Tag Archive | "solar power"

East Hampton Airport’s Sunny Prospects

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Denver International Airport

By Mara Certic

In June, the East Hampton Town Board adopted a goal of meeting all of its electricity needs with renewable energy by the year 2020. A proposed wind farm off the coast of Montauk could produce a huge amount of energy for the East End, but East Hampton Town has also decided to take advantage of one of its other natural resources: the sun.

The invention of the first ever solar system dates back over 100 years, and the technology only continues to improve and become more effective. According to the 2013 Solar Market Insight Report, “more solar has been installed in the past 18 months than in the previous 30 years.” The report adds that in 2013, the state of California installed more solar than the entire country had in 2011.

As it tries to blaze a trail in the world of sustainability, East Hampton is looking into installing several different multi-megawatt solar arrays throughout the town. One distinction one must make when discussing solar power is the difference between solar thermal and photovoltaic conversion. Solar thermal electrical energy generation works by creating heat from the sun’s light. This heat then runs a heat engine, which turns a generator, making electricity.

“Solar thermal technology works very well here for residential and commercial water heating and is less costly than solar electric panels,” said Gordian Raacke, founder of Renewable Energy Long Island and a member of the East Hampton Town Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee. “Large, utility scale solar thermal systems such as ‘solar through’ or ‘concentrating solar’ systems, which make steam to run a steam turbine generating electricity are used in the South but not in our latitudes,” he said.

Photovoltaic energy uses solar panels to convert the sun’s light directly into electricity. This conversion occurs without any moving parts or environmental emissions and is clean and completely sustainable. This is the type of solar energy that East Hampton Town is considering using in various sites. The largest of the proposed sites would be located at the consistently controversial East Hampton Airport.

In February, the town board issued a request for proposals in conjunction with LIPA/PSEG’s goal to provide  up to 280 megawatts of new, on-island renewable capacity and energy for the East End. The vast majority of this power would come from the proposed Deepwater ONE project off of Montauk; the rest would be from various solar fields.

“East Hampton Township agreed tentatively to a lease agreement for 37 megawatts [at the airport],” explained Mr. Raacke. The RFP sought out responses from solar contractors who are willing to install and maintain the solar panels at the airport at no cost to the town. The contractors would receive payment from PSEG-LI for the energy produced, and would then pay a portion of that income to the town as a lease payment.

“East Hampton is involved as the entity that provides the land for it and gets money from the developer in the form of an annual lease payment,” Mr. Raacke explained. “LIPA or PSEG-LI buys power from them the same way they buy power from a power plant they have under contract,” he said.

“These projects are all financed, constructed and operated by the developers. They bear the financial risk and the constructional and operational risk. If they run over budget, it’s their problem, if the solar panels have some sort of a problem they have to fix it.” he explained. The utility company will pay the contractors under a 20-year power purchase agreement only for the power that they produce.

“This makes it such an attractive proposition for the utility, and for everyone, because the price is known for 20 years. Whereas the price from a conventional power plant is not known. Nobody can say what other power is going to cost in 20 years,” he said, adding that there is no way of knowing what the price of natural gas or other fuels will be then. “Obviously, with solar power we know the cost: it’s free.”

After looking at various proposals, the sustainability committee made a recommendation of two solar contractors to the town board, SunEdison and S-Power. The committee’s report recommended that they both be given the opportunity to partake in the 280-megawatt program.

The almost 38 megawatts that the airport project would create, Mr. Raacke said,  would produce enough power for approximately 5,000 homes. “And that could be much more if [the contractors] install what they say is possible there, which would be up to 50 or even 60 megawatts.”

The solar panels “would be in several locations alongside the runways,” Mr. Raacke said. “It would be located so that it poses no interference with the planes landing or taking off. It has to be approved by the FAA, and they look at things such as glare—there can’t be any glare for that would be happening when the pilot was landing or taking off,” he said.

He explained that SunEdison and S-Power provided designs that are compatible with the current FAA regulations, which ensure that the panels are a certain distance from the runways and are turned at angles so they would not interfere or endanger any of the flights in the area.

“SunEdison and other companies have done this before at airports,” Mr. Raacke said, adding that Denver International Airport has a large solar array.  An airport watchdog group tentatively approved an offer earlier this month for SunEdison to lease land from Southampton Town for a multi-megawatt solar array at the Frank S. Gabreski Airport.

PSEG-LI has yet to make a decision or approve the proposals for the airport array. If it does, review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act will be undertaken. “Typically, this is a very benign use of land, there’s no fuel storage on site, these are simple structures that are erected on that land,” Mr. Raacke said.

John Botos, an environmental technician with the East Hampton Town Natural Resources Department, said that the studies would look to protect groundwater, limit the displacement of animals and minimize clearance of wetland areas.

The lease payment that the solar contractor would pay the town is still unknown. “It depends on how much it generates and how much PSEG would be willing to generate,” said East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby who acts as liaison for the sustainability committee. “After that we will go and negotiate for the lease payments and the amount of land they would need to have,” she said.

A representative from PSEG said on Wednesday that the utility company is currently going through the process of a Coordinated Electric System Interconnection Review of the airport site. It is expecting to finish the study in the next three to six weeks, the spokeswoman said, at which point it will be much closer to reaching a decision on the solar proposal. If approved, the 37-megawatt solar system at the East Hampton Airport could be operational by the end of 2016.













East Enders Go Green With Solar Panels

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Steve D’Angelo’s rooftop solar panels at his house on Widow Gavitt’s Road in Sag Harbor. Photo by Steve D’Angelo.

By Mara Certic

When the financial crisis hit in 2008, Steve D’Angelo was looking for a way to invest his money. Instead of putting it into stocks or hiding it under his mattress, he decided to put that money onto his roof.

Six years later, the 24 solar panels that he had installed on his 3,500-square-foot Sag Harbor house have already paid for themselves. “For me it was a long-term investment; I had money and I didn’t know where to put it,” he said. After reading about rebates from LIPA and Southampton Town, the decision to have Green Logic design and install solar panels for his house was a “no-brainer,” he said.

“I’m adding value to my house and I’m not paying as much outright every month,” he said. “It’s really not much different from a municipal bond to some extent, where you’re getting 2 percent or 3 percent on your money—it’s just a money move,” he said. Mr. D’Angelo explained that he thinks that solar is a hard sell out on the East End because of the large number of investment properties and second homes.

“At the time, I knew I was going to stay in my house until my kids were going to move out and they were around one at that time,” he said. Mr. D’Angelo paid around $19,000 out-of-pocket, he said, and got a state credit of $5,500, a LIPA rebate of $6,600 and also a rebate from Southampton Town.

“I ended up paying 50 percent of the actual installed cost,” after the various rebates, he said. “You know you’re going to be getting every cent back on that solar system because you’re going to use it every single day.”

“Every month I save on the average of $200 to $300. And during the wintertime my LIPA bill comes in at zero,” he said, explaining that the pool pump and the air conditioning that run all summer expend a lot of electricity. Last month, he said his bill was $228, before he got solar panels his June utility bill would have cost him around $460, he said.

“Green Logic have it down to the penny, they know exactly how much you’re going to save on an annual basis and then you can decide if it’s worth it,” he said. “They maximize your investment, they’re not just trying to cover your house in solar panels,” he said, adding that he had suggested putting solar panels on his garage, which Green Logic advised against.

The trick is, he said, you have to have the money up front to do it. “That’s why a lot of guys don’t do it, they’d rather go out and buy a car than put solar on their house,” he said.

Brian Kelly, owner of East End Tick and Mosquito Control, definitely has his eye on a new (electric) car in the future; but before he makes that investment he, like Mr. D’Angelo, decided to put some money into solar panels.

Around two months ago, Mr. Kelly had 48 250-watt solar panels installed onto the roof of his business headquarters in Southampton Village. “I’ve always liked the idea of solar, but I never thought it was in the cards for me,” he said on Tuesday. After meeting with Brian Tymann of BGT Consulting, LLC, who told him that his business had the “perfect roof for solar,” he realized it was time to act.

“I just said to myself, now’s really the time, and I just did it, it was a no-brainer. And I love it,” he said of his 12,000-kilowatt system. His meter spins backwards now, he said.

Mr. Kelly had a total out-of-pocket expense of $36,000 and is still waiting on a rebate from the Village of Southampton. He expects to recoup his costs in 10 years. “The one thing a lot of people don’t think about is that your electric bill is constantly rising. Over the next few years my $400-a-month bill could turn into $600. And that’s money I now won’t be paying.”

“It really makes sense. You do have an out-of-pocket layout and that’s tough for a lot of people. But they do have a lot of financial programs to help people out,” he said.

There’s no fear if one of his panels breaks, Mr. Kelly has a 20-year warranty on the solar panel array. He explained that each of the panels is separate and that a problem with one will not affect the other 23.

“And what’s really cool is that the guy who set it up for me put an app on my phone that can tell me all day long exactly how much energy I’m producing by the hour,” he said.

At 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Mr. Kelly’s solar panels had produced 11.3 kilowatt hours  of energy. Powering a light bulb for one month uses 9.6 kilowatts, he said. “Isn’t that so cool?”

Fire Department Set to Embrace Solar Power

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor Village has moved one step closer towards reaping the benefits of an economic stimulus bill passed by Congress last spring. That step came earlier this month when the board of trustees agreed to hire an engineer to come up with plans for the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Sag Harbor Village Volunteer Fire Department.

On December 14, the village board hired engineer Drew Bennett of East Hampton to draw up plans for electrical contractors to bid on that would upgrade the fire department’s electrical and heating systems. That upgrade includes funding for the installation of solar panels to offset the cost of energy use for village residents.

According to village administrator Beth Kamper, the project start date will be announced after Bennett reviews the facility and the project is awarded. Kamper added the project must be completed by 2012, according to the grant’s guidelines.

Sag Harbor Village was awarded the stimulus monies last March. Two grants totaling $84,372 from the New York Start Energy Research and Development Authority as a part of the federally funded American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allow the village to install a 10.2 kilowatt solar electric system on the roof of its Brick Kiln Road fire department headquarters. That cost will total $63,730 of the grant monies.

The grant also allows the village to install lighting controls, programmable thermostats, and upgrades to its windows and heating and air conditioning systems at the nine village buildings, including the municipal building. That funding is for $20,642.

According to recently re-elected Congressman Tim Bishop’s office, the solar panels and electric upgrades will save Sag Harbor over $7,500 in energy costs annually, also lowering the village’s overall energy consumption.

“I’d like to thank Tim Bishop for his support to the village regarding our grant for a Solar Energy Project at Fire Headquarters,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride. “The grant will enable the village to implement our largest greening project to date.”

According to Kamper an official construction start date is expected to be announced later this winter.

Going Solar

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By Karl Grossman

Last week, for the first time, I saw our LIPA meter go backwards.

What a sight—that little wheel going not to the right, marking a draw from the Long Island Power Authority electric system, but spinning—and spinning fast—to the left. That signified that the photovoltaic panels newly installed on the roof of our house were not only supplying all the electricity we were using but feeding excess back into the LIPA grid.

And LIPA, under its net metering program, is to credit us for this electricity.

And, if those panels generate more electricity at the end of the year than we use—which is expected—LIPA is to send us a check!

You can do the same thing. Also, with tax credits and the LIPA rebate available,  you can do it with an astounding financial break—as of this year, a whopping 70 percent off the cost of a solar photovoltaic installation.

For decades I’ve been writing about solar power—including in this space. But it took doing a TV documentary this summer, “Renewable Energy Is More Than Ready,” for WVVH-TV, to make solar energy more real. Sometimes you have to be there, see something to really appreciate it.

A main figure in the documentary was Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island. He spoke about the importance of solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies at RELI’s office in East Hampton, but I felt we should also film at his home, which he has long told me was a “solar house.” Indeed, at it was an array of solar photovotaic panels producing all the electricity he and his wife need. And also solar thermal panels providing hot water.

Mr. Raacke spoke about how affordable it was with tax credits and the LIPA rebate. (Input the title and you can view the documentary on YouTube.com.) I was convinced. My wife, Janet, had wanted solar panels for years.

So we arranged to have solar photovoltaic and solar hot water panels put on the roof of our house, a south-facing century-old saltbox in Noyac.

The work was done by Majestic Son and Sons of Patchogue. If the Obama administration is looking for infrastructure projects that produce jobs and have a grand  energy pay-off, solar energy truly is Number One.

A swarm of Majestic workers, including the company’s president, Dean Hapshe, a pioneer in solar power, and two of his sons, were all over our roof merrily installing panels. Mrs. Hapshe is office manager; Majestic is quite a family affair. (We took bids from a number of companies and the choice was hard—all seemed highly competent and highly committed to solar energy.)

Mr. Hapshe has been in solar energy for 29 years. It was his first job after graduating college. He decided, “Wow, this is what I want to do. And I’ve done it forever.”

“It’s limitless,” says Mr. Hapshe excitedly about solar power. “And it’s free.” Moreover, in recent years, with the specter of global warming, he sees it as vital. “I’m in an industry that I love. I’m really doing something good for my world.” He is thrilled with the advances in solar technology—“getting better and better all the time.”

And when he is “finished with a job, I watch that meter spin backwards—and that sends tingles up my spine every time.”

As noted, the final price is a veritable bonanza. A 3,000-watt photovoltaic system (what the Raackes have) is priced at $27,000; our 7,600-watt system $63,000. But that isn’t what you pay. LIPA reimburses you $3.50 for each installed watt of photovoltaic power. New York State provides a tax credit of $5,000. And approved last year (to run for nine years) is a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of the job. Crunch those numbers: you end up paying 30 percent of the price. Tax credits for a solar hot water system, typically costing $7,500, cut its price in half.

It’s just fabulous to see, even on a cloudy day, the electricity flowing from the photovoltaic panels. It’s amazing to see, even on the cold but sunny days of recent weeks, water coming down from the roof from the thermal panels at 100 to 120 degrees.

Imagine if houses all over Long Island and the U.S. were equipped with solar panels. It’s energy independence—courtesy of the sun and a life-affirming energy technology.