Realizing there is both financial and social value to going green, many Sag Harbor business owners are looking at their options, from recycling to integrating solar power.
The Sag Harbor Business Association hosted an evening of four speakers on Monday, December 15, at the American Hotel to get their peers thinking about ways they can be more economical and more friendly to the environment.
“It’s depressing how much waste you create,” said Gigi Morris, chairperson of “725 Green” a local environmental advocacy group that is working with business, community and school groups.
Morris told the 40 or so at the meeting that being green can save local shop owners money and create an attractive impression to customers.
“It’s hot,” she said.
Pointing to the Eco-Fair held at the Whaling Museum last summer as an example, she said she would like to see Sag Harbor have a reputation as a green village.
“Let’s work together and research our options,” she said, noting that they hoped to join other sustainable communities. “We should be promoting biking and walking and alternative energies.”
To that end Morris noted there were many flat roofs on Main Street that would be ideal for installing solar panels to provide electricity for the various buildings. An illustration provided by one of the guest speakers, George Engelbrecht of The Solar Center, showed an aerial view of the village’s downtown with installations on about two dozen buildings, which could produce about 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.
On many commercial installations, solar panels can provide up to about two-thirds to three-quarters of a business’s electric, said Engelbrecht. In addition, the cost of installing a system can become economical when taking advantage of rebates from LIPA and tax credits. The minimum size system would be 3000 watts and the maximum size, that would still be able to take advantage of all the rebates, would be 10,000 watts.
For the purpose of the meeting, Engelbrecht presented a cost analysis of a typical 10,000 watt system that would cost $80,600. With a $35,000 rebate from LIPA, a $13,680 Federal investment tax credit and a 13,178 depreciation credit, the net effective price of the system would come down to about $18,742, and would represent a breakeven on investment in about 7.9 years.
“Much of the savings will depend on actual electrical usage,” said Engelbrecht, noting that savings will increase as electric rates increase.
Business Association member Jeff Sander wondered what possibilities existed for businesses sharing roof space for solar generation, and mentioned some had thought a private utility could be established.
While there is no provision under LIPA for establishing a separate utility —Â LIPA wants to see electricity flow through one meter per use —Â it is possible for a third party to lease space on a roof and share in the cost benefit.
In addition to efforts in solar, the firm Green Logic, which is based in Southampton and has four other offices on the East End, also offers wind and geothermal installations. To help encourage young people to understand the importance of alternative energy, Green Logic will also be attending a Morning Program at Sag Harbor Elementary School for a “Green Minute.”
Cee Scott Brown, chairman of the village’s Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, noted that solar panels are currently not allowed in the historic village where they will be visible from the street.
“When do you think technology will catch up with the federal guidelines (for historic places),” he wondered, and was told that a solar “slate” for roofs had been developed with a membrane, but some designs did not meet fire codes.
“The board is extremely interested n finding ways of allowing solar energy,” said Brown noting how slow action had been, “but it’s like being on two icebergs.”
There is more to the effort of going green and reducing the carbon foot print than solar though, said Morris, and she is hoping businesses in the village will become more sensitive to issues they can more easily control, such as recycling and choosing biodegradable food containers.
She also said that buildings can become more energy efficient simply by changing light bulbs, and suggested that business owners have someone conduct an energy audit of their buildings.
“725 Green is not just one organization, it’s all of us finding a way of pushing this forward,” said Morris. “We’re all in it together.”