Sat, May 31, 2014
It’s an energy breakthrough for Long Island!
The recent action by the Town of East Hampton setting a goal of 2020 for meeting 100 percent of the town’s electricity needs with renewable energy sources led by solar and wind power opens a new energy chapter for Long Island.
“Making the switch to clean energy is just the right thing to do. Both for the environment and for keeping more money in the local economy and creating jobs here,” stated Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell.
“It takes guts for elected officials to take bold action like this,” commented Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, based in East Hampton, after the unanimous town board vote. Raacke, also on the Town Energy Sustainability Committee, said the board essentially declared: “We, the people of East Hampton, will take action on climate change and at the same time we’ll keep more of our energy dollars here in the local economy.”
East Hampton will be offering a “showcase” for the “rest of the island and the rest of the country,” said Raacke. “It will be showing that we have all the energy solutions we need—and all that’s necessary is the political will. If East Hampton can do it, the rest of the island and the rest of the country can do it.”
It’s a breakthrough for Long Island and, indeed, New York State for an area to move to getting 100 percent of its electricity from safe, clean, renewable energy sources. But similar initiatives are happening elsewhere nationally and globally.
In Santa Monica, California, an organization in the forefront of this transition is Renewables 100 Policy Institute. It describes itself as “founded to study and advance the global transition to sustainable 100 percent renewable energy.”
It explains, “Non-renewable energy sources will, by definition, diminish. According to industry data, these fuels could be depleted in the lifetime of children born today. Given the hazardous economics of conventional energy, as resources wane, and the equally if not more hazardous existential crises they cause—including climate change, pollution, nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, geopolitical instability, nuclear weapons proliferation and water shortages—it makes sense to make a concerted effort to transition to renewable energy. It’s not a question of ‘if’ the 100% renewable energy future will become a reality. It is solely a question of ‘when’ and ‘how.’”
San Francisco also has a goal of obtaining 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. Aspen, Colorado will be beating Long Island: it plans to have that happen next year. Greensburg, Kansas, wiped out by a tornado in 2007, has been rebuilt with all its electricity now coming from renewables. In Europe, Germany and Denmark are in the lead in moving to 100 percent of electricity coming from renewables by 2050. They’re both well on their way.
“A Clean Electricity Vision for Long Island” was a study issued in 2012 projecting a 100 percent renewable electricity future for Long Island. It was done for Renewable Energy Long Island by Synapse Energy Economics, a consulting firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts long involved in research for utilities, governments and others.
It concluded that it is “technically feasible for Long Island to have a 100 percent renewable and zero-carbon electricity supply by 2030.” The energy would come from technologies “commercially available”—especially solar and wind.
East Hampton is now embarked on making that a reality both with governmental commitment and new energy facts on the ground. Solar energy companies are moving ahead with large-scale solar farms on town-owned land all over East Hampton. Then there’s Deepwater Wind and its plan for wind turbines 30 miles east of Montauk Point.
Between the expanses of solar photovoltaic arrays and the town’s share of electricity from the turbines, some 324,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy is expected by 2020, explains Mr. Raacke. The town’s current usage: 300,000 megawatt hours.
I write this from a 150-year old Long Island saltbox house, in Noyac, its roof bedecked for some years with solar panels. They provide the electricity we need. The sun’s power is here for the taking through good modern energy technology.
Karl Grossman has covered Long Island politics for over 50 years. Recently, he was inducted into the Long Island Journalist Hall of Fame.