Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative – January 2012

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the January 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

ITHACA COMPANIES TO PIONEER DEEP HOME ENERGY SAVINGS

Two TCCPI members, Taitem Engineering and Snug Planet, have been awarded a $300,000 contract by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The Ithaca-based companies will seek to examine and test technologies to dramatically improve the energy performance of existing homes.

Uninsulated walls through a thermal imaging camera. Photo credit: Snug Planet.

The contract is based on the “deep energy retrofit” approach.  Deep energy retrofits involve adding a layer of rigid insulation or spray foam to a home’s exterior walls to reduce air leakage and heat loss. Attics and basements are also sealed and insulated to levels well above building code. New windows may be installed, and heating, ventilation, and hot water systems may be upgraded.

Deep energy retrofit pilot projects in New York and other Northeastern states have reduced heating energy use by 60 to 75%. The cost of the work, however, remains a barrier for many homeowners. Adding exterior foam insulation to walls, which also requires replacing siding and modifying window and door trim, is typically the most expensive part of a deep energy retrofit. The team will seek ways to reduce this cost using products from Dow Building Solutions, including insulation board, tapes, and flashing systems.

Besides improving the installation process, the team will oversee and monitor full retrofits on four homes. The team is seeking homeowners interested in participating in the study, which will take place over the next two years. Contract funds, materials donated by Dow Building Solutions, and “Home Performance with Energy Star” incentives will offset some of the costs of the work; homeowners will be expected to contribute at least half the funding for their projects.

“To meet climate protection goals, we need to dramatically reduce energy use in existing buildings, notes Jon Harrod, president of Snug Planet. ”If we can bring the cost of deep energy retrofits down, we’ll have a solution that can be applied to almost every house in the state.” According to Harrod, the contract includes funds for outreach and training for contractors interested in offering deep energy retrofits to their customers.

“Applying advanced building techniques to older homes can help New Yorkers improve energy efficiency in their homes while saving money and cutting energy use,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., NYSERDA President and CEO. “Building upon the work we started last year, we are pleased to work with Taitem Engineering and Snug Planet in making the deep energy retrofit process more affordable while at the same time improving the related technology and materials.

Homeowners interested in participating in the study should contact project manager Elisabeth Harrod at Snug Planet ([email protected], 607-277-7684).

BLACK OAK WIND FARM TAKES OVER ENFIELD PROJECT

Seven community members, along with a Shelter Island resident, earlier this month purchased the assets and development rights of the Enfield Energy wind project in Tompkins County. The new company, Black Oak Wind Farm LLC, has lined up its management and development team and plans to soon begin offering shares in the project to investors in the community and across New York.

Peter Bardaglio, coordinator of TCCPI and former Ithaca College provost and vice president of academic affairs, is serving as president and Marguerite Wells is the project manager. In addition, the eight-member board includes real estate developer Frost Travis, Internet service provider Clarity Connect CEO Chuck Bartosch, Dean Koyanagi, and Lexie Hain of Ithaca, Michelle Jones of Elmira, and Leslie Hoffman of Shelter Island.

Black Oak Wind Farm with turbines added at correct scale. Photo credit: Black Oak Wind Farm.

Juhl Wind, Inc. a Minnesota developer, is partnering with Black Oak to construct a proposed 15 to 30 megawatt facility just outside of Ithaca. Set to begin production in late 2013, Black Oak has also teamed up with Val-Add Service Corp., a South Dakota project-management company that recently helped coordinate a 10.5 megawatt wind project in South Dakota.

“We are very pleased to be working with such experienced partners as Juhl Wind and Val-Add Service,” Bardaglio said. “Not only do they understand the importance of this project being financially successful but also how to make sure we contribute to the well-being of the local economy.”

Juhl Wind has completed 21 wind farms and provides operations management and oversight across its portfolio. The company services every aspect of wind-farm development from full development and ownership, general consultation, construction management, and system operations and maintenance.

“We are very excited to be expanding our development services outside of the Midwest region,” Corey Juhl, vice president of project development for Juhl Wind, remarked. “The Black Oak Wind Farm is made up of a group of highly motivated individuals who are looking to bring the Ithaca area its first utility scale community wind project, and we are honored to have been selected to assist them in doing so.”

Val-Add Service President Brian Minish noted that “community ownership doesn’t mean we have seven people from the community that own it.” Instead, he explained, the managing board will be carrying out the work necessary “to get it into shape so that we can offer it to not only Ithaca-area residents,” but also “raise money statewide.” The estimated cost for the project is $40-45 million.

Val-Add has assisted in the development of more than 20 agricultural plants in eight states and has worked on diverse projects including ethanol and biodiesel production, soybean crushing, and beef processing. Val-Add has helped develop over $1.5 billion in new value-added agricultural ventures.

The original group selected the site in Enfield in 2006 because it is one of the windiest places in Tompkins County and already has a high-voltage transmission line crossing the site, making grid tie-in feasible. Nearly five years of wind data has been collected and analyzed as part of the planning process, and the draft environmental impact statement is nearing completion.

ONE LAST THING

Already 2012 is shaping up to be a very good year in Tompkins County for energy efficiency and renewable energy. As noted in this issue, NYSERDA has tapped two local companies to carry out important research on deep home energy retrofits, and another local company is moving forward with what will be the first community-owned wind farm in New York.

Elsewhere (see this issue’s featured article), a new on-bill financing program for home energy upgrades has been rolled out, a welcome development for homeowners who would like to reduce their energy consumption but lack the money to pay for these improvements in one fell swoop. The Center for Working Families estimates about 1 million New York homes and businesses are expected to become more energy efficient under the program, and about 60,000 jobs will be created over five years.

In addition, Governor Cuomo has approved a proposal first suggested by TCCPI to launch a $1 million revolving fund for large-scale energy upgrades of institutional and commercial buildings in the Southern Tier. Blue Hill Partners of Philadelphia, a partner in the Obama administration’s Better Buildings Challenge, will be managing this fund and hopes to leverage it to attract as much as $100 million in private capital for projects in the Southern Tier. Empire State Development is currently working with Blue Hill to get this fund set up by late spring.

These are all hopeful developments and provide much reason for optimism at the local level. If only our national leaders could be so forward looking and finally begin to make progress on forging a federal climate protection policy before it is too late.