Tag Archive | "Renewable Energy Long Island"

Gordian Raacke

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Gordian Raacke













By Mara Certic

Gordian Raacke is the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island and has been instrumental in East Hampton Town’s decision to pledge to pursue the goal of meeting all communitywide electricity needs with renewable energy by 2020. 

You’re a founding member of Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI). What was it that compelled you to become involved?

It was when the Exxon Valdez disaster happened; I was really upset about that. And I thought what can we do about that? You know, I was blaming Exxon the way that everybody else was, and a friend of mine said you shouldn’t just point your finger at the big oil companies. You should point the finger also at yourself because that tanker was on the way to your gas tank, your oil tank. If we’re part of the problem, we’re also part of the solutions.

In 1993 I became the executive director of RELI’s predecessor organization which was called the Citizens Advisory Panel (CAP.) And it was a federal, court-appointed watchdog. And that had a 10-year lifespan given by the court and when that sun set I figured why not continue this? It’s very much needed and so we established Renewable Energy Long Island.

Your background is in civil engineering. How did you become an authority on climate change and renewable energy?

I was trained by Al Gore as a presenter as part of the climate reality project. I have also helped train others, too. I got a very good look at the science of climate change because he has very good scientific advisors. As an engineer, I have a scientific and technical background, but it really opened my eyes to the urgency of finding a solution to the climate crisis and that’s why it’s so refreshing now to see communities actually taking that on and adopting renewable energy policies so that’s what we need to do; we need to find solutions very quickly and implement them.

What sort of thing does RELI do?

We work on two tracks. We work on policy. We provide information and assistance to government entities to enact policies that are designed to flick the switch from fossil to renewable energy sources. And then we help individuals, homeowners and businesses to find the right solutions that work for them and then we help them find contractors. We provide free assistance, advice and guidance to anyone who asks for it.

East Hampton Town has recently set itself a goal to use 100-percent renewable energy for community-wide electricity needs by the year 2020. Do you think this is plausible?

Renewable energy is 100-percent doable. It requires a big effort on everyone’s behalf, it’s not going to happen all by itself. But it requires effort not only from town government but from every residence and every business within the Town of East Hampton. We need to do things a little bit smarter, a little bit better. Firstly, we need to work on making our homes and businesses more energy efficient. We need to stop the leakage of energy in our buildings. Then we can generate the energy that we need with smaller and much less expensive renewable energy systems. And that’s exactly what I did in my house; I made sure it was energy-efficient to start with and then I was very much able to afford a small solar-electric system.

We know everyone in East Hampton can now afford an energy audit and can afford — through on-bill financing that’s now available — to make the upgrades that the house will need to make it more energy efficient. So you don’t really need any upfront cash to pay for that, you’ll pay back on your utility bills and the monthly savings are greater than the payments you have to make to pay back the principal and interest on that energy efficiency loan. It’s affordable now for everyone. This isn’t just the right thing to do for the environment; it’s the right thing, and a good thing, to do for your wallet.

East Hampton Town Commits to 100% Renewable Energy by 2030

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By Mara Certic

Environmental advocates celebrated last Thursday the inclusion of East Hampton Town on a list of communities that are committed in the long term to obtaining all of their energy from renewable sources.

The town board voted unanimously to establish the ambitious goal of using renewable energy to meet all of the community’s electricity needs by the year 2020, becoming the first town in the state to set such a goal.

The town intends to meet an equivalent renewable energy goal for the heating, transportation and waste management sectors by the year 2030.

“We are dumping 90 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere on a daily basis,” said Gordian Raacke, founder of Renewable Energy Long Island at an East Hampton Energy and Sustainability forum on  Thursday, May 22. “If we continue business as usual we would get into catastrophic and irreversible effects of climate change,” he said.

“Electricity makes up half of [our carbon] emissions so we can tackle that first half very quickly because we have all our tools in our toolbox, particularly in the electric sector, to generate electricity from renewable resources,” said Mr. Raacke, who is also a member of the East Hampton Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee.

According to Mr. Raacke, Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in all sectors by 2050.

“Which means essentially we have to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources,” said Mr. Raacke.

“If someone hears this they may go: ‘Wow, that’s a lofty goal,’” said Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee chairman Frank Dalene. “It’s a high goal, but the energy sustainability committee has already recommended three RFP’s to the town.”

Mr. Dalene was referring to a proposed solar generating facility at the East Hampton Airport, an offshore wind farm 30 miles off of Montauk Point and smaller solar installations proposed for 10 town-owned lots.

“The Deepwater Wind ONE project will be around 200 megawatts. According to their news release, it will generate power for the five East End towns,” said John Botos, an environmental technician for the Town of East Hampton’s Natural Resources Department.

Mr. Botos explained that East Hampton currently uses 20 percent of the electricity consumed by the five East End towns. Therefore, it would only be able to count on 20 percent of the wind farm’s output against its 100-percent goal should the farm come to fruition.

“However, if we count this plus the output from the 70 megawatts of solar proposals, we would achieve slightly more than 100 percent of our current communitywide electricity consumption,” he added.

“We don’t know if they will actually produce this much energy,” Mr. Dalene said about the three proposals. “But we as a committee are not going to stop.”

Mr. Raacke said in Thursday’s meeting that his house, along with many on the East End, is powered entirely by renewable energy. The town has a solar fast-track permitting process, and decisions are made in 14 days or less. The fee has been waived for solar permit applications as an incentive for residents.

“Not everyone is going to be able to afford solar panels,” said Mr. Botos.  But PSEG Long Island, he explained, offers a slew of tax rebate programs for those who choose to switch their homes to use renewable energy; a 30-percent federal tax credit is also available, he said.

“However, it will soon be possible to get solar panels installed with a low-interest loan from New York State and pay it back through on-bill financing on utility bills,” he said. “This means that households could afford solar panels, as there is no upfront cash required.”

The committee stressed that this goal also presents a great economic opportunity, creating jobs and keeping money in the local economy.

Mr. Botos emphasized the importance of public participation in attaining the sustainability goal, which will be augmented by “unplugged” campaigns at schools, community outreach and involvement.

The first step, the committee explained, is to reduce energy consumption. “You’ll waste money on your solar panels if you don’t reduce your energy consumption first,” warned Mr. Dalene.

Mr. Botos recommended that all residents take advantage of the free federally funded home energy audit, and take measures to make their homes more energy-efficient.

“There are a variety of other ways people can get involved. For example, turn off the ‘stand-by’ feature on TVs and gaming systems and unplugging electronics when they are not being used,” he said. “It isn’t enough to just generate electricity from renewable energy, but it is equally important to reduce consumption.”

The simple switch to LED light bulbs makes a difference, he said. The natural resources department has a variety of reimbursement forms on PSEG rebates for a wide array of household appliances.

Towns, cities and countries worldwide have made similar renewable energy goals; Aspen’s goal of using 100-percent renewable energy by the year 2015 is already 75 percent complete.

“All of the studies agree that we can do this, we have the financial wherewithal to make this happen,” said Mr. Raacke. “All that was lacking is the political will and that’s what we now have in this town.”

East End Digest July 31

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State Assembly: 4-Day School Week?

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. is requesting input from school districts in the Second Assembly District related to a bill currently pending in the New York State Assembly. This bill aims to provide financial relief for taxpayers by eliminating the state sales tax on diesel fuel used by school bus companies when the expense of the fuel exceeds the budgeted amount set forth by the school district. In addition, another potential energy cost saving measure would be the creation of a plan for the implementation of a four-day school week.

“As ranking minority member of the Assembly Education Committee, I believe it is important to solicit comments and recommendations from our school districts on this legislation,” said Thiele. “This proposal is well intended however, there may be issues regarding the impact to the quality of education that legislators may not be aware of.”

The bill remained in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee at the end of the 2008 legislative session.

RELI: Green Guide

A Long Island not-for-profit group, Renewable Energy Long Island, has seen such an increase in inquiries for green expert services and goods that it decided to compile and publish what it calls the region’s first annual LIGreenGuide.

The printed and online versions of the LIGreenGuide will offer practical information for consumers seeking greener choices, featuring tips on such topics as “Cool Lifestyles,” “Solar Roofs,” “How to Lose 5000 Pounds (of CO2) in 30 Days,” and “What To Look For in Carbon-Offsets.” The LIGreenGuide will also feature a directory of green businesses and professionals as a handy one-stop reference for anyone shopping for a greener future. “We have seen such an amazing growth in awareness and interest for green choices that we decided to publish an up-to-date directory of businesses which offer such services on Long Island,” said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “For a number of years, RELI has been the go-to place if you wanted to find a qualified contractor to get solar energy systems installed; now we will provide that service for a much broader spectrum of green choices.”

The LIGreenGuide will be available starting in September, in time for RELI’s Annual Long Island Solar Tour and Open House on October 4. RELI will distribute the printed guide free of charge throughout Labor Day 2009 and have a continuously updated web version. The directory will list services in a number of categories, including building professionals such as green architects, builders, and landscapers, energy efficiency and renewable energy contractors, and retailers of green products.

Listings are free of charge but interested businesses must complete an online form at www.LIGreenGuide.org to be considered for inclusion in the directory. Deadline for the printed version is August 1.

CPF: Revenues Down

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. reported this week that cumulative Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues for the five East End towns were only $4.46 million, the lowest monthly total since 2003. Thiele also reported that the number of real estate transfers for the first six months had also declined from last year by 17.7 percent.

The Town of East Hampton has seen the greatest decline in revenue from the first six months of last year – by 49.6 percent. Southampton Town revenues are down 28 percent. Only the Town of Southold has seen an increase in revenue and transfers since 2007 – a modest one percent increase.

“It is clear that the national economic slowdown and housing crisis are finally impacting the real estate economy on the East End,” said Thiele. “We have been among the last to feel these negative impacts, but there can be no doubt that real estate activity has now slowed significantly. However, even with these problems, the Community Preservation Fund can still be expected to generate over $70 million for land preservation in 2008. The current market also present buying opportunities for environmentally sensitive land.”

East End Transportation Study: Thiele Urges Outreach

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. last week called for greater public outreach and elected official involvement in the East End Alternative Transportation Study, which is currently underway. The study is designed to investigate and evaluate whether a permanent rail/bus shuttle system is feasible for the East End and to identify and evaluate other alternatives such as bus rapid transit and expansion of existing rail and bus services. The concept of a rail/bus shuttle system was developed and presented by Five Town Rural Transit, Inc. (5TRT), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving mass transit on the East End.

Through the efforts of Assemblyman Thiele, the five East End towns received a $360,000 grant from the New York State Department of State under its Shared Municipal Services Incentive Program (SMSI) to study a permanent rail/shuttle service. The state is funding 90 percent of the study.

“The East End has been underserved by mass transit since forever,” said Thiele. “With increased traffic congestion only getting worse, the need for increased rail and bus service is critical. This past year, we proved that residents will use trains and buses to get to work. More than 40,000 passengers utilized the South Fork Commuter Shuttle from October to June during the reconstruction of County Road 39. Now we need to take steps to make this service permanent. We need to know what schedules will work best, what new infrastructure will be needed and how much it will cost. When the state funded this study, it was with the understanding that we would start to answer these questions for the people of the East End. The study must focus on this point.”
Thiele, a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee expressed concern about the current status of the study.

“Thus far, the study has been centered on data gathering and existing conditions. A competent job has been done in this regard,” he said. “The next phase is critical. It involves selecting alternatives and evaluation of the alternatives. There has been growing concern about the lack of public outreach and the involvement of public officials in the study. I share this concern.”

Thiele added public involvement is critical to the success of providing the right kind of transportation services on the East End.

 “Every East End town and village and elected officials from all levels of government must be invested in this process if it is to succeed,” said Thiele. “Otherwise we will end up with another transportation study that simply ends up on the shelf. Implementing mass transit takes money. We must involve those state and federal officials who will have to produce the finding to implement this program. In short, this study needs to now move from the bowels of government bureaucracies and consultant offices into the light of day where everyone can participate in creating the East End’s new, innovative mass transit system.”

American Cancer Society: East End Honors

The American Cancer Society, eastern division honored East End’s own breast surgeon Edna Kapenhas-Valdes MD, with the Dr. of Distinction Award. Dr. Valdes was chosen based on her commitment to providing quality care to cancer patients residing on the East End of Long Island and her interest in making a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer. The Denim & Diamonds Gala to benefit the society was held at the Diamond Ranch in Watermill.

Other honorees included Congressmen Timothy Bishop, recipient of the Linda Jasper award in recognition of his leadership in the American Cancer Society’s advocacy efforts, Count and Countess De Lesseps, recipient of the G.E.M. award (Gratitude for Excellence in our Mission) for their influence in the community and their personal interest in the fight against cancer. Roy Scheider, television and screen actor was recognized posthumously with the memorial award for his personal fight against cancer.

“The Denim & Diamond Gala allows the American Cancer Society the opportunity to raise awareness about the significant programs and services available before, during and after a diagnosis of cancer,” said Sylvia A. Diaz, Regional Vice President for Suffolk County. “It is important for people to know we are here and can help.”

Proceeds from the gala support the programs and services offered to those residing in Suffolk County. One of the programs showcased at the event was the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge is a free residential facility for individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their caregiver. More than just lodging, Hope Lodge provides patients and their caregivers with a supportive environment and sense of community. Since Hope Lodge opened its doors in November of 2007, it has housed 814 guests, many of which reside on the East End of Long Island. 

“Hope Lodge New York City-this house of hope-was my home for two and a half months and I was welcomed with open arms,” said East End resident and Hope Lodge guest Wendy Chamberlain. “I felt immediate relief-I didn’t have to explain myself or my condition to anyone.  All the Hope Lodge residents understand each other without words.  Every day was a positive one.  I gained more inspiration and strength with every interaction I had at Hope Lodge.  Staying here has been an incredible gift.” 

In addition to lodging, guests also have access to communal kitchens, activity rooms, and laundry facilities and are invited to participate in American Cancer Society programs, special shared meals and yoga classes.  All Hope Lodge services-lodging and support programs-are offered completely free of charge.