Environmentalists Look to Renewable Energy for the Future of Southampton Town

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By Mara Certic

Hours after environmentalists held a Rally for Renewables at a LIPA board meeting on Thursday, residents and elected officials gathered at the Hampton Bays Community Center to discuss the future of renewable energy in the Town of Southampton.

The Southampton Sustainability Advisory Committee hosted its fourth annual public forum, which focused on “Green Power: Renewable Energy for Southampton’s Future.” Gordian Raacke, Clinton Plummer and John Francheschina gave presentations on their various expertise and answered questions from the public.

Co-chairs of the committee Dieter von Lehsten and Scott Carlin moderated the event, which was organized to provide Southamptonites more information about local and regional energy issues.

Mr. Raacke, president of Renewable Energy Long Island, spoke about East Hampton’s goal to provide 100 percent of the town’s energy from renewable sources and its relevance to Southampton.

According to Mr. Raacke, East Hampton’s decision to power all of its community-wide electricity needs with renewable energy by the year 2020 came after a close look at the town’s carbon footprint.

The majority of the town’s carbon emissions are from electricity consumption, Mr. Raacke said, hence the decision to conquer that sector first. It will focus on using renewable energy for its heating and transportation sectors by the year 2030.

“Obviously, we need to start where we have the greatest impact,” Mr. Raacke said, adding renewable technology for heating and transportation has “still a little ways to go.”

On December 17, LIPA is scheduled to decide whether or not it will go forward with proposed plans for large solar farms and a plan for an offshore wind farm 30 miles east of Montauk Point.

“LIPA will be facing a choice of going with business as usual,” Mr. Raacke said, “or with zero emissions, which will keep more of our energy dollars in the local economy.”

“If LIPA chooses fossil fuels, they’ll be burdening Long Island,” he said. The price is known and is fixed for renewable energy, he explained, whereas future gas and oil prices remain a mystery.

Clinton Plummer from Deepwater Wind then discussed the company’s proposal for a 35-turbine wind farm out in the Atlantic Ocean, invisible from the shore.  The East End’s population has grown rapidly in recent years, Mr. Plummer said, which has put a huge strain on the electricity grid.

“When you have a hot day here on Long Island, offshore wind is producing at its absolute greatest,” he said. Deepwater ONE would increase Long Island’s supply of renewable energy by 47 percent, which, in turn, would decrease oil and gas usage by 7 million barrels a year, Mr. Plummer said.

A smaller pilot program off the coast of Block Island is on track to be in the water and fully operational by 2016. That will be the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The world’s first offshore wind farm, Vindeby in Denmark, has been fully operational since 1991.

On Thursday morning, 80 people showed up at a LIPA board meeting to show public support for the Deepwater ONE project. LIPA’s final meeting of the year will be on Wednesday, December 17. Mr. Plummer said he expects to hear the final verdict on the offshore wind farm by then.

Mr. Francheschina is the manager of residential efficiency programs for PSEG-LI, and gave a detailed presentation on some of the more affordable things homeowners can do to shrink their carbon footprints.

“The load is growing on the South Fork,” Mr. Francheschina said. “Either we need to lower the load or add more generation.”

In addition to rebates for geothermal systems and solar arrays, Mr. Francheschina described some of the ways Long Islanders can lower the demand for electricity. He explained rebate programs for less expensive products such as air purifiers, clothes dryers and even light bulbs.

PSEG-LI is currently holding a refrigerator recycling program that has a $50 rebate and also offers those who participate the chance to win an iPad, he said. PSEG-LI, with NYSERDA, also has a free home energy audit, where qualifying residents can learn specific ways to make their houses more energy efficient.

For more information about the efficiency programs, visit psegliny.com/efficiency

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