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Erika Karp

Port Jefferson Village moved another chess piece in its match against the Long Island Power Authority last week, filing a lawsuit to dispute the utility’s property tax challenges from the last few years, which are still pending in court.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said at the board of trustees meeting Tuesday night that the village filed the lawsuit last Friday contending LIPA had promised not to challenge its property tax assessment at the Port Jefferson power plant unless the assessment was disproportionately increased.

That perceived promise links back to a 1997 letter from former LIPA chairman Richard Kessel, upon inking a power supply agreement between LIPA and the Long Island Lighting Company, as the former was taking over for the latter. That agreement covered power plants now owned and operated by energy company National Grid, which includes those in Port Jefferson and Northport.

Back then LIPA and local municipalities were embroiled in other tax assessment challenges. Kessel’s letter said the utility would drop those challenges and would not “initiate any further tax certiorari cases on any of their respective properties at any time in the future unless a municipality abusively increases its assessment rate.”

Port Jefferson has actually gone in the opposite direction on the neighborhood power plant’s assessment, officials confirmed Tuesday — LIPA’s assessment was only proportionately increased over time, and since it began challenging its assessment in 2010, it has in fact seen a decrease. Officials called that 10 percent decrease an act of good faith as they negotiated with the utility on the matter.

At the heart of the issue is a disagreement over the worth of the local power plant: LIPA contends it is grossly overassessed, forcing the utility to pay more in property taxes than it should.

The power plant is a large source of tax revenue for the area, particularly the Port Jefferson school district and the village. Smaller stakeholders include the Port Jefferson fire and library districts and the Town of Brookhaven.

As LIPA’s property tax challenges trickle through the court system, Port Jefferson’s latest lawsuit piggybacks on an idea from out west — Huntington Town and the Northport-East Northport school district filed a similar suit a couple of years ago in their battle on the Northport power plant, which mirrors the situation in Port Jefferson. That inceptive lawsuit, challenging LIPA’s ability to challenge its property tax assessment, faced a motion to dismiss that New York State’s highest court recently denied — allowing the case to play out. Seeing the ruling in favor of Huntington and Northport, Port Jefferson followed suit.

“I feel very strong,” Egan said about the case.

According to the village attorney, he will ask that court action on LIPA’s tax challenges be delayed until the new lawsuit is resolved.

The Port Jefferson and Huntington area lawsuits may also be joined, and it is possible more plaintiffs, such as Brookhaven Town and the Port Jefferson school district, could jump in.

At the time the courts denied LIPA’s motion to dismiss Huntington Town and the Northport school district’s lawsuit, a LIPA spokesperson said the utility does not comment on ongoing litigation.

If the municipalities win their lawsuits regarding LIPA’s right to challenge its property tax assessments, those pending challenges would be thrown out.

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