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Nov 5, 2017 10:52 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton 2020 Renewables Goal Is Lost, Town Officials Acknowledge

Nov 6, 2017 4:17 PM

East Hampton Town officials now say that the much ballyhooed goal of the town reaching 100 percent reliance on renewable energy by the year 2020 is unattainable, since a key element—the South Fork Wind Farm—will not come online till 2022.

Officials said that the goal, which they acknowledged at the time was ambitious, always depended on LIPA’s plans for a major offshore wind farm to be up and running by 2020 to feed power to the South Fork.

But LIPA’s selection process for the proposal it opted to support took nearly a year longer than expected, and the schedule presented by Deepwater Wind last year called for three years of surveys and study to navigate the planning and environmental permitting. As a result, construction would not even start until 2020.

“That is the nature of goals: We set them and we hope to meet them, but sometimes we reach them a little later than we’d originally hoped,” said Gordian Raacke, director of Renewable Energy Long Island and a former member of the town committee that pushed elected officials to make the renewable goal a priority. “There were a number of unfortunate circumstances, but that’s how real life deals with the goals we set.”

While the still-conceptual wind farm’s flood of renewable-sourced energy represented the lion’s share of the envisioned clean electricity supply, a number of other initiatives that were to be part of the town’s push to reduce its carbon footprint fell through.

Two projects that would have constructed solar arrays on town-owned land—one of which, on Bull Path, went through Planning Board review and was issued approvals—fell apart when the company that had won the bid to construct them, SunEdison, went bankrupt.

Other plans have languished, in particular goals of outfitting many town properties with solar panels. Just two of the town’s small buildings have been outfitted with solar panels to date, and while there are smatterings of plans for more, nothing is currently in the process of being designed or reviewed.

“There’s no excuse for why we don’t have more solar panels on public buildings,” Supervisor Larry Cantwell said. “The progress has lagged, and it needs to be accelerated. It’s taken longer than it should.”

Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said that the town has taken some of the steps it laid out in the plan that accompanied the formalizing of the goal. Those include putting solar panels on the new Land Management Department building and the Montauk police substation. The town has also done energy benchmarking surveys for all its buildings over 1,000 square feet that will help track improvements in efficiency going forward.

As the town advances plans for a new Senior Center on Springs-Fireplace Road and the construction of new town offices at the Town Hall campus, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, he expects solar panels to be a component of both buildings when they are completed.

“But there is more we can do—more we must do,” he said. “We’ve had some other things come up that required a lot of attention, like water quality and coastal resiliency, but the renewable energy is still one of our top priorities.”

Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who is the liaison to the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee and had led the push for the renewables goal, said that there are still a number of significant projects waiting in the wings. One is a conceptual proposal at the Springs-Fireplace Road Sanitation Department property, which could have solar arrays constructed around the perimeter or mounted atop the roof of some of the buildings, or both. The other project would be rooftop solar panels at the East Hampton Shellfish Hatchery property in Montauk, which was just outfitted with a new roof.

Additionally, contracts held by the bankrupt SunEdison for the solar arrays in Northwest will expire at the end of this year and Ms. Overby said the town will put them out to bid again as soon as possible and hopefully see them back in the planning pipeline in short order.

Other initiatives that had been part of the goal focused on encouraging more homeowners to improve their home’s efficiency through free energy audits and take advantage of private solar or other renewable energy resources like geothermal heating and cooling systems. But that public push relied on a town-directed education and marketing campaign that only just got under way, Mr. Raacke said.

“Even though, yes, windmills need to be the biggest resource to reach 100 percent renewable, green energy regulations were always a big part of the goal,” he said. “And while some energy audits have been done for town facilities, the upgrade work has to be done. If it was, no, it doesn’t account for a lot, a small fraction, but it’s a symbolic step. When the town makes its buildings as energy efficient as possible, it tells the homeowner that they should be doing so also.”

Ms. Overby said that as part of the push to expand solar panel installation townwide, the town needs to focus next on commercial buildings and especially school buildings.

But while solar panels, especially on large buildings like schools, can take big bites out of the amount of energy the region must draw from the grid, at its most ambitious potential Mr. Raacke has calculated that solar would still account for only 11 percent of the overall supply. Energy efficiency and other systemwide improvements might trim another 8 percent, but that leaves 78 percent of the region’s electrical supply to come from a wind farm if the 100 percent goal is to be met by 2022. In other, less ideal situations, the need could be as high as 88 percent.

Whether the wind farm will be able to deliver that level of energy supply to the region is still a topic of some debate. The strongest skeptics have said that by the time the energy from the wind farm is looped into the LIPA grid, the amount that will actually be dispersed on the South Fork could be as little as 3 percent.

The wind farm also still faces substantial environmental hurdles, to say nothing of potential legal challenges, and the date of its coming online is still only a best case scenario. Southampton Town has set its own goal for being 100 percent renewable energy reliant for 2025. But in East Hampton, officials will hold on to their optimism and now say that 2022 is the goal.

“I think, from our end of things, we have to get the solar arrays on town buildings and then work on educating the public,” Ms. Overby said. “It’s a process, and it’s not inexpensive. It’s not going to be easy.”

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I still am asking how much this new green energy going to cost? Is it cheap or really expensive energy$$$ No one talks about the costs, ALL COSTS???
By knitter (1903), Southampton on Nov 6, 17 12:55 PM
Humanity extinct by 2600 A.D. per Stephen Hawking's most recent estimate.
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Nov 6, 17 1:43 PM
They aren't talking about the cost because it is astronomical. The people who push these kinds of "green energy" programs typically contribute $0 towards them. They expect everyone else to pay for their lofty ideals.
By localEH (426), East Hampton on Nov 6, 17 3:15 PM
How about investing in the youth for this town. Given our resources our facilities and programs are disgraceful.
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Nov 7, 17 2:14 AM
This Town Board should reread their job descriptions and stick to what they were elected to do. Try picking up the leaves rather than wading into waters and subjects that are way above their pay grades and competence.
By Colt (36), Wainscott on Nov 6, 17 2:14 PM
3 members liked this comment
god forbid someone think globally and act locally
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8049), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 6, 17 2:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
In this case they did neither. They just mouthed some unattainable promises pretending to be "green" to get some naive people to vote for them. Just proves that a lot of people out here will believe just about anything politicians tell them.
By localEH (426), East Hampton on Nov 6, 17 3:08 PM
"Just proves that a lot of people out here will believe just about anything politicians tell them."

That would be the genius above, who probably doesn't punctuate or capitalize because someone (He, She, Xe?) told them it was good for the environment
By MoronEliminator (215), Montauk on Nov 6, 17 4:33 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8049), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 6, 17 4:48 PM
Xenon?
By Mr. Z (11677), North Sea on Nov 6, 17 8:04 PM
Thanks, Moron!
Nov 6, 17 9:18 PM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
How's that for punctuation and uppercase.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8049), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 6, 17 9:18 PM
When you elect progressive, liberal nuts to run your government these are the results you get. Complete failure vs. stated goals, a total lack of financial understanding for their delusional pursuit's, followed by zero accountability to the taxpayer.

Pretty much what the last 8 years were like under the Obama administration.
By BillWillConn3 (180), Southampton on Nov 6, 17 9:48 PM
A lack of financial understanding is seeing how the Bush tax cuts turned out and saying "let's do that again!"
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8049), HAMPTON BAYS on Nov 6, 17 9:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
Small scale offshore wind is not cost effective and the proposed project is a poster child for that fact. The proposed project is not about East Hampton or its 100% renewable goals and is in fact contrary to them. This project is a method , a carefully designed method, for Deepwater Wind and D.E. Shaw to acquire a transmission cable landing site in the state of NY to lay the footings for large scale offshore wind generation that will be directed to the grid for distribution across LI. Nothing more ...more
By cobb (11), Flanders on Nov 8, 17 8:02 PM