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​Help Sought With Energy Plan

By Eric Banford

One of the 10 measures identified in the Tompkins County 2020 Energy Strategy is a proactive plan to meet the community’s longterm energy goals. As a next step, the county has released a request for proposals (RFP) to hire a consultant to develop an “Energy Roadmap” for the county. The roadmap will help the county reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the community by at least 80 percent from 2008 levels by 2050.

“We are looking to hire a consulting service to finalize the energy roadmap,” says Katie Borgella, principal planner for the Tompkins County Planning Department. “We’re looking for someone to review the work that the [Cornell] students did and potentially update it with any new information that might be out there, make sure that their methodologies were correct and that their figures are correct.”

The consultant would then create some future energy scenarios that would be reviewed by the community, according to Borgella. “We’d then come to a decision and create some action steps to try to make that vision a reality here in Tompkins County,” she says.

According to the RFP, “It is anticipated that the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap will be completed by December 15, 2014. Consultant services are anticipated to be utilized for approximately 7 months beginning on or before May 15, 2014. The Tompkins County Planning Department intends to utilize the final Energy Roadmap and would like to submit the roadmap to the County Legislature for endorsement in early 2015.”

The Planning Department will manage the roadmap’s development but would also like the project to be guided by a steering committee of five to seven community members with expertise in energy and systems engineering and community planning. “We have some ideas of people to invite, but nothing is set yet. We’d like to get this going soon, so we are looking for people with professional- level expertise," Borgella says.

The consultant would then create some future energy scenarios that would be reviewed by the community, according to Borgella. “We’d then come to a decision and create some action steps to try to make that vision a reality here in Tompkins County,” she says.

From 2011–13, the department engaged the services of six graduate students at Cornell to research the area’s renewable energy potential. Their reports outlined opportunities in solar, wind, biomass and geothermal, as well as summarizing energy supply-and-demand conditions in Tompkins County. These studies provide much of the background information for the Energy Plan.

Another valuable resource is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Southern Tier Cleaner Greener plan, which was developed with input from community residents, businesses and public and private experts. This plan puts forth a set of “Top 22” prior- ity projects that will improve the economic and environmental health of the area. According to their website, “The plan provides a map to a sustainable future for the Southern Tier and will be used to help guide regional decision making and state and local investments in integrated, sustainable solutions.”

“The [Cleaner Greener] plan details targets and action steps for how we should be reaching those targets within the context of the region,” says Borgella.

“I’m really impressed with the work that the county is doing on this,” says Peter Bardaglio, coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), a coalition of community leaders focused on climate and energy issues. “I’m impressed with how they are figuring out how to move forward using the energy roadmap as a key to reducing the county's greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think we’re really fortunate to have a planning department that is so progressive and forward-looking, that understands the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the county,” he adds. Bardaglio is currently compiling a report of 2013 achievements from TCCPI’s participating organizations.

According to the Tompkins County 2020 Energy Strategy, “global energy problems cannot be solved exclusively at the local level, and leadership is needed from global, federal and state organizations; locally we can identify, plan for and take steps to address these issues. Acting now will prepare our community to respond nimbly to changing policy and program decisions at all levels of government, adapt to changing economic conditions and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel energy.”

With that challenge in mind, residents of Tompkins County have initiated a number of successful renewable energy projects, and many more are in the works. Solarize Tompkins Southeast, a collaboration among residents in the towns of Caroline, Danby and Dryden, contracted for the installation of 108 solar electric systems and 37 domestic solar hot-water systems in 2013. Their effort is being taken countywide in 2014. Tompkins County is working with Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA) to put solar panels on a number of county properties. And the Black Oak Wind Farm is on track to come online in 2015.

“We’re trying to be proactive in our energy planning and lead the community in the direction they want to go,” Borgella says. “We’re hopeful this will make it more tangible for people to see what our energy future could look like.”

More information on the Energy Roadmap RFP can be found at http://tompkinscountyny.gov/planning/energy-climate. The deadline for RPF submissions is Monday, April 21.​

Tompkins Weekly 3-17-14