By 2020, East Hampton Town’s electricity consumption may be matched by power generated by the sun and the wind. By 2030, the renewable energy might be generated to the point where it also will offset fossil fuel energy consumption used for electricity, transportation and heating.
The seemingly lofty goal was announced and explained during a public meeting last Thursday, May 22, by members of the town’s Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee and Natural Resource Department.
Knowing there may be some skepticism about the town’s goal, members of the groups outlined their plan, which relies on leasing town land to let companies install solar power systems, and the realization of a 35-turbine wind farm proposed off Montauk Point, called Deepwater Wind.
Frank Dalene, the chairman of the Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee, said all the technology necessary is there, and all that was needed was political support—which the plan now has.
The Town Board last week adopted energy goals that would make East Hampton a leader in the nation for renewable energy use. According to Mr. Dalene and his group of experts, East Hampton is the first town in New York State to announce such aggressive goals.
Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said the town’s consumption goals can be met.
The East Hampton community consumed 310,000 megawatt hours of electricity in 2010, he said. “The reason it is achievable in six years is because we already have proposals on the table,” he added. “If we build those, it would create more than the 310,000 megawatt hours.”
Recently, the board accepted requests for proposals from different contractors to lease town-owned properties, including East Hampton Airport, to use those sites to build and maintain solar panels, which would not only generate cash for the town but would funnel energy back into the electric grid for the town to use. That program is part of a Long Island Power Authority/Public Service Electric and Gas Company initiative.
So far, 32.4 megawatts generated by solar energy systems have been approved by LIPA and PSEG, and there’s another 37.7 megawatts proposed in addition to that, Mr. Raacke said.
The town may also in the future use energy storage systems like lithium-ion batteries and liquid flow batteries to store the electricity it creates with solar panels.
Furthermore, if LIPA moves forward with the Deepwater Wind project, which has been proposed by a Rhode Island-based company of the same name, 35 wind turbines would create enough energy, 210 megawatts, for the five East End towns, according to Mr. Raacke.
Of the five towns, East Hampton consumes 21 percent of electricity use, he said, and 21 percent of the wind turbine energy would equal approximately 44 megawatts—enough to power 25,200 homes.
“Many studies out there say this goal is entirely doable and would produce great economic, environmental benefits,” Mr. Raacke said. “We have the financial wherewithal to make this happen.”
Other ideas the group has to reach their goal rely heavily in educating the public. John Botos of the East Hampton Town Natural Resource Department said they highly encourage homeowners and businesses to get free energy audits by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and urge them to consider installing solar panels, or at least leasing their roofs for that purpose.
Mr. Raacke said it’s possible that in the future the town could consider introducing laws that would require new construction to include solar electric systems, for example. He said Aspen, Colorado already has this requirement, and anyone who does not want to, or cannot, comply, has to put a certain amount of money into a community fund to help others have the ability to put such systems on their homes.
Mr. Botos said in the short-term, the committee will start a campaign within the town to help residents and business owners get involved in creating a greener community. He said there will be a logo design contest for students across the town and at community events, there will be demonstrations of little ways everyone can pitch in.
Mr. Raacke encouraged the public to get behind the new goals.
“This is putting East Hampton on the map,” he said. “We hope to be an inspiration for the rest of Long Island, for the state and the country.”