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Green energy

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn file photo

A North Shore lawmaker is calling on Suffolk County to give green a chance.

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is pushing a pilot program that, if enacted, would inject green roof construction principles into roof repair or replacement plans for one county-owned building on a trial basis.

A “green roof” uses a garden or plantings to increase energy efficiency by insulating the building in the winter and reducing solar absorption in the summer, to decrease the need for heating and air conditioning, according to the not-for-profit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities organization. Green roofs can also attract various pollinating insect species, which would serve as an environmental benefit to the surrounding region.

“Structures that employ green roof concepts report increased energy efficiency,” Hahn said. “In the municipalities that have already installed these roofs, officials have discovered that being green is saving green.”

If enacted in Suffolk County, the pilot project would take root atop one county-owned building, Hahn spokesman Seth Squicciarino said. The county’s Department of Public Works would monitor the green roof to measure the benefits.

If successful, similar roof renovations could sprout up throughout the county.

Hahn said the DPW would select which building in Suffolk should get the roof repair or replacement project, select a vendor for the work and provide periodic reports on its progress as the seasons pass.

The plan was first put onto the table March 3 and the county Legislature’s Public Works, Transportation and Energy Committee mulled over the proposal at its April 20 meeting.

Hahn said municipalities throughout the country were already looking into similar projects and, in some cases, requiring new construction projects to include green roof principles. As for Long Island, green roofs are already in full bloom on the SUNY Old Westbury campus and on the East End’s southern fork.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized green roof projects as an effective management practice that, if implemented on a large scale, would reduce the volume of stormwater entering local waterways and lower water temperatures to enhance water quality. New York City has already enacted a $5.23 rebate for each square foot of many green roof projects, and the city of Syracuse has allocated nearly $4 million toward 37 different green roof projects to date.

Huntington residents could find it easier to afford solar panels on their homes, thanks to new initiative backed by town and City University of New York officials. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Town residents looking to go solar can let the sunshine in at a discount, thanks to a new group-purchasing program spearheaded by town and City University of New York officials.

On Monday afternoon, town hall officials unveiled Solarize Huntington, a program that attempts to incentivize residents to go solar by offering discounts of up to 25 percent on installation costs through installer Direct Energy Solar. The level of discount would increase as the number of participants in the Solarize Huntington program grows, according to the town and Sustainable CUNY of the City University of New York. Solarize Huntington will also include educational workshops about solar energy and guidance on the process of going solar.

The program, which officially launched today, May 4,  runs through Sept. 10.

Homeowners who participate could purchase, finance or lease solar systems from Direct Energy Solar, the installer selected by CUNY through a competitive bidding process, town spokesman A.J. Carter said. Direct Energy Solar is also offering an additional $500 discount to the first 20 homeowners who sign contracts.

The average solar installation, with state and federal incentives included, could cost a Huntington homeowner around $16,000 for a 7-kilowatt system, according to Justin Strachan, a New York State solar ombudsman with Sustainable CUNY. Solarize Huntington could reduce that cost to somewhere around $12,000, he said.

Solar is already popular in Huntington Town, CUNY and town officials noted on Monday. Officials from Sustainable CUNY, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) attended a press conference launching the program on Monday at which Petrone said that last year, the town received 500 applications for solar installation permits.

“So that tells you the popularity and it tells you people are yearning for a program, for a supervised program, and something that’s going to be meaningful and cost-effective,” Petrone said.

Laurie Reilly, who directs communications for Sustainable CUNY, said the Solarize Huntington program is just one program among other solar initiatives funded by a more than $1 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. She also said Huntington was selected for the program because, at the time of the grant application, the town committed to work with Sustainable CUNY to make solar more accessible to residents.

“Huntington was the first one to step up and the first one to say, ‘We would like to do this.’”

This isn’t the only thing Huntington Town has done in recent years to encourage and increase the use of solar power to cut down on the consumption of fossil fuels. The town recently approved a fast-track process for approval of solar installation permits and used a federal grant several years ago to install solar panels at town hall, the town said in a statement.

The program launch is thanks to the partnership of Sustainable CUNY, the New York Solar Smart Program, the town and the town’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables, and Sustainability, according to a town statement.

Residents interested in signing up for the program can do it online at solarizhuntington.com, or at one of the Solarize 101 informational workshops the town is sponsoring to help residents learn of the program’s benefits.

The first workshop will be held on Monday, May 11 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at town hall.

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File photo

From unfunded mandates to grounds maintenance, school districts are burdened with many costs, but high energy bills don’t have to be one of them.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) recently introduced legislation that would strengthen the state’s support of alternative energy systems in school districts. All types of alternative energy systems — whether solar, wind and/or geothermal  — would be eligible for state building aid. The legislation would also remove a requirement that has the systems meet an 18-year payback window in order to receive aid. These changes make sense, as they’ll empower school districts to go green while also saving taxpayers money.

A few school districts on the North Shore have discussed installing solar panels on their building roofs, while two — Miller Place and Three Village — are moving forward with plans to install the panels. In Miller Place, the panels are expected to save the district more than half its utility budget. In Three Village, by the time the project is paid off, the district could be saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While we encourage other school districts to investigate how alternative energy systems could help their districts reduce costs, we also hope they’ll continue searching for ways to reduce their energy consumption. Replacing an energy source with a clean alternative is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t do anything to address a greater energy consumption problem that pervades our communities, including in our schools.

Pol pitches bill to broaden alternative energy use

State Sen. Carl Marcellino is behind new legislation aimed at aiding schools to go green. File photo by Elana Glowatz

School districts looking to go green could see more green for it, if proposed state legislation to help school districts pay for alternative energy projects makes its way through Albany.

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) has sponsored legislation that would strengthen the state’s support for alternative energy in school districts. Currently, there’s state building aid available for the installation of wind and solar systems, but Marcellino’s legislation allows all types of alternative energy systems to be eligible for building aid.

Also, currently, only alternative energy systems that meet an 18-year payback window are eligible for aid, but Marcellino’s proposed law removes that requirement, according to Debbie Peck Kelleher, director of the state Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee.

“It would allow all systems to get the building aid,” Kelleher said.

Most districts see an average reimbursement between 70 to 75 percent of the project cost, she said.
In an interview last week, Marcellino said school districts turning to alternative energies provide a boon to taxpayers, because of energy savings in utility costs over time.

“It’s a win-win all the way around.”

Marcellino’s legislation has been referred to the Senate’s education committee, and has support from assemblymen Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) and Andy Raia (R-East Northport).

Long Island school officials have pondered solar panel installations, and some districts have embarked on projects of their own.

Last year, Miller Place school district green-lighted a $4.3 million project to install solar panels on the roofs of its four school buildings. The project qualified for $3.7 million in state aid, according to Danny Haffel, the executive director of energy solutions on Long Island of Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based technology and energy-savings solutions company that the district worked with. Haffel added that the project would save the district more than $243,000 — close to half of its utility budget — in annual energy costs.

Under the contract with Johnson Controls, the district, which would lease the panels for $362,528 a year over 15 years, would be guaranteed those savings, so that in case the savings are not realized through the solar panels, Johnson Controls would foot the bill.

“The Miller Place school district’s decision to pursue alternative energy projects including solar power will not only benefit the environment, but is anticipated to produce financial savings for the district,” Superintendent Marianne Higuera said in a statement. “If the use of alternative energy sources like solar can produce bottom-line cost savings for other school districts or municipalities like it is projected to do for our school district, then this option may be beneficial.”

Beefing up state aid to school districts for these kinds of systems is a good thing, Haffel said in an interview this week.

“What would be really cool and to me would make sense — which would in the long run help every school district and every taxpayer — is to make all renewable work 100 percent aidable and that the school district would receive 100 percent state aid,” he said. “Now you have no electric bill, and you just helped out the taxpayer for the rest of their lives.”

School administrators in Huntington and Northport-East Northport have considered going solar.

Julia Binger, president of the Northport-East Northport school board, said her district had discussions in the past about going solar, but found it to be too cost prohibitive. With this new legislation, combined with what officials have said is a drop in price for solar panels, going solar is “a question that would be worth reconsidering,” Binger said.

In Huntington, school board member Tom DiGiacomo noted that the district’s aging roofs could make solar costly for the district. But it’s still worth considering, he said.

“I think that we need to look at renewable energy as a way to saving money for school districts,” he said. “Quite honestly, the state should be empowering the school districts and the taxpayers ultimately to find ways to save money by using [renewable] energy.”