Suffolk County is making strides toward a greener future.
On Monday Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced upgrades designed for energy efficiency to several county buildings, including key spots in Smithtown, that should save taxpayers more than $3 million annually.
Improvements were made to the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge, where the press conference was held, the Board of Elections in Yaphank, the Riverhead Criminal Courts Building and the 4th Precinct police building among others. The county has invested about $15 million in energy efficiency funding since 2010, Bellone said.
“As you know Suffolk County is home to more than 1.5 million people,” Bellone said. “It’s the largest county in the state of New York outside of the city. Of course we provide an array of different services to all of those residents. So many of our operations and facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re responsible for the operation of more than 400 facilities. Since we are a large operation, it’s vital for us to embrace as leaders green energy and alternative energy sources in our day-to-day operations.”
Some of the upgrades Bellone announced included new boilers, replacement of lights, occupancy sensors, improvements to heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems and a photovoltaic system installation for the Board of Elections building that will provide solar energy.
Officials from LIPA and PSEG Long Island joined with environmental advocacy groups at the press conference.
“Partnering with PSEG Long Island and LIPA and utilizing their rebate programs made these long-term energy savings possible, and they assisted with the up-front cost that might otherwise hold back the important projects that you see displayed here,” Bellone said.
Both LIPA and PSEG Long Island incentivize energy efficient upgrades for residents and commercial property owners with rebates. LIPA CEO Tom Falcone and PSEG Long Island COO Dave Daly both praised Bellone for his leadership, and for the example that he has set for New York State.
“Suffolk County is demonstrating that local government can take very concrete steps to reduce the carbon footprint, clean the environment and reduce cost for citizens,” Falcone said.
Gordian Raacke, the executive director for the nonprofit organization Renewable Energy Long Island commended Bellone for his proactive approach to energy efficiency.
“You know when world leaders meet in Paris to talk about what we need to do to tackle climate change, it is the kind of action that we’re seeing here with the leadership of County Executive Bellone in Suffolk County that they’re talking about,” Raacke said. “All of the talk in the meetings doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t save a ton of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas until a leader steps up to the plate, a leader like Steve Bellone, and makes it happen.”
Neal Lewis, the executive director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College sent a message to other municipalities that have yet to follow Suffolk County’s lead.
“Frankly, inaction by elected officials today when it comes to energy issues is wasteful,” Lewis said. “If you have a town hall that still has old lighting systems, old heating systems, old cooling systems — you’re wasting taxpayer dollars. I think that’s an important message.”
Bellone said that these projects are just the beginning, and more cost and energy saving upgrades are to come for the county.