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Environmentalists to Town Board: The future for alternative energy is now

JULIE LANE PHOTO
Chairperson Linda James of East Hampton’s Energy Sustainability Committee, listened as Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, outlined progress being made in East Hampton to replace fossil fuels with clean and affordable energy sources.

Green Options Committee Chairman Tim Purtell brought representatives from East Hampton to Tuesday’s Town Board work session to discuss the financial benefits of putting the town on a firm footing for a clean environment.

While New York State aims for 100 percent dependence on renewable sources of energy by 2030, East Hampton is projecting to achieve that objective five years earlier.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, and Linda James, chairperson of the East Hampton Town Energy Sustainability Committee, encouraged Shelter Island residents to have PSEG conduct free energy evaluations of their homes. The power company’s analysis will discover steps Islanders can take to reduce their dependence on traditional energy sources, the visitors said.

But there are more dramatic, community-wide steps to be taken, Mr. Raacke said, with property owners and East Hampton Town officials joining together on these efforts,

Dependence on fossil fuels “doesn’t work anymore” and people must transition to cleaner sources of energy, he said. “It’s time to make this transition,” he added, especially converting to solar power.

A few years ago, people thought if they didn’t have a full southern roof exposure with no shade, solar wasn’t viable, Mr. Raacke reported, but not so today. New technology enables building owners to determine how much of a roof is viable for placement of solar panels with satellite images measuring roofs and their pitches to see if they’re candidates for the panels.

At least until the end of the year, there are tax breaks and grants from various levels of government to help pay up to 55 percent of the cost of panels and installation.

East Hampton takes the process an important step further, for savings to include those whose structures won’t provide effective use of solar panels, the environmentalist said.

The solar array doesn’t provide power directly to East Hampton homeowners, but the solar farm feeds into the LIPA grid that PSEG manages.

Mr. Raacke also recommends a Community Choice Aggreation (CCA) that allows local governments to procue power on behalf of residents, businesses and municipal accounts from an alternative supplier while receiving transmission and distribution services from alternative suppliers. CCAs provide more local control over electricity sources, more green power and/or lowered electricity prices, according to Mr. Purtell.

Customers can opt out of CCA, but generally don’t, Mr. Raacke said.

“By aggregating demand, communities gain leverage to negotiate better rates with competitive suppliers and choose greener power sources,” Mr. Purtell explained.

Now customers pay a two-tiered bill for a supply of energy and its delivery. By selecting other sources of the energy, customers will be charged by PSEG only for delivery.

East Hampton has issued a request for proposals from contractors to install solar panels at a reduced price for the buildings being converted.

East Hampton is preparing to show its new plant and share its methods with others as soon as the plant is ready for its opening — probably in a matter of weeks, Ms. James said.

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