East Hampton Sets Lofty Goal for Renewable Energy

Reaching for turbines
Reaching for turbines

East Hampton became the first town in New York State to set a goal to meet all its electrical energy needs using renewable energy by the year 2020, after the goal was passed unanimously by the town board at Tuesday’s work session.

The board also agreed to attempt to meet the town’s community-wide energy use in all sectors, including heating and transportation, through renewable energy sources by the year 2030.

“Our everyday lives are impacted by the effects of global warming. We owe it to the children of East Hampton to do something about climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuels,” said Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, town board liaison to the Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee, in a statement after the meeting.

“Meeting our future energy needs with clean, renewable energy sources will require a strong commitment from town government and all East Hampton residents,” she added. “It is time and we are ready to face that challenge.”

The Energy Sustainability Advisory Commitee will hold an open house meeting with the community tomorrow, May 22, at 6 p.m. at East Hampton Town Hall to discuss the details of their plan and their work to date.

The committee’s chairman, Frank Dalene, told the town board at Tuesday’s work session that all of East Hampton currently consumes about 288,000 megawatt/hours per year of electricity, but could generate about 317,490 kilowatt/hours of energy through renewable power.

Mr. Dalene pointed out that several municipalities across the country have already met the goal of 100 percent renewable energy, including Palo Alto, Calif., Greensburg, Kan. and Ithaca, N.Y. He said San Francisco has also set a goal to be powered completely by renewable energy by the year 2020.

“Renewable energy is coming into its own. Towns and cities around the world are making plans,” he said, adding that wind energy has room for enormous growth in the United States. In Europe, he said, 4 gigawatts worth of wind power have been installed, and plans are in the works for another 5.9 gigawatts of wind power.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell pointed out that the committee’s energy goals rely heavily on the construction of the Deepwater One wind farm currently being considered in the Atlantic Ocean 20 miles off the coast of Montauk. Deepwater Wind, the company working on the wind farm, hopes to have it operational by 2018, but such major wind projects often encounter delays due to regulatory red tape and financial concerns.

“With 70 percent of the megawatts from Deepwater Wind, the time frame becomes challenging,” said Mr. Cantwell. “The goal is ambitious.”

 Mr. Dalene said the committee is working from an assumption that the goal will not be achieved, but that it is reasonable given recent dramatic improvements in renewable technology.

“I don’t think that goal is far off,” he said. “It’s easily achievable with today’s technology.”

“This is a historic decision that will put East Hampton Town on the map nationally as a leader,” he added.

Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island agreed.

“You are accepting responsibility to do the right thing. You are not going to wait for others to solve this crisis,” he said. “You’re saying ‘we live on an island in a community where the environment and economy depends on solving climate change. We are taking action today to make that happen.’ That takes guts.”

Also at Tuesday’s work session, new Natural Resources Department Environmental Technician John Botos, who also serves as the Executive Director of the Peconic Institute, outlined several grant opportunities that could help East Hampton achieve those goals.

Mr. Botos urged the town board to agree to apply for a state Cleaner, Greener Communities grant to create a “town-wide decentralized resilient energy plan,” a $75,000 grant that would require a match of $25,000 from the town, which he said could be met by in-kind services of staff time and the use of town space for meetings.

His office is also looking into grants from Cleaner, Greener Communities to build an electric vehicle charging station at town hall, and to make it easier for residents to install charging stations at their homes. These grants have rolling deadlines, and the board agreed to pursue them all.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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 editor@eastendbeacon.com

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