Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke at East Hampton's Energy Sustainability Committee meeting Nov. 20.
Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke at East Hampton’s Energy Sustainability Committee meeting Nov. 20.

The South Fork is now in the middle of a Great Transformation from fossil fuel power to renewable energy.

When East Hampton Town set out in 2014 on a quest to produce all its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020, the task seemed far more daunting than it does this year, after the LIPA agreed to buy the power from an offshore wind farm proposed off the coast of Montauk back in January — a project that may provide up to 88 percent of the town’s power.

That wind farm is slated to go online in 2022, which renewable energy advocates now believe is a more realistic date to reach the original 2020 goal.

The town’s Energy Sustainability Committee is working to put together a ‘portfolio’ of green solutions that can be used to reach the goal, and renewable energy advocates shared some of that work with the committee and the public at the committee’s Nov. 20 meeting.

The newest of these resources is a program they’re calling South Fork Peak Savers, a project being lead by Applied Energy Group under contract with the Long Island Power Authority.

Participants in the program in Southampton and East Hampton towns can receive a free Nest thermostat, or receive a $250 credit for the Nest thermostat they already own, in exchange for allowing AEG to adjust the thermostat by a degree or two during times of peak power load, up to 10 times per year.

Unlike much of the rest of Long Island, the South Fork’s peak demand is increasing, especially on hot summer days, when air conditioners and pool pumps at some of the largest homes on Long Island are operating at full force.

The Peak Savers club also provides rebates of up to $600 for variable speed pool pumps east of the Shinnecock Canal, and is providing a free energy assessment, LED lighting upgrades, smart thermostats and rebates on central air conditioning for businesses.

“Twenty minutes of your time could cut your electricity by 50 percent,” said AEG Executive Vice President Bruce Humenik of the commercial program.

The program is officially launching on Dec. 7. More information is available on their website,, or by emailing or by calling 1.833.346.2181.

Renewable Energy Long Island Executive Director Gordian Raacke also gave a presentation on the potential for different renewable energy sources to supply the town’s power needs.

As part of his analysis, he used Google Project Sunroof to analyze every rooftop in East Hampton Town to see how many are feasible sites for rooftop solar panels.

Many roofs in East Hampton are not well aligned to take advantage of the sun’s energy, and many more still are shaded by trees, he said. The town has recently made it possible for communities to band together to put ground-mounted solar panels on sites with good sun exposure, allowing people with shaded roofs to receive credit from PSEG-Long Island for the energy they produce, as if the panels were on their own roof.

Mr. Raacke said it would take 178 acres of cleared land to enable the town to reach a high percentage of its renewable goals from solar power.

“It’s not easy to find unencumbered land,” he said. “A lot of it is agricultural land, which cannot be used in most cases.”

Adding to the town’s solar woes is the 2016 bankruptcy of the California solar firm SunEdision, with which the town had contracted to build three ground-mounted solar arrays, including one at the town’s capped landfill on Springs-Fireplace Road. SunEdison had also been slated to build solar arrays at Southold Town’s landfill and at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. East Hampton is anticipating soon being able to wrest those contracts back and start over again.

Another power efficiency project involving backup battery power generation is making its way through the planning process. One backup station has been approved at Buell Lane in East Hampton Village, while another, which is in a flood zone near Fort Pond Bay in Montauk, has proved controversial. That project needs to go before the East Hampton Zoning Board for variances, said town Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn.

East Hampton was designated a Climate Smart Community by New York State last year. East Hampton Natural Resources Director Kim Shaw told the crowd that the Climate Smart designation has enabled the town to take advantage of New York State grants to electrify the town’s car fleet. The town has also partnered with Move NY to provide electric power supply for food trucks at beaches in Montauk, and is looking to install them at food truck locations in Amagansett to replace diesel generators that have been used for food trucks for decades.

Ms. Shaw said the town’s research into forming a microgrid, allowing municipal buildings to operate independent of the LIPA grid, was less successful.

“We have aging facilities, and they’re too far apart,” she said.

The town has also instated energy efficiency codes for new construction that are far more stringent than required by New York State.

Mr. Raacke, in his analysis of energy sources, put together three scenarios for what East Hampton’s energy portfolio could look like in 2022.

The ‘Low’ achievable potential would rely on offshore wind for 88 percent of power, on solar for 6 percent, on upgrades to the LIPA system for 4 percent and on consumer energy efficiency measures for 2 percent.

The ‘High” achievable potential would rely on offshore wind for just 78 percent of power, relying on solar for 14 percent and on LIPA grid and consumer efficiency measures for 4 percent each.

One hundred percent renewable is 100 percent doable, and it is eminently doable by 2022,” said Mr. Raacke. “But energy efficiency and solar won’t do it by itself. We need offshore wind.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

One thought on “East Hampton: Preparing for the Great Energy Transformation

  1. An obvious solution to everyone’s problems would be to cover East Hampton airport with solar panels.

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