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August 2022

New Developments in Energy Storage – Norma Byron & Team

Norma Byron is the founder and CEO of Ashlawn Energy in Binghamton. She has been working on the frontier of energy storage, developing flow battery technology that provides greater versatility and safety than conventional Lithium-ion batteries. Recently she has focused on providing energy storage solutions for multi-residential and commercial buildings in New York City. Norma was joined by Charleen Heidt, who handles market research and community outreach; Drury Mackenzie oversees business strategy; and Tony Daniels, president of Cycle Retrotech, who focuses on integrating Ashlawn battery system with building energy retrofits.

  • Charleen introduced Drury, Norma, and Tony
  • Drury placed development of energy battery storage technology in broader context of recent climate policy
  • Federal
    • Inflation Reduction Act + Infrastructure Law
    • DOE Energy Storage – focused on improvements in quality and reliability
  • NYS
    • Community Leadership Climate Protection Act (CLCPA)
    • Energy Storage – goal of 6 GW by 2030
  • Ithaca
    • Carbon Neutral by 2030
    • Green New Deal + Building Electrification
    • Benefits Shared Among All
  • Battery energy storage enables progress towards climate goals
  • Clean Energy
    • Reduced need for peaker plants that rely on fossil fuel combustion – leads to lower GHG emissions, particulate matter, ozone, etc.
    • Renewable energy generation is intermittent – energy storage necessary to realize full benefits (i.e.. produce solar power during the day, use at night)
  • Equity + Affordability
    • Reduced use of peaker plants results in decreased impact of pollutants on lower income households and communities of color where they are often located
    • Maintain cost to serve – deploying battery energy storage makes it easier to balance load and manage system upgrades as more heat pumps installed and EVs come online
  • Independence
    • Value stays in community – transparency of ownership and battery energy storage is located where it used
    • Critical infrastructure can be wired for backup power – leads to increased reliability and resiliency
  • Norma then explained that she got interested in ways vanadium flow battery technology because it reduces GHG emissions as well as electricity costs for owners and tenants of multi-family and commercial office buildings
  • Need for energy storage growing in US as buildings seek to reduce GHG emissions to comply with new climate laws and regulations
  • Ashlawn Energy focuses on small-scale energy storage for individual buildings rather than utility- scale projects
  • In contrast to lithium batteries, vanadium flow batteries have small environmental footprint
    • Closed-loop design – no refueling
    • Circular economy – electrolyte has infinite shelf life
    • Roof mountable
  • Also don’t pose fire hazard – they don’t explode – electrolyte is 70% water
    • FDNY has approved vanadium batteries for installation in NYC
  • Reduces GHG emissions
    • Pilot project in Brooklyn showed reduction of 335 metric tons of CO2 per year per building
    • Carbon credit certification in process
    • Enables compliance with NYC’s LL97 & NYS’s CLCPA
  • Building Benefits
    • Lowers building utility bills
    • No building upfront costs
      • Ashlawn owns system
      • Ashlawn earns grid revenues
      • Ashlawn earns environmental revenues
  • Ashlawn supply chain 100% U.S. – keeps jobs in America and maintains secure supply chain
  • Establishing battery manufacturing facility in Binghamton’s Opportunity Zone
    • Currently 4 assembly jobs and 2 management jobs
    • Within two years will grow to 16 assembly jobs and 12 management jobs
  • Ashlawn will create 8 installation jobs and 6 maintenance jobs in Ithaca within two years
  • Ashlawn member of REV: Ithaca Startup Works
    • Accelerator program developed our 2nd generation design
    • Ongoing engineering and design support
  • Cornell Center for Materials Research
    • Advanced electrode development
    • Advanced membrane development
  • Dedicated to empowering communities with innovative energy storage solutions to enable them to:
    • Take local control of their own power
    • Contribute to reducing the impact of climate change
    • Provide a better quality of life with cleaner air and less expensive power
  • Ashlawn energy system: power electronics, electrolyte, battery stacks
    • Everything is behind meter & benefits building
    • Don’t sell electrons back to grid
  • Power Electronics
    • Charges from power source
    • Discharges to power load
    • Manages battery system
    • Regulates power, voltage levels, current draw
    • Manages grid integration
  • Electrolyte
    • Electrolyte charged by solar, diesel generator, or grid
    • Positive and negative electrolyte pumped through battery stacks.
    • Vanadium electrolyte provides long-duration power
  • Battery Stacks
    • Cells ‘stacked’ to provide power
    • Electrolyte pumped through stack
    • Power is taken off stack electrodes to power load
    • Modular & scalable
  • Ashlawn demonstration project in Brooklyn: Vanderbilt Plaza
    • 12-story 110-apartment / multi-use co-op
    • 80 kWh battery on garage roof
    • Expect to save 335 metric tons of GHG per year
  • Current Status:
    • Contract signed October 19, 2020
    • Permits in process: FDNY, DOB
    • Architect & Structural Engineering complete
    • Installation target Q4 2022
  • Battery system reduces building carbon footprint of Vanderbilt Plaza to zero
    • Saves $35,000 in annual fines under NYC LL97
    • Reduces electric bill by over $10,000 (Con Edison) – average monthly savings of 57%
  • How Ashlawn compares with other vanadium companies
    • Ashlawn obtains vanadium from a recycling process – other vanadium companies obtain vanadium by mining
    • Ashlawn provides batteries to customers with no upfront costs – other vanadium companies sell batteries to customers
  • Disadvantages of zinc battery technologies:
    • Formulations contain a range of additives (bromine, iodine, nickel, air, iron, and manganese) as well as range of environmental impacts
    • Battery lifetimes limited due to dendrites that form over time causing a short-circuit between anode and cathode
  • Installation costs of 200kW battery system
    • Lithium-ion system: $400,000
    • Ashlawn’s vanadium system: $173,000
  • Tony then discussed how his company, Cycle Retrotech, approaches deep energy retrofits
  • Problem
    • Electrification mandates / Fossil fuel elimination / NYS 70x30
      • Buildings account for +30% of direct carbon emissions in NYS
    • Current grid infrastructure cannot handle the loads
    • High operating costs
      • Most multifamily buildings have inefficient space heating and DHW systems, which increases the cost of utilities
  • Solution: reduce loads while electrifying buildings
    • Improve building enclosure insulation
    • Use better performing heating, cooling, and ventilation equipment
    • Supplemental solar and battery systems
  • Example of deep energy retrofit of apartment building:
    • Heat pumps
    • Solar
    • Batteries
    • ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilation)
    • Energy efficient electric appliances
    • Exterior insulation and overcladding with doors and windows
  • Barriers to Implementing Retrofits
  • Cost
    • Renovation costs today $150K - $300K per unit in NYC
  • Construction industry itself
    • Unintegrated processes = Longer construction times
    • Price shopping / Labor arbitrage
    • Lack of standardization
    • Misalignment of organizational structures
    • Variation in capability / insurability / bondability
    • Siloed contractors and subcontractors, markups at every level
    • Design and construction separated
    • Owner stuck in the middle as decisionmaker
    • Many critical decision points for owner
    • Incumbents are powerful
  • Retrotech: What We Do
  • Turnkey retrofits
    • Reduce building energy consumption
    • Bring building enclosures and mechanical systems into a “like new” state
    • Integrate monitoring systems to validate performance and simplify maintenance
  • Design & engineering
    • Integrated process
    • Quality assurance oversight
  • Manufacturers, contractors, and trades
    • Refine solution based on availability and performance of components and systems
    • Seek out logistical solutions that can scale and reduce cost
  • Community and resident engagement
    • Active communication with residents and owners
    • Promote equity and fairness
    • Contractor and workforce training
  • Benefits of retrofits
    • Elimination of gas-fired equipment & appliances reduce indoor air pollution
    • Better ventilation with filtered and managed air circulation reduces indoor allergens and pollutants
    • Keeps temperature and humidity within safe and healthy limits
    • Improves neighborhood outdoor air quality
    • Reduces vulnerability to extreme weather events
    • Reduces energy loads through better insulated building envelope
    • Reduces GHG gas emissions
    • Equitable electrification of housing benefits lower-income residents and vulnerable communities
  • Deep energy retrofits promote job opportunities for carpenters, installers, operators, plumbers, electricians, trainers, inspectors, maintenance workers, and building managers
  • Three key aspects of demand side reduction strategies
    • Improved efficiency resulting from energy retrofits
    • Load shed resulting from behavior change and grid interactive controls
    • Load shift using energy storage
  • Energy retrofits have great potential to transform our build environment and create social equity in communities – challenge of our lifetimes

Q & A

  • Dave Bradley: What makes your vanadium flow battery better than other vanadium batteries?
  • Norma: Major difference is we got our electrolyte from recycling process, so we have smaller carbon footprint – also our focus on reducing costs, sticking with tried and true technology
  • Peter: When doing deep energy retrofits, what are some of ways you’ve dealt with issue of getting these projects to pencil out?
  • Tony: That’s a very difficult threshold to cross – refinancing mortgage is probably most effective way, given that retrofits are once in generation event
  • Grants from NYSERDA, funding from NYS HCR if affordable housing project, and federal tax credits, especially with IRA now, can help – have to pull money from multiple sources to make deal work
  • Follow up: How doe you manage to carry out extensive retrofits in Multiresidential buildings without having to make residents move out?
  • Tony: Lot of inconvenience to negotiate but no one has to move out – most of work outside individual units
  • Dan Antonioli: Have you tried to calculate the embodied energy that goes into making your vanadium battery?
  • Norma: We have looked at carbon savings from using recycled product and avoiding mining the vanadium, but have not looked at our own manufacturing process or installation process – intend to do more work in this area – working with NYS Pollution Prevention Institute at RIT
  • Peter: What was your personal journey to become CEO of energy storage company?
  • Norma: Very few women in clean energy sector – original patents on vanadium battery technology held by woman, Maria Skyllas-Kazacos in Australia, and about half staff at Ashlawn are women
  • Norma worked in munitions field for many years and around 2000 decided she’d like to work in field that made world better place instead of blowing it up – had been working on energy fuel cells for munition application
  • Looked into vanadium flow technology and decided it was best way to store energy – talked with Skyllas-Kazacos, secured technology license, and worked with US Dept. of Energy to bring technology to U.S. and do some of basic research
  • Important to bring together people from diverse backgrounds – putting together people with different perspectives is how to generate best ideas
  • Peter asked Al George, as systems engineer, what his view was of energy storage technology
  • Most important thing is to come up with solution where all pieces work together – all stakeholders have to come together to make something like energy upgrade of multi-residential building work
  • Not enough just to have wonderful technical solution – vanadium flow battery, as Norma described it, is one system, but that system has to fit with other building systems as well as system of human relations within building and larger socioeconomic system – approach that Norma and Tony explained sounds very promising
  • Living in era of unprecedented technological and social change
  • From chat: To what extent can vanadium flow battery technology be applied to single residences?
  • Norma: No technical barriers but lot more moving parts involved than working with multi-residential or commercial buildings – can have positive impact on lot more people working at scale

 

Climate Change in the News – Peter Bardaglio

If it’s August, then it must be time for a review of the year’s climate change developments. Extreme weather events have become so frequent that they’re nearly routine. We thought not so long ago that we wouldn’t reach this point until 2050 or thereabouts. But here we are in 2022, plunged into a full-blown climate emergency.

  • Atmospheric CO2 hit another record high in 2022
  • In May, Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded average concentration of atmospheric CO2 at 421 ppm, compared to 315 ppm in 1958
  • Increase of 1.8 ppm since May 2021 and 50% higher than pre-industrial levels
  • CO2 levels were consistently around 280 ppm for almost 6,000 years of human civilization
  • Now in territory not seen for over 4 million years, according to NOAA scientists
  • Pieter Tans, senior scientist at NOAA: “Carbon dioxide is at levels our species has never experienced before … What's it going to take for us to wake up?“
  • Currently, concentration of CO2 is growing by 2.4 ppm per year
  • Rate of increase over past 60 years more than 100 times faster than when last ice age ended
  • Despite decades of negotiation, global community unable to significantly slow, let alone reverse, annual increases in atmospheric CO2 levels
  • July 2022 sixth-warmest July in 143-year NOAA record – land and ocean surface temperatures last month 1.57°F above 20th-century average – very likely 2022 will rank among 10-warmest years on record on record
  • July 2022 marked 46th consecutive July with temperatures above 20th-century average – five warmest Julys on record have all occurred since 2016
  • Climate apartheid: developing countries will bear 75% of climate crisis costs yet poorest half of world's population causing just 10% of CO2 emissions
  • Extreme weather events in 2022 have had devastating impact on food security in developing nations
  • Major food production regions under severe stress from heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and floods – climate change, war in Ukraine, and Covid pandemic compounding one another
  • Dramatic drop in agricultural output has driven up commodity prices, creating global food crisis & reversing years of progress in reducing hunger and poverty
  • IPCC report in April: “Now or never” if we want to stay under 1.5°C – GHG emissions must peak by 2025
  • Warned that temperatures will rise more than 3C without immediate, deep reductions in emissions
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”
  • Most sobering climate change news of year: levels of methane gas surging at record rate
  • One of the most important questions facing planet: why so much methane in atmosphere?
  • Researchers noted uptick in methane emissions 15 years ago – assumed expanded natural gas production responsible
  • Methane emissions increasing at record rates in last two years – sources other than fossil fuel extraction growing in importance
  • Both natural and human-caused factors at work: wetlands, cattle, landfills, wildfires, and melting permafrost – most intense growth coming from tropics
  • Scientists concerned about climate feedback loop: warmer planet emits more methane naturally, driving temperatures up further
  • Methane four times more sensitive to global warming than previously thought
  • Close runner up: global water crisis rapidly emerging due to climate change
  • Over 3.5 billion people live in areas where water scarce – will increase to more than 5 billion by 2050
  • Rates of groundwater withdrawals exceeding rates of replenishment in over half of world’s major aquifers
  • Increase in droughts and floods around world make water resources harder to manage
  • World Economic Forum: response to water shortages caused by climate emergency not matching pace and scale situation demands
  • Agricultural water scarcity is expected to worsen significantly in more than 80% of world's croplands by 2050, according to new study
  • Recent extreme weather events once again called attention to accelerating climate crisis
  • Rivers at historic lows, with 66 drying up completely – water levels in parts of Yangtze lowest since records began in 1865
  • In some places, local water supplies have run out and drinking water has been trucked in – China announced national drought alert last week for first time in nine years
  • Rolling blackouts and factory shutdowns across country – huge impact on Chinese economy & potentially world economy
  • Megadrought in U.S. West worst in at least 1,200 years, according to new study in February
  • Human-caused climate change significant driver
  • Two decades of dry weather has reduced water supplies, devastated farms and ranches, and helped fuel wildfires
  • Nearly three-quarters of California now in either extreme or exceptional drought – considered worse than severe – more than 660 wells have gone dry so far this year, mostly in San Joaquin Valley
  • Lake Mead & Lake Powell approaching “dead pool’ status – two largest reservoirs in US would no longer be able to generate hydropower
  • States unable to agree on water cuts – face threat from federal government to step in and impose restrictions
  • Wildfires raging throughout Europe this year – almost four times 15-year average
  • Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, France, and Germany lost over 1.6 million acres to wildfires by early August
  • Fire season still has over four weeks to go, but already second-largest area on record
  • Record-breaking heat wave in Europe has dried up many rivers, including Rhine, Loire, Danube, and Thames
  • Europe headed toward worst drought in 500 years – two-thirds under drought warning – crop forecasts down about 15%
  • July driest in England since 1911 – only 24% of average expected rainfall
  • South Asia devastated by floods in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh this year
  • India faced record-breaking heat wave in spring, followed by flash floods & landslides in summer
  • Pakistan also experienced terrible spring heat wave – hit world’s highest temperature in May, 129°F in village of Turbat
  • Torrential rains triggered floods killing more than 900 people this summer – according to UN, 2.3 million affected and over 95,000 homes destroyed
  • Earlier this month flash floods across Afghanistan killed at least 43 and injured 106 – about 790 homes destroyed or damaged and 4,000 families affected
  • Climate scientists have predicted for years that global warming would lead to more extreme weather
  • IPCC report released in February concluded climate change hitting much faster than expected – more than 40% of world’s population currently live in places that are “highly vulnerable to climate change”
  • According to report, rising greenhouse-gas emissions could soon outstrip the ability of many communities to adapt
  • Rapid decarbonization only way out
  • IEA’s landmark report last May stressed need to reach net zero emissions by 2050 to avoid climate catastrophe – called for “total transformation of the energy systems”
  • Path to net zero narrow but achievable – annual clean energy investment worldwide needs to triple by 2030 to around $4 trillion
  • 2022 report: clean energy investment increasing significantly, but not quickly enough to reach net zero emissions by mid-century – shortfalls especially apparent in emerging & developing economies
  • How do Americans view climate change in 2022?
  • Yale annual survey, Climate Change in the American Mind: about 7 in 10 Americans (72%) think global warming is happening
  • Only 12% of Americans think global warming is not happening – 15% say they don’t know if global warming is happening
  • More than half of Americans (54%) are either “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening
  • Far fewer (7%) are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming isn’t happening
  • More than half of Americans (56%) understand global warming is mostly human-caused
  • 1 in 3 (33%) think it’s due mostly to natural changes in environment
  • Only one in five Americans understand that climate scientists are nearly unanimous in concluding that human-cause global warming is occurring
  • 2 in 3 Americans (67%) say they “rarely” or “never” discuss global warming with family and friends
  • 1 in 3 (33%) say they discuss global warming “occasionally” or “often”
  • Ready for some good news?
  • Inflation Reduction Act – signed into law by Biden earlier this month – commits $369 billion in climate and energy investments
  • By far largest such investment in US history – adopts carrots rather than stick approach
  • Focuses on investments in clean energy, mainly in form of tax credits, rather than carbon taxes to discourage fossil fuel use
  • Much smaller than Build Back Better Act & includes concessions to fossil fuel industry – but still projected to cut US emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels
  • Economists estimate Americans will save as much as $200 billion over next decade on electricity bills thanks to IRA – contradicts belief that clean energy transition will mean higher prices
  • IRA also amends Clean Air Act to define CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels as air pollutant – directly addresses Supreme Court ruling on EPA, allowing it to regulate GHG emissions
  • Accelerating pace of clean energy transition biggest good news
  • Amount of electricity generated by renewable resources in US hit record 28% in April – only 8.6% in April 2001
  • Including nuclear, almost 46% of U.S. electricity in April came from sources that don’t emit GHGs
  • Wind & solar installations make up bulk of new power plants added to US grid in recent years
  • In first six months of 2022 wind & solar made up two-thirds of new US electrical generating capacity
  • No new capacity from either nuclear or coal – natural gas provided just under 33%
  • US investments in clean tech have nearly quadrupled since 2017 – in Texas, solar output up 39x in 6 years
  • Renewables cheapest form of power now in US & many other countries
  • Globally, renewable energy production has grown 400% in past decade
  • Global renewable investment of $226 billion set new record in first half of 2022 – jumped 11% in first six months, relative to same period in 2022 – investment in solar up 33% & 16% in wind
  • China led solar investment with $41 billion – US followed with $7.5 billion & Japan third highest at $3.9 billion
  • China also led wind investment at $57.8 billion & US investment second largest at $19.7 billion
  • Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist, Texas Tech University: “Sharing scary facts about climate change won’t motivate people to take action. If we don't know what to do, scary facts don't activate us, they just paralyze us.”
  • “What works is talking about how climate change affects us here and now, in ways that are relevant to our lives today. And then we start to look for solutions … Then people will feel empowered and keep pushing for more change.”

July 2022

Roundtable Updates

It's been a while since we've had a full-fledged roundtable session and there’s a lot going on so we took the time to share updates on the work each of us is doing.

  • PB: We're obviously all very involved in work related to energy, climate, and sustainability – good to share with each other what we're up to

Diane Cohen, Finger Lakes ReUse

  • We’ve been trying to handle record donations – anxiety around managing larger volume – increasing our capacity is crucial
  • We held statewide reuse summit in mid-June – about 180 participants, maybe 75 NYS communities – just got invited to present at statewide conference in Minnesota
  • We've got two outlets now 80 living wage employees, and we're going to exceed $2.5B in sales this year – we need to move to industrial level handling of materials
  • Would like to work with Cooperative Extension, Sciencenter, and PRI as potential educational outlet
  • We’re engaging people from all across economic and political spectrum – we have opportunity as people are coming in to shop to educate public around climate crisis and other initiatives – please look to reuse centers as potential point of engagement

Ingrid Zabel, PRI

  • We're really busy in summer at Cayuga Nature Center with climate change education – doing a lot of weather and climate and energy programs with our summer campers
  • We have our BioBlitz going on this weekend, trying to get people out, observing plant and animal life – we use smartphone app to get record of the biodiversity in this region as climate is changing and to get people involved in observing their local environment
  • Also, over last year and half I've been part of team with Cornell, Clarkson, and SUNY-ESF – we’ve developed climate change course for employees at the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation – about 2,400 employees

Terry Carroll, Tompkins County

  • Terry introduced Hailley Delisle, new sustainability coordinator for county – also noted that Abigail O'Connor has joined department as environmental planner – will be working on hazard mitigation plan and resiliency plan
  • County focused on its internal operations – adding several more EVs to its fleet and submitted $14M plan for phase 1 of its effort to green county facilities – seeking to make public facilities building net zero and implement energy efficiency measures in almost all of its buildings
  • Hailley talked about steps she’ll be taking to inform community about county’s sustainability efforts – also will be working to revitalize business energy advisor program and monitor developments in new NYSEG rate case

Guillermo Metz, Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County

  • Energy and climate change team continuing to oversee Southern Tier Clean Energy Communities program – working with municipalities to take high impact action steps on their own operations such as streetlight changeouts, municipal building upgrades, conversions to heat pumps, and weatherization
  • Also working with city on Green New Deal – Anne Rhodes working on Southside to increase community awareness and get people engaged
  • Another smaller project involves raising awareness about EVs in LMI community around county
  • Involved in statewide program helping farmers to learn about options to saving energy on farm operations
  • Working through contract with NYSEG on Non-Pipe Alternative Program up in Lansing around gas moratorium – looking to achieve reductions in gas usage so we can avoid bringing in new gas due to reliability issues
  • Guillermo introduced Rachel Zevin, new coordinator of Climate Smart Communities program in Tompkins and Chenango Counties – involves various adaption and mitigation actions such as from greenhouse gas inventories, climate action planning, natural resource inventories and other similar activities – collaborating with regional coordinators across state

Dave Bradley, Biodiesel Energy Consultant

  • Interested in reform of electricity pricing system in NYS – uniquely disadvantageous to renewable energy and favors methane-based electricity
  • Anything bought or grown commercially probably involved using diesel fuel – if it uses petro diesel, it could also use biodiesel
  • One of best solutions to dealing with peak oil and high oil prices is to actually use less – at around $50 a barrel, US will just stop producing oil because it's no longer profitable
  • In last decade, US companies lost $600B on natural gas and oil – if you have to frack for oil and gas, it's like you're an alcoholic dumpster diving for that last little bottle of Wild Irish Rose
  • That's kind of what fracking is – the supply is pretty much done, time to go do something else because it's not getting made anywhere near as fast as it’s getting consumed

Marie McCrae, Dryden Climate Smart Community Task Force

  • Our town board in Dryden recently accepted new version of our revised comprehensive plan, which includes climate action plan
  • Climate Smart Community Task Force recently awarded $10,000 grant to examine how our Department of Public Works building can be made more energy efficient
  • Group in Dryden working to collect documents from people who were involved in the fracking fight 2008 to 2014 – History Center is going to mount an exhibit in 2024
  • Also interested in community choice aggregation – would like to see Dryden participated in whatever Ithaca puts together

Ray Burger, Town of Dryden Planner

  • We have 32 MW of solar already installed, but we're still looking for more – exploring possibility of old Caswell dump site as potential next site for large solar facility
  • We had solar installed on roof of our town hall in 2007 – time to replace one of inverters – also adding monitoring software
  • Also installed ground source heat pump system in 2007 – compressors at end of their life cycle so we're replacing those
  • First generation technology getting replaced with the latest and greatest
  • As part of the Climate Smart Community program and Southern Tier Clean Energy Community program, we're going to feature some of this and develop educational materials about it
  • We've local high school students come through and tour building to show off some of technology we're using to reduce our energy budget
  • Also looking to replace town vehicle with EV – infrastructure already there for charging at town hall
  • We've been very successful over last seven years in encouraging adoption of heat pumps in town – all of our multifamily housing projects are installing heat pumps – we have another 42-unit townhome project going forward over next year that'll also involve heat pumps
  • Not as successful in getting everybody to install heat pumps in single family homes – some of them are still hooking up to natural gas
  • Thanks to our broadband initiative, we’ve been installing broadband throughout town – will allow more remote work and gets more cars off road
  • Dryden Rail Trail moving ahead full steam – also makes it possible for people to leave their car at home and hop on bike to get to Cornell

Dan Lamb, Town of Dryden Deputy Supervisor

  • Comprehensive plan passed last week involved a process that started in April 2019 – guiding document for next 20 years for our municipality
  • Prior plan did not address energy use or sustainability – believe it or not, that was controversial, and we had a number of people that didn't want that in new plan
  • Our plan now has a 100-page community climate action plan as an appendix – includes greenhouse gas inventory at two different intervals in time and shows us trajectory we’re on
  • Includes list of things the town can do to reduce GHG emissions – we've got goals at state level, but we know it's going to come down to municipalities to really help the state achieve these goals
  • Other municipalities need to step up and get this in their municipal planning documents – we're only municipality in Tompkins County that has climate action plan as part of its comprehensive plan
  • Next up is rezoning – if we want to address GHG emissions, we have to look at our built structure and at density – that's a hot button issue where a lot of people who care about climate change and GHG gas emissions sometimes get cold feet
  • We have to make some decisions about density because you can really affect GHG emissions by putting people in nodal areas and allowing commuting patterns that use less vehicle driving miles and take more advantage of rail trail and public transportation
  • Dryden remains only town in Tompkins County that offers incentive for going green with your electricity purchasing – we have community solar and any Dryden resident can sign up and get 10% off your electricity costs
  • We hold our developers to higher standard in terms of whether they're going to be using fossil fuel or electricity in their new projects – no requirement for electrification like in Town and City of Ithaca
  • We’ve learned there's a development near Varna that had agreed to use heat pumps. But now they’re saying NYSEG doesn’t have transmission capacity for them to use heat pumps – they want us to reconsider this requirement and allow them to use natural gas
  • We've got to check with NYSEG and see if that's an issue – we've got to make sure the capacity exists to deliver on all these electric demands

Sara Culotta, Siemens

  • Probably there is legitimate technical reason – I'm involved in grid study for City of Ithaca, because it's real issue with Green New Deal and massive electrification – lot of constraints on distribution grid in Ithaca
  • Sea change happening at our particular utility – lot of active discussions going on about how NYSEG is going to upgrade grid and then pay for it – big part of new rate case
  • Maybe Dryden is next frontier and more representative of a small rural town in NY – we should start taking some of what we're developing around the Ithaca project and see how it might be applied to Dryden

Guillermo Metz, CCETC

  • NYSEG is being somewhat disingenuous – everyone knows it's a dinosaur that moves very slowly – unfortunately, I can't see any pressure about this particular housing development leading to major upgrades to lines -- but pushing on this one project will bring greater awareness to issue generally
  • DPS and PSC have been pushing all utilities to be more responsive – huge amount of money coming from state for upgrading lines
  • Part of other bigger discussions – we have to figure out how lines can accept more electricity demand and upgrade the lines
  • Other issue involves how long that's going to take – can't take typical five years to put it into plan and then incrementally upgrade lines -- more joint planning needed between municipalities and utility
  • Need to figure out how to prioritize upgrades with community in mind, not just NYSEG’s siloed view of what needs to be done

Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack

  • Been working on new NYSERDA program called Regional Clean Energy Hub – about ten such hubs throughout NYS continuing to do energy, education, and outreach with focus on disadvantaged communities
  • I'll be coordinating Southern Tier region – eight counties: Tompkins, Steuben, Delaware, Chemung Tioga, Schuyler, Chenango, and Tioga
  • NYSERDA realizing that, as they develop new policies to help state transition to renewable energy, they don't have good system for engaging beyond folks who either support or oppose this change – asking hubs to engage people from disadvantaged communities in this work
  • Get Your Green Back has been doing more work focused on residential energy use – some of other areas that we've worked in such as food, transportation, and waste reduction have received less attention
  • Steering committee thinking about how to move forward now that GYGB official program of CCETC instead of just fiscally sponsored – input would be very welcome
  • As we leave behind fossil fuels and move to renewables, need to ask who is participating, who is benefiting, who is not, and how can we ensure there's just distribution of benefits
  • Who's receiving investment? Who is receiving jobs from that investment? Who's going to own these new structures? Important questions to consider as we make transition

Paul Moore, Climate Activist

  • Been focusing on storytelling and going to lot of hearings – yesterday attended hearing on Public Renewables Act
  • Also working on my response to the draft scoping plan for CLCPA – proposed five different values aimed at revising our thinking about climate crisis
  • Need to act with understanding that we have no more than three years left or we’re on an irreversible path – things have to happen faster
  • Profit motive must be secondary to survival – we need a CO2 resource balance sheet along with financial balance sheet – ended with story of what it would look like if all that happened

Sara Culotta, Siemens and Tompkins County Advisory Board on Climate and Sustainable Energy

  • Work with Smart Infrastructure at Siemens – large-scale energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for colleges, schools, municipalities across central and western NY
  • Also chair County Advisory Board on Climate and Sustainable Energy – looking for input on how we can be useful to county legislature, staff, residents, and municipalities – need to find more of a mission for ourselves
  • Already mentioned Ithaca electrification study I'm involved in – also worked on NYSERDA grant application for feasibility of district geothermal at EcoVillage where I live and similar grant application for district geothermal at Cornell satellite campus in Geneva
  • Another area of interest involves decarbonization of manufacturing – working with company in Chenango on its decarbonization strategy – committed to 50% carbon reduction in seven years

 

Large-Scale Wind Development in NYS – Marguerite Wells

Marguerite Wells, director of renewable energy at Invenergy, LLC, discussed the opportunities and challenges of large-scale wind development in NYS, an effort that is vital to the state's ability to reach the climate targets stipulated in the CLCPA.

  • Marguerite talked about transition from collapse of Black Oak project in Enfield to joining Invenergy – started another company with Alex Hagan to keep doing community wind development around the state – contacted by several communities
  • Thought it might be a market niche that that was being underserved by the big companies but thesis behind it fundamentally flawed
  • Working with Kate Miller, who had worked on trying to build solar farm in Enfield and ran into same kind of opposition as Black Oak did with wind farm
  • Classic technique of opponents is to drag out process of approval in hopes something would change – in case of Black Oak the prevalence of fracked gas and the drop in price key factor in its failure
  • With small projects like Black Oak, you have huge interconnection cost borne by relatively small project and there was no way to add more turbines at Black Oak to spread load little wider
  • Went to work at Invenergy as full-time contract employee for year before hired as regular employee almost seven years ago – put together office in downtown Ithaca
  • Decided to go big or go home – new law in place at that time for anything larger than 25 MW called Article 10 – took permitting to state level to prevent sort of local political fallout that Black Oak faced
  • Many other projects across NYS that also got to 11th hour, many of them developed by big companies who knew what they were doing, and they got killed at very last minute by similar factors as Black Oak
  • Currently have four advanced wind projects in state – Number Three actually under construction – crosses two towns in single county
  • Canisteo Wind crosses seven towns in Steuben County and Bull Run Wind in Clinton County near Canadian border crosses four towns – Alley Cat crosses five towns across three counties
  • In each case enough scale to make it worth getting through state permitting process, which is expensive and lengthy
  • Also need big project to afford interconnection costs – Canisteo is 12 miles to nearest grid connection – costs $500K to $1M a mile just to build transmission line
  • So you need big project and community support – some opposition to Alley Cat but other three projects are in pretty universally supportive communities
  • Black Oak involved seven 2.3 MW turbines for total of just over 16 MW
  • Number Three Wind is 27 turbines, each of them 4.2 MW, except for a couple of safe harbor turbines that are 2.3 MW – Canisteo is about 100 turbines that are little over 4 MW each, Alley Cat will have about 100 turbines, and Bull Run is 120 turbines or so – total of 450 MW
  • SEQR process is little faster and cheaper but cuts off at 20 MW – Article Ten (now 94C) mandated at 25 MW – 100 MW is about threshold given permitting costs
  • We do lot of public outreach in early stages of process – prefer to have opposition emerge early so we can deal with issues raised rather than have it pop up at 11th hour – will make design changes if possible
  • If not, we rely on state permitting process as well as logic- and fact-based approach to try to carry the day
  • Need strong local base of support to help counter and address issues that come up
  • First base of support we try to develop are landowners themselves – generally a few landowners willing to stick their necks out a little bit – often sort of local leaders who have been in community long time and people look up to them – experienced farmer and the like
  • Especially helpful if they’re willing to come out and say, hey, I'm for this project, not just because it's good for my pocket, but because it's good for town – it's going to bring a bunch of money in and benefit our schools, etc. – that can help set tone – great place to start
  • Important to go to all local leaders, both informal leaders and the town supervisors and county leaders, and walk through benefits of project
  • Generally, pretty Republican heavy communities – message is not about climate change, it’s about how many dollars can project put in community
  • Pilot agreements more attractive to town than school district – most school district budgets are pretty big, and many projects don't move needle on budget
  • Article 10 process was very broken – not designed for renewables – set up intentionally to try to prevent new natural gas projects from being built in state – DPS culture fundamentally oppositional
  • Question of environmental justice complicated – with Alley Cat, for example, disadvantaged community in terms of being poor one of strongest supporters of project – land payments would help make ends meet
  • But DPS argued in permit hearings that we shouldn’t build wind farm in their town because they're disadvantaged, and we were somehow doing them bad turn – fortunately, permit condition in end allowed us to build in this disadvantaged community
  • Canisteo one of oldest projects in state due to length of time it’s taking to get 12-mile transmission line corridor signed up – some of leases are 15-18 years old
  • Between six and nine years more realistic for projects with less of a transmission line constraint
  • Marguerite shared photos of construction at Number Three Wind: turbine blades, access roads, transmission line poles
  • Fundamental difference in environmental justice issue between fossil fuel project and wind project in disadvantaged communities is pollution and poisoning that takes place in former
  • Not just that there are poor people living next to a power plant, for example – it’s that poor people's health is being negatively impacted – they're all getting asthma and cancer, etc.
  • When it comes to siting new wind projects, places that are less wealthy want projects more than wealthy places do – rural people are not wealthy, they make a living from land
  • Guillermo Metz: Few people would want large-scale wind and solar projects if it wasn't for money, so essentially, it's those folks who need the money who will sacrifice their communities in some way – the impacts are different, but there is some sacrifice being made
  • Marguerite: Farmers who have wind turbine on their land invest 50% more in their farms than farmers without wind turbines
  • Farmers build fences, they buy tractors, they do all the farming things they do – they can only do it if they have money to do it with – so it stands to reason that if they have extra cash because they have a turbine paying them, that they're going to invest in their farms
  • PB: Big difference between wind and large scale solar is you can farm between the wind turbines and it's not as easy to farm under the solar panels – one of real advantages of wind power is that it doesn't exclude farming on land where turbines are
  • Marguerite: Offshore wind ten times as hard and as expensive as onshore wind, but there's not that much more onshore wind to build in NYS
  • Most of hills that are windy enough to make economic sense have wind turbines on them, And if they don't, they're going too soon
  • One of benefits of offshore is being able to deliver that power right to cities on coast where so much of load is
  • Invenergy building new transmission line that will bridge upstate and downstate – will result in lot of upstate wind and solar so we can bring power down to NYC to complement offshore wind – will help to decarbonize downstate grid
  • Question in chat: Are there any wind projects in NYS where communities are sharing in ownership?
  • Marguerite: Not that I know of due to complexity of financing these things, tax equity, lenders, and so forth – it would take big company like Invenergy deciding it wanted to give slice of equity to a community
  • Equity is risky – if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and not sure if you're going to make your property taxes this year, you don't need equity in a project that may or may not make a dime this year – you need paycheck that's much more reliable
  • Having talked about this in communities where I work, this is answer I've gotten from landowners – they don't want to own it, they just want the money
  • PB: Great to see something concrete like this taking place that's going to have such huge impact on the state's ability to achieve its climate goals

June 2022

The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability – Ben Furnas

Ben Furnas is the executive director of the Cornell University 2030 Project. Ben discussed the just-announced initiative, a university-wide effort to mobilize the faculty "to develop and accelerate tangible solutions to the climate challenge."

  • Ben spent 8 years working in the NYC mayor’s office on climate and sustainability issues, culminating in his taking on the role of director in that office
  • Worked with the five boroughs and city agencies to reduce GHG emissions, including a ban on fossil fuel use in new construction – next generation of buildings in NYC will be all electric – goes into effect in 2024 for smaller buildings and 2027 for larger ones
  • Grew up in Ithaca and graduated from Cornell – now working at Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, university-wide center carrying out significant climate and sustainability research
  • Food and farming as well as energy systems two key areas of activity at center – also materials and technologies needed to reduce GHG emissions and role of research in shaping policies, businesses, and movements related to climate action
  • Particularly interested in working with Ithaca community in both city and county on decarbonization and creating a just transition
  • As part of the 2030 Project at Cornell, Ben’s office just launched a fast grants program – grants up to $25K for Cornell researchers interested in working with external organizations to have impact on climate change
  • Currently funding research on green hydrogen and reducing emissions in animal agriculture – many faculty also working with Luis and City Sustainability Office to help achieve ambitious climate goals set out in Ithaca Green New Deal

Q & A

  • Peter: Drilling has just begun as part of Cornell’s Deep Earth initiative – how does this effort fits with the 2030 Project?
  • Ben: Cornell on district system for heating and cooling – lake source cooling largely eliminates need for air conditioning on campus – if Deep Earth is successful, it will allow campus to swap out combined heat and power natural gas plant for deep thermal heating
  • Could provide model for low carbon heating across the Northeast US – 2030 Project focused on finding ways to scale up projects like Deep Earth beyond campus
  • Fred Schoeps: What are the top five initiatives on your plate?
  • Ben: Huge opportunities in animal agriculture, especially with decarbonizing operations of dairies across NYS
  • Another key area is building decarbonization – Ithaca campus and Cornell Tech in NYC have distinctive role to play in this sector as well as in the area of material and industrial processes such as next generation aviation fuels made from renewable sources
  • Ingrid Zabel: Are there grants available for education projects or is the initiative more focused on science and technology research?
  • Ben: Looking for work that will have more immediate impact but not necessarily opposed to funding education efforts
  • Brian Eden: Climate Action Council in draft scoping plan is recommending use of biogas on site rather than transporting it to reduce risk of leaks – agriculture industry, however, pushing for interstate transportation because it’s more profitable
  • Ben: Trying to help farmers but ultimately need to reduce emissions – understanding scale of methane leaks and challenges of methane distribution important
  • Dawn Montanye: How is 2030 Project approaching issue of transportation? How is Cornell engaging transportation sector as part of reducing emissions?
  • Ben: Worked very closely in NYC with Department of Transportation on zero emissions initiative – big piece of it involved expanding pedestrian and cycling facilities across city and shifting towards more publicly available EV chargers – also encouraging people to make greater use of subway
  • From perspective of 2030 Project, two ways to think about issue: 1) what are fundamental research questions that researchers at Cornell could help with such issues as land use and zoning; and 2) people at Cornell who could help with battery storage technology
  • As far as campus is concerned, work on exploring transit options for students and similar solutions certainly an interest of 2030 Project, especially if it’s replicable in other communities
  • Peter: What were your main takeaways from work in NYC and how they might or might not apply to city of Ithaca?
  • Ben: Decarbonization work requires lot of physical transformation – logistical challenges in any community enormous – one thing to secure resources and another thing to make project actually happen
  • Came away with sense of problem being so enormous we can’t be too picky about climate solutions
  • Karim Beers: Resources often get focused on very tangible and technological solutions – how can resources be made available to explore ways to build community and expand local capacity for participation in discussions and decision making
  • Ben: Deploying technologies that are more affordable makes conversations easier – bigger, more complicated questions involve around communication – how are people’s minds changed? What are best ways to communicate with people?
  • Always tension around getting more people involved and need to move quickly – social scientists exploring these questions as part of work at Cornell Atkinson
  • Margaret McCasland: The discussion in response to Karim's question is why Ingrid's question about education matters
  • Ingrid: Recent research has shown direct connection between education and reduction of carbon emissions
  • Holly Hutchinson: To what extent is the ILR school involved in workforce development and training the clean energy workforce?
  • Luis Aguirre-Torres: ILR helped City of Ithaca and many other organizations – Including unions and workforce development organizations – when we put together proposal for the Green Jobs Corridor
  • Peter: How do we develop more effective channels of communication between Cornell and Ithaca College, on the one hand, and other educational institutions such as PRI and Sciencenter? Not just question of technological innovation but of cultural change – only way that takes place is through education
  • Ben: When I think about climate education, I think about it on a couple of different levels: 1) having people understand challenge and seriousness of threat we face: and 2) nuts and bolts skills and expertise needed to do the work necessary for effective climate solutions
  • Peter: Cornell Cooperative Extension does some of the most valuable work in community around these issues – Tompkins County chapter, in particular, has really retooled itself for 21st century by putting climate, energy, and sustainability issues front and center
  • Resources for more effective community education may have been underutilize and with greater collaboration could increase their impact
  • Ben: Role of Cooperative Extension across state is huge source of strength – has credibility, in particular, among farming communities in upstate NY
  • Peter: 2030 Project and Cornell Atkinson in general has potential to reach out beyond campus and engage in community efforts that are already underway to come up with technological and policy solutions, as well as solutions for cultural change
  • Luis: Ben brings incredible amount of experience, knowledge, and understanding about practicalities of huge challenge we have in front of us – also brings really good sense of humor about these matters which is important resource to stay engaged and resilient

 

Defining Disadvantaged Communities – Rebecca Evans

Rebecca Evans, sustainability planner in the City Office of Sustainability, shared with us the recently developed criteria for defining “disadvantaged communities,” a framework aimed at supporting the goals of the Ithaca Green New Deal.

  • Started out with review of state process with the CLCPA to define disadvantaged communities and where we saw gaps
  • City is not using “disadvantaged communities” as concept
  • Not all NYS residents experience environmental burdens or climate vulnerabilities equally – climate change acts as threat multiplier
  • Existing social hurdles and barriers exacerbated by global warming
  • Cornerstone of CLCPA is to identify and mitigate stressors to disadvantaged communities – CLCPA has identified floor of 35% investment of clean energy resources in disadvantaged communities
  • Working group consists of:
    • Climate Justice Working Group
    • NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
    • NYSERDA
    • NYS Dept. of Health
    • NYS Dept. of Labor
  • First task of working group was to identify geographic boundaries of communities, then looked at criteria for selection process and methodologies
  • What are existing burdens, how will climate change affect and amplify those burdens, and what new challenges will arise?
  • Examined existing tools for determining criteria:
    • CalEnviroScreen
    • EPA EJScreen
    • Justice40 guidance
    • FEMA Hazard Risk Index
    • CDC Social Vulnerability Score
  • Identified 170 draft indicators and100 data pools – boiled down criteria to 45 prioritized indicators – carried out in consultation with multiple state agencies
  • Developed rubric to assess various indicators and their application
  • Scoring process:
    • Identify geographic unit for analysis: census tract
    • Find available data and screen for granularity and completeness
    • Calculate percentile rank for DAC indicators
    • Calculate factor, component, and combined scores
    • Calculate combined score percentile ranks, designate tracts and DACs
    • Include Indigenous and low-population communities
  • Broke down components and associated factors as follows:
    • Environmental burdens and climate risks
      • Potential pollution exposures
      • Land use associated with discrimination or disinvestment
      • Potential climate change risks
    • Population characteristics and health vulnerabilities
      • Income
      • Race and ethnicity
      • Health impacts and burdens
      • Housing, energy, communications
    • Drilled down further into each of these factors to identify criteria in each category – for example, potential pollution exposures included density of diesel truck and bus traffic, particulate matter, benzene concentration, and waste discharge in each census tract
  • Calculated weighted average of each of the factors used to score each census tract to determine how it ranks within entire state and also within each region (NYC & rest of state) – goal of program is to identify 35% of state as disadvantaged communities
  • State definition didn’t cover a number of populations in city of Ithaca
  • City approach includes following in its definition of climate justice communities
    • Populations with local history of marginalization or systemic oppression
    • Low-income households and those with particularly high housing or energy costs
    • Individuals for whom climate change and its ramifications act as a "threat multiplier"
    • Neighborhoods where at least 51% of individuals meet the climate justice criteria
  • Instead of looking at census tracts or neighborhoods, actually identifying climate justice communities at household level – this approach takes into account history of gentrification in city and very high percentage of rental units
  • City expanded definition to include following:
    • Residents experiencing homelessness
    • Residents or their children eligible for needs-based assistance
    • Residents age 25 years or older not possessing a high school diploma or GED
    • Residents experiencing food insecurity or low child nutrition levels
    • Household income less than 65% of County median
    • More than 15% of total income spent on household energy costs
    • Undocumented immigrants currently working in Tompkins County
  • Definition passed Common Council in May
  • Next steps
    • Identify communities
    • Identify comprehensive benefits of IGND
    • Identify Justice50 operationalization
    • Assess departmental impacts
    • Establish metrics
    • Proposal Justice50 and secure support of Common Council
  • Justice50 Ithaca’s version of federal government’s Justice40 – 50% of benefits of clean energy investments go to disadvantaged communities
  • Considering move away from identifying comprehensive benefits in favor of focus on direct financial investment instead of trickle-down benefits

Q&A

  • Guillermo Metz: To what extent will potential for future flooding be taken into account when identifying climate justice communities?
  • Rebecca: Currently not fund specifically designated to help with flood insurance but it’s something we’re exploring and know we need to address
  • Leon Porter: Lot of vulnerable and low-income areas are located in flats that will face greatest threat from flooding – wouldn’t it make sense to direct dollars not just to flood insurance but to projects such as deepening Six Mile Creek
  • Rebecca: Those conversations are taking place in Planning Dept., assessing whether flood walls and dredging are the most effective solutions
  • Luis Aguirre-Torres: Climate justice community definition when social-economic or health-related conditions become threat multiplier when combined with climate change
  • When it comes to flooding, right now there is no viable long-term solution that’s affordable
  • Studies currently underway at state level should result in report providing local government officials with recommendations by end of year
  • Peter: What role will Common Council play in operationalization of climate justice community it approved in May?
  • Rebecca: Framework for operationalizing Justice50 framework, including how we will hold City accountable, will have to go to planning committee first for approval before going to Common Council – not anticipating that Council will play large role when it comes to accountability of Justice50 program
  • Peter: Are you planning on submitting comment about state’s approach to defining disadvantage communities in the draft scoping plan? Justice50 approach seems more finely tuned
  • Rebecca: She believes state has done excellent job of defining disadvantage communities – have identified most at-risk populations given data they have available
  • We think a lot of people in Ithaca are missing in census data – state is great place to start, but it’s up to individual municipalities to fill in gaps
  • Not planning on submitting comment but we are in touch with state officials, and they are watching what we’re doing very closely
  • Lisa Marshall: Focus on flood mitigation very important – Southside scoping study on potential geothermal network will be looking at issue of stormwater retention as part of integrated solution – Taitem is lead on project
  • Fred Schoeps: Assuming survey will be necessary to identify number of residents who actually fall into category of people needing support within framework of city’s climate justice community definition – is that correct?
  • Rebecca: Anticipates that about 20% of city will fall into category of climate justice community – will definitely be significant gaps in local data – need to find way to collect data we need while being respectful of how that data is handled
  • Fred: Given that significant percentage of population consists of students who come and go every four years, how does that part of population figure in your thinking going forward
  • Rebecca: We’re not discounting students in this process because there are students who will need this assistance – we know where students are located, and we’re taking that into account – Cornell may be able to help us identify rental units that we should look at more closely
  • Peter asked Rebecca to provide update on city’s building decarbonization program
  • Working with BlocPower on an official launch on July 14 at 10 am at Southside Community Center – mayor and BlocPower CEO will be speaking as part of formal program – day before BlocPower will be holding meetings with various stakeholders such as unions and contractors
  • Contract will be signed by relevant parties not later than Tuesday next week and then we can really get to work
  • Working on very comprehensive RFP for electrification of city fleet and deployment of public and private EV charging – equity will be key parameter in determining where chargers will be placed – RFP should be released this summer
  • Once details of launch are confirmed, Rebecca will share info with Peter, who will get word out to TCCPI distribution list
  • Lisa Marshall: Many community partners have been working together on outreach education, information sharing, and community building to help support the efforts of the city and BlocPower

May 2022

Heat Pump Conversion in New York City – Max Zhang & Alfredo Rodriguez

Max Zhang, professor at the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Kathy Dwyer Marble and Curt Marble Faculty Director at Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, has been carrying out a research project in New York City on heat pump conversion, including integrating residential heat pumps with the smart grid. Max and Alfredo Rodriguez, a Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. student at Cornell, discussed their research and its significance for the achieving the state’s ambitious goals for climate action.

  • Research on heating electrification at Energy and the Environment Research Laboratory (EERL) covers wide range of topics, including:
  • Energy management (control and optimization) of heat pumps as grid assets to provide power system services
    • Demand flexibility in centralized and decentralized electricity markets
    • Design a peer-to-peer market
    • Promote further heat pumps adoption with heat purchase agreement
  • Sectorial heating demand estimation and impact analysis on heating electrification for NYS counties
    • Combine top-down and bottom-up methods to estimate county-level heating demand
    • Thorough evaluations to show good accuracy
  • Renewable resource droughts (RD) analysis
    • How often do we have low wind and low solar at the same time?
    • How long do those RD events last (persistence)?
  • Analysis of refrigerant leakage for heat pump penetration scenario
  • Acknowledgements
  • Ian Shapiro and Umit Sirt at Taitem
  • Tom Sahagian, consultant and implementation manager
  • Lisa Harrison, resident coordinator
  • Jon Hacker at Daikin
  • What’s preventing heat pumps from adoption in retrofits?
    • Public mistrust of government’s messages (diesel vehicles, “ecofriendly”
    • boilers, etc.)
    • Cost – electricity bills and oil bills
    • Perceived capabilities of system
      • Cold-climate efficiency
      • Frost
    • Noise
    • Refrigerant leakage and other environmental impacts
  • Caird and Roy (2010):
    • “Improved information and advice was also vital [to customers] to promote adoption”
    • “The information most frequently desired was independent information [rather than manufacturer’s claims] on the performance and payback of different systems, which is often unavailable because of the cost of independent testing”
  • For heat pump conversion study, we installed high quality temperature/humidity sensors throughout a 10-unit NYC apartment building to monitor the indoor thermal environment – we collected data both pre- and post-heat pump installation starting in December 2019
  • We distributed pre-heat pump installation survey to residents
  • We distributed post-heat pump installation survey to residents
  • We conducted personal interviews to help better understand survey responses and data trends
  • Contributions:
    • Provide independent information for a retrofitting of a typical NYC apartment building
      • Thermal environment
      • User experience
    • Present case studies of residents demonstrating various energy consumption habits
  • What questions do we answer as a part of the assessment?
    • With heat pumps, are the residents satisfied with the new heating system in:
      • Rooms that no longer have heating
      • Apartments with improved heating capacity
      • In terms of other challenges (noise, cost, etc.)
    • Are there any rooms with temperature distributions that demonstrate a statistically significant difference from the rest of the apartment? If yes, what is causing these differences?
  • Heat pump skepticism from residents: responses to pre-heat pump survey
    • Heat distribution – can heat pumps effectively heat buildings with railroad apartment floorplans?
    • Expensive
    • Not proven to be adequate for cold climates
    • Concern that with heat pumps, rooms no longer having any heating sources would be significantly colder
    • Lifetime of units – boilers last ~100+ years while lifetime of HP is 10-20 years
    • Technology barriers
  • Post-heat pump survey responses
    • “I enjoy the new controllability of temperature and comfort”
    • Overall positive sentiment toward heat pumps during heating and cooling seasons
    • Boilers produce noticeably more noise than heat pumps in the winter
    • Window ACs produce noticeably more noise than heat pumps in the summer
    • The temperature in my apartment is noticeably colder in the winter with heat pumps
    • The temperature in the hallways is noticeably colder with heat pumps
    • The temperature in the basement is noticeably colder with heat pumps
  • Temperature differences in hallways
    • Lower floors experienced greater decrease in average temperature because 1st floor hallway radiator was decommissioned
    • 5th floor hallway experienced small temperature change
  • All rooms in basement experienced decreased temperatures with HP system
  • Case study: 1W
    • Heating capacity growth factor: 1.17
    • Not very energy conservative
      • All heat pumps always on
    • Middle area (living room, kitchen, bathroom) inadequately heated with boilers
    • Frequent occupancy in living room, kitchen, and north bedroom
    • Heat pumps improved overall thermal comfort in all spaces
    • Discomfort from cold floor
      • Reduced heat transfer through floor from basement
    • Case study: 2W
      • Heating capacity growth factor: 1.34
      • Very energy conservative
      • Attached to 2E
      • Thermally comfortable in all rooms before and after heat pumps
      • Frequent occupancy in living room and dining room
      • Bathroom is comfortable, but noticeably colder with heat pumps
      • Bedroom is also comfortable, but typically colder – prefer cold sleeping environment
    • Case study: 3W
      • Heating capacity growth factor: 1.59
      • Very energy conservative
      • Heat pump on only in occupied rooms
      • Thermal discomfort in living room, study, kitchen, and lounge areas
      • Frequent occupancy in living room, kitchen, and lounge areas
      • Bedroom is comfortable, but typically colder – prefer cold sleeping environment.
      • Bathroom tends to be cold, but grew accustomed to it, so not a problem
      • Middle heat pump typically set to higher temperature because larger space
    • Case study: 2E
      • Heating capacity growth factor: 2.08
      • Very energy conservative
      • Attached to 2W
      • Thermally comfortable in all rooms before and after heat pumps
      • Frequent occupancy in kitchen and bedroom
      • Bathroom is comfortable, but noticeably colder with heat pumps
      • Bedroom is also comfortable, but typically colder – prefer sleeping in the cold
    • Case study: 5W
      • Heating capacity growth factor: 3.92
      • Moderately energy conservative
      • Thermal discomfort in study, bathroom, and hallway in front of bathroom with boiler system
      • Frequent occupancy in north bedroom and kitchen/living room area
      • Noticeable heating from roof
      • Heat pumps introduced temperature increases in all rooms, but discomfort persists in living room/kitchen area and in hallway in front of bathroom
      • Middle heat pump insufficient for adequately heating this large, open area
    • Future design implications
      • Inadequate heating in areas with extreme heat loss
        • 1W cold floors: Electric floor heating to compensate
      • Technological barriers
        • 5W frustrations: Clear instructional tutorials/education on heat pump operation techniques
      • Difficulty heating larger spaces
        • 3W and 5W: Additional smaller capacity IDUs may be preferred over larger capacity IDUs

Q&A/Discussion

  • Brian Eden: Would’ve been good to have more data like this to counter fossil fuel industry messaging about supposed heat pump discomfort and cost – aimed propaganda at LMI community
  • All-Electric Buildings Act still in play – people need to weigh in
  • Alfredo Rodriguez: Controllability a major advantage of heat pump technology
  • Sara Hess: Did the tenants or landlord pay for heat pumps? People who have been using heat pumps most trusted source of info about their advantages
  • Alfredo: Agrees with Sara about credibility of users – building is a coop; all owned their units – coop paid for heat pump installation
  • Max Zhang: Residents pay their own utility bill each month – part of controllability – fairer system
  • David Kay: Concerned about limitations of small numbers – how feasible would it be to scale up and expand number of residents?
  • Max: Decided to focus on small group to get more in-depth info – clinical study
  • Challenge is how to interpret comfort factor – hard to answer question of scalability
  • Most of residents supported getting off fossil fuel – eventually everyone in building got on board
  • Al George: What is payback time?
  • Max: Ian Shapiro is developing economic model
  • Al: Owns heat pump – wall units difficult to figure out – too many choices, not user friendly
  • Brian: Education about system very important – need to understand how to operate system

 

Ithaca 2030 District Annual Progress Report for 2021 – Peter Bardaglio

The third annual progress report for the Ithaca 2030 District was released earlier this month. Peter, in his capacity as the executive director, shared the key findings from the 2021 report.

  • Concentration of atmospheric CO2 hit 421 parts per million (ppm) earlier this month – highest level in human history & highest in millions of years
  • Getting increasingly difficult to keep global warming to maximum of 1.5 C – currently on path to double that
  • Need to work together as co-creators, not as competitors or consumers
    • Collaborate and connect, not command and control
    • From silos to gardens: cross-pollination
  • Consequences of Collaboration:
    • Encourages more innovative problem solving
    • Provides more effective leveraging of finite resources
    • Enhances resiliency
    • Strengthens community
  • Ithaca 2030 District is flagship project of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI)
  • Builds on TCCPI model: provides non-competitive, collaborative environment built on trust and mutual respect
  • Part of network of 23 districts in US and Canadian cities – Ithaca by far smallest city in network
  • What are 2030 Districts?
    • Goal: Improve energy and water performance of commercial and mixed-use buildings & reduce transportation emissions
    • Private-sector led – voluntary collaboration
    • Based in market realities, building business case for sustainability
    • Collect, benchmark, and analyze data to track progress
  • Existing Building Targets
    • 50% reductions in energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 2030
  • New Building and Major Renovation Targets
    • Immediate 50% reductions in water consumption and transportation emissions, with energy use in the design year reaching carbon neutrality by 2030
  • Why focus on buildings?
  • 75% of all electricity produced in U.S. used just to operate buildings
    • Building sector responsible for 45% of U.S. CO2 emissions
    • Buildings account for 73% of emissions in City of Ithaca – commercial buildings make up 48%
  • Ithaca 2030 District launched in 2016
    • TCCPI’s primary vehicle for engaging business community in effort to reduce GHG emissions
    • Effort to build culture of benchmarking
    • Members include building owners, community organizations, government agencies, and professionals
  • Current advisory board members:
    • Terry Carroll, County Chief Sustainability Officer
    • Rebecca Evans, City of Ithaca Sustainability Coordinator
    • Andrew Gil, HOLT Architects
    • John Guttridge, Urban Core, LLC
    • Conrad Metcalfe, NYS-BPCA
    • Guillermo Metz, CCETC Energy Team Leader
    • Jan Rhodes Norman, Local First Ithaca Co-Founder
    • Lou Vogel, Taitem Engineering President
  • Progress since 2016
    • Issued market analysis report, district strategy plan, and public outreach strategy
    • Developed financing guide, energy efficiency services guide, and small commercial toolkit
    • Conducted recruitment workshops on benefits of 2030 District and training sessions on Portfolio Manager
    • Created energy, water, and transportation baselines for 2030 District
    • Launched website at 2030districts.org/Ithaca
  • Ongoing activities
    • Collect monthly energy and quarterly water data for property owners and upload them to Portfolio Manager
    • Build online, interactive
    • building performance dashboard for each property owner to track progress
    • Carry out annual transportation surveys to track commuter carbon emissions
    • Hold quarterly meetings of District Partners and publish quarterly e-newsletter
    • Issue annual District progress reports
  • Baselines and performance metrics used to track District’s progress are listed in the table below:

 

 

ENERGY

WATER

TRANSPORTATION

Baseline Type

Regional Baseline

Local Baseline

Local Baseline

Baseline Source

2003 Commercial

Building Energy

Consumption Survey (CBECS)

2014-2016 Water

Consumption Data

Provided by the Ithaca Water and Sewer Division (IWSD)

2012 Ithaca Commuting

Survey Results for City

Workers, Data from the

EPA and EIA

Baseline Considerations

Climate Zone, Space

Type(s), Occupancy

Climate Zone, Space

Type(s)

Location

Impact Metric

Annual Energy Use

Intensity (EUI)

Annual Water Use

Intensity (WUI)

Carbon Emissions per

person per trip per year

Units

kBTUs/square foot

Gallons/square foot

kgCO2/person/trip/year

Data Tracking Method

NYSEG + Energy Star

Portfolio Manager

IWSD + Energy Star

Portfolio Manager

Annual Transportation

Emission Survey

 

  • Currently 30 commercial property owners, 40 buildings, and 522,375 sq ft of committed space vs. 25 property members, 29 buildings, and 375,371 sq ft at end of 2020
  • For 2021 annual report, we focused on 27 property members, 33 buildings, and 417,089 sq ft that belonged to District for most of 2021
  • Property type breakdown by square footage:
    • Office – 35.3%
    • Educational/Cultural – 21.0%
    • Retail – 18.8%
    • Mixed Use – 15.3%
    • Hotel/Inn – 3.5%
    • Other – 0.8%
  • Current property members can be found at https://www.2030districts.org/ithaca/members
  • Energy update: 2021 District Baseline EUI, calculated as weighted mean of individual buildings’ energy baselines: 108.2 kBTU/sq ft
  • At district level, aggregated EUI in 2021 was 84.57 kBTU/sq ft
  • Surpassed 2020 target – slight improvement over the 2020 results, so making progress toward 2025 goal
  • 21 property members met or nearly met 2020 target of 20% reduction from their building baselines – of these 8 properties met 2030 target of 50%
  • Energy results
    • Energy cost avoided: $161,000
    • CO2e emissions avoided: 148,000 lbs
    • Equivalent number of young trees planted: 11,482
  • Water update: 2021 District Baseline WUI, calculated as weighted mean of individual buildings’ water baselines: 26.26 gal/sq ft
    • At district level, aggregated WUI in 2021: 12.76 gal/sq ft – met and exceeded 2030 target
    • 21 properties met 2020 target of 20% reduction from their building baselines – 15 of those properties met 2030 target
  • Water results
    • Water cost avoided: $162,000
    • Gallons saved: 5.6 million
    • Equivalent number of showers saved: 325,000
  • Transportation toughest nut to crack
    • Transportation emissions benchmarked as annual emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per commuter
    • Baseline for District in 2021: 1501 kg CO2e/commuter/yr
    • Actual in 2021: 1706.6 kg CO2e/commuter/yr, well above 2020 target
    • Exceeded level of emissions generated before onset of pandemic in 2020
  • 2021 commute modes
    • Drive Alone: 51.3%
    • Work from Home: 28.1%
    • Bike or Walk: 13.8%
    • Carpool: 5.3%
    • Bus: 1.6%
  • Before COVID, only 10% of respondents worked at home – with 2020 spring lockdown, proportion of remote workers jumped to 45%
  • Even with reopening in second half of year, 32% of respondents continued to work remotely
  • Taken as whole, in 2020 the district achieved 1172.8 kg CO2e/commuter/yr, below 2020 target of 1200.8 kg CO2e/commuter/yr
  • Proportion of remote workers declined in 2021 to 28% -- percentage of commuters who drove alone jumped from 39% during 2020 lockdown to 51%
  • Dawn Montanye (in chat): Regarding transportation, we are leaving responsibility for addressing this goal to employees – employers/building owners have role in making multi-mobility a priority and more accessible
  • Some options: Go Ithaca memberships, availability of Ithaca Carshare cars/bikeshare/free bus passes/charging stations on site, encouraging and incentivizing rideshare

April 2022

Deconstruction & Reuse – Diane Cohen & Felix Heisel

Diane Cohen, executive director of Finger Lakes ReUse, Inc., and Felix Heisel, assistant professor of architecture in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, discussed the deconstruction project in Collegetown they’ve been collaborating as well as the overall potential for salvaging building materials and reselling them. Heisel’s Circular Construction Lab is helping to lead the paradigm shift towards a more sustainable, low/ no-carbon, circular construction industry.

  • Diane and Felix are collaborating with Historic Ithaca and Significant Elements on the Collegetown project
  • Diane began with an overview of Finger Lakes ReUse – observed that we need to develop better way to manage materials
  • In theory materials management industry says “reduce, reuse, recycle” in order of priority but most of focus has been on recycling because perceived volume is greater than what's actually reusable
  • But reuse has greater value – need more investment in targeting reusable and repairable materials
  • Tremendous economic leakage out of our communities in terms of jobs, skills repair, education, community engagement, energy savings, local economies embodied, embodied, carbon keeping, plastics and use, greenhouse gas avoidance
  • Also an extraction side that's avoided when materials are reused
  • Finger Lakes ReUse has triple-bottom line mission to enhance community, economy and environment through reuse – our vision is for just, resilient and waste-free world that values both people and resources – not just about the stuff but also about human impact
  • We're going to sell over a million items this year – that's 2,700 items going through our locations and out the door daily
  • We expect to hit around $2.4M million in sales and we're at 75 employees – you hear a lot about supply chain disruption, but we've experienced supply chain eruption
  • Volume of increased donations has been challenging and we've been trying to grow to meet those challenges
  • Averaged more than 20% sales growth over last ten years – our sales in March almost 30% over last year
  • Ithaca Journal named us best department store last year, not just best thrift store
  • Hopefully there's shift in public perception around what reuse can be and we'll continue to grow into that department-store-like environment – trying to make reuse really convenient for people
  • Job training program helps us manage all these materials – we have strong and growing place in workforce development and education field – all sorts of different skills can be learned here at ReUse
  • We give a lot of materials away – last year we gave materials away to over 300 households –at our price, that's $75K and our prices are well below half of what you can get stuff for new – so that's some significant support for the community
  • We offer one free delivery per household – another program that's continuing to grow
  • Deconstruction has been on the back burner for us because we've been so overwhelmed with incoming materials
  • We deconstructed many houses between 2009 and about 2017
  • For the Collegetown project in 2021 we salvaged out of ten houses and fully deconstructed one of them
  • Large houses – over 4000 sq ft -- worked with CROWD, Historic Ithaca, and Significant Elements – more than 60 volunteers to help pull up flooring – saved as much as we could – lots of oak flooring – rented space at former DOT to store it
  • We have shared goals with climate movement – more reuse centers, a network of them, could help kind of make order out of the chaos
  • First statewide NYS Reuse summit on June 16 to explore what that system could look like – still feels like this is early days
  • At this point Diane turned presentation over to Felix, who discussed work of Circular Construction Lab at Cornell – now have 15 people thanks to third-part funding, including four fulltime researchers
  • Exponential growth in human impact beginning in 1950s – we’ve clearly overtaken planetary scales – need to keep this in mind when talking about climate crisis and other crises that planet now faces
  • Built environment over whole lifecycle accounts for more than 50% of resource consumption, more than 50% of waste production, and probably more than 40% of carbon emissions globally
  • If we want to make changes in the next eight years between now and 2030, then we need to focus on upfront emissions that come from production of these materials and construction – 74% of all emissions between now and then
  • Carbon emissions from operation of buildings come little by little every year, but all embodied carbon emitted on day one of building's existence
  • So quick change only comes if we focus on materials – greenest material is one that's already there – so reclaimed material has least carbon impact because you don't need to produce that material anymore, only possibly remanufacture it or reprocess it and maybe transport it, ideally very locally
  • We're working towards implementation of circular economy in built environment, defined as system that is restorative and regenerative by design, that keeps products, components and materials at the highest utility and value at all times and distinguishes between technical and biological cycles
  • From an architectural perspective, most important words in this definition are “by design” – call to action for us to change system, not just change filter at end of process, to take out a couple of emissions, but go to beginning of that cycle and change way we operate
  • We were award an Engaged Cornell grant in 2021 that allowed us to focus on construction in local economy, to find out what is Ithaca specific in this conversation
  • Concept of circular economy has been talked about for last 30 years or more but it hasn’t been implemented because it’s very local task to implement it
  • Ability to implement circular economy depends on local infrastructure, what kind of capacity does local community have to implement it, so we wanted to see how this global aspiration can be applied specifically
  • We're partnering with Finger Lakes Reuse, Taitem Engineering, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and others
  • Project involved comparing demolition of very similar houses with their deconstruction – able to compare these processes also scientifically – can compare how much waste was produced in one and how much waste was produced in other as well as economic benefit and community benefit – what are materials being saved in these processes?
  • One week to get house down so they cut biggest possible pieces out of house and put them on a flatbed truck that brought them offsite -- more industrialized approach to deconstruction
  • Local labor union helped us prepare houses for deconstruction, taking out windows and salvaging whatever was possible
  • Part of apprenticeship program local union participated in – deconstruction part of their workforce development program
  • Developed Reconstruction Survey Toolkit that allows us to estimate material content of building before we even start demolishing or deconstructing
  • Also allows us to evaluate different strategies to determine what approach would allow us to salvage the most materials or extract highest value of materials
  • CROWD partner network working on policy changes and advising municipalities in Finger Lakes region and central NY on how to maximize salvage and deconstruction in local communities – developing model deconstruction ordinance
  • Hope to inform some of Ithaca Green New Deal decisions regarding what is operational carbon neutrality and what is embodied carbon neutrality – how does carbon neutrality and decarbonization look when we approach it holistically?
  • By going into buildings, by deconstructing them, and understanding how they were built, we’re gathering information to develop archetypes
  • Peter: Distinction between operational carbon neutrality and embodied carbon neutrality is really important

Q&A

  • Karim Beers: Most of buildings in NYS that will be around in 2050 have already been built – what’s your sense of relative importance of deconstruction compared to kind of repair and reduce that Dian was talking about? What sort of policies are needed to stop making stuff that's built for dump?
  • Felix: We're turning over about 2% of built environment per year so most of what is going to be there in 2050 is already around now – best thing we can do with building is to adaptively reuse it
  • Last resort is taking it down and deconstructing it, taking demolition out of picture completely
  • S. produces about 600 million tons of demolition and deconstruction waste per year, twice the amount of every product that ends up as municipal solid waste
  • That’s what is being produced in your name as construction and demolition waste every week – we're just not aware of it because we're not dealing with it personally
  • Need to address immense amount of stuff that goes into landfill – much of it comes from demolition so we can have big impact if we change way we deal with buildings end of a life
  • In the process we save not only material values, but also historic values, the kind of knowledge and skill embedded in these materials as a local value – we can bring them back through retrofitting
  • We don't need to produce new materials to retrofit and decarbonize and make our buildings futureproof
  • David Kay: Diane, could you talk a little more about where the constraints in system really are right now? Where are limits for the industry as whole?
  • Diane: Especially from climate standpoint, the more local it is, the more impactful it is to keep building standing and repairing things as they are -- all the stuff is here in community – none of it should go into landfill if it's good, serviceable material
  • We should be contracting to manage reusable materials just like Casella contracts to handle recycling
  • We need large scale spaces for processing building materials, for appliance repair, mattress refurbishment, and like
  • Also need infrastructure for large scale retail outlets, places where exchanges of materials can take place, where people can drop stuff off conveniently and purchase things
  • Finger Lakes ReUse is demonstrating we can meet people where they are, engage them, help them build skills, and help them build consistency in their work practices
  • We're the overlooked middle name in “reduce, reuse, and recycle” – but there’s ton of interest right now and we're trying to figure out how to scale up and provide technical assistance to other communities
  • Brian Eden: I know Diane is working on comments for the Climate Action Council’s draft scoping plan – what about you Felix? Will you be submitting comments for building sector? You have unique contribution to make
  • Felix: Yes, embodied carbon in built environment not mentioned in current draft – big missing pieces in conversation about carbon emissions and carbon neutrality in NYS
  • Dawn Montanye: I’ve always thought about this work being niche market when it comes to purchasing construction materials, but clearly it needs to be a mainstream market – what are your thoughts?
  • Diane: Finger Lakes ReUse demonstrating the mainstreaming of purchasing construction materials – we have hard time keeping them in stock
  • To get contractors buying in, you need a certain amount of volume, and you can't have volume until you have the right size facility and workforce
  • When people realize it’s high-quality stuff and it's half the price you’d pay at Lowe's or Home Depot, they will stop at Reuse first – already happening
  • Felix: Matching demand and supply in generation of buildings actually one of key problems in scaling reuse
  • If we take scaling seriously, we want to get to point where big contractors who are building 20 townhouses are coming in to Finger Lakes ReUse to get their materials
  • But for that to be possible, we need to change whole system
  • Right now architect starts by designing form that looks great – then architect talks with engineer who says you’re going to need to do this and this -- specific list of materials comes out of requirements resulting from conversation that started with a form
  • What if you turn process upside down and say, we have these materials available – what can we make with them? Whole conversation changes – need to start material conversation way earlier than we're doing right now
  • we need to know way before we take materials out of a building what these materials are and what qualities they have so that ideally we can pre-sell them before we even start deconstructing
  • Peter: Whole notion of starting with materials first and then figuring out what forms you can build from them strikes me as source of a lot of vernacular architecture: begin with the materials you have at hand
  • Felix: It’s reason why Singapore and Dubai and New York look identical now – because we start from the form and then decide what material can create this form – often it’s reinforced concrete and that leads to material monopoly, which leads to really questionable supply chains
  • Peter: in a sense, the new vernacular architecture will come out of reusing those materials that we've already used to construct buildings that were not driven by materials, but by form -- so now we have to take that process, as you said, and completely rethink it -- it'll be really interesting to see how that evolves over next few decades
  • Al George: Both of your talks, Diane and Felix, gave me feeling that we're at beginning of something big –both of you are really pioneering how to scale this kind of thing
  • It seems like reuse can have significant impact on standard of living – you lower costs and create higher standard of living for any particular group of people who do this – in process, you save money and keeps things from landfill
  • Diane: If we're going to do $2.4 million this year, that's probably $2.4 million of economic relief that we're providing to X number of households but I'm not sure how else to break that down further
  • Karim: Are there examples of municipal policy that require reuse of construction materials? Seems like a good direction to go in – has anybody got gone that far down road to actually create policies that drive this kind of reuse?
  • Felix: No mandatory requirements yet to build a building out of reuse materials, at least not in U.S.

 

Citizens Climate Lobby – Leon Porter

Leon Porter, a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, Southern Finger Lakes, updated the group on the chapter’s recent activities and prospects for the passage of federal carbon fee and dividend legislation.

  • Leon has been a member of the Southern Finger Lakes chapter since September – Citizens Climate Lobby started out with one chapter in 2007 and now has over 590 chapters on every continent except Antarctica – he’ll be focusing on U.S.
  • S. Climate Citizens Lobby pursues five different tactics to achieve its political goals:
    • Lobbying Congress – generally one chapter for each congressional district
    • Media relations – letters to the editors, op eds, and meetings with editorial boards working to place stories in all forms of media
    • Grassroots outreach – giving presentations like this as well as training
    • Grassroots engagement – building connections with local community leaders and non-governmental organizations
  • Focused primarily on the national carbon fee and dividend approach as climate solution – not an adequate solution on its own and we support other climate solutions, but this is our main focus
  • Committed to finding common values and building consensus – treating everyone with respect and working for common interest
  • Rely largely on volunteers – not a top-down organization – members trusted to make important decisions
  • Nonpartisan – believe in working across party lines and engaging both Democrats and Republicans
  • Southern Finger Lakes Chapter has 425 members – its boundaries same as the old 23rd congressional district – with redistricting, looks like they’ll be working with people from two different districts going forward
  • Need a solution that can drive large scale change quickly – we need big solutions that can work fast enough to make a difference
  • Also need a solution that will not disproportionately impact lower-income people – in fact, it should preferably benefit people with lower incomes more
  • In addition, solution should be healthy not only for the planet but also for economy – help create jobs and keep economy strong while also promoting environmental health
  • We want solution that has enough durable popular support that it won't shift with next change in political leadership
  • Finally, we need a solution that will give people a lot of choice – provide incentives to make climate smart choices without dictating what choices they should make
  • We believe carbon fee and dividend fulfills these criteria – number of different bills before Congress and different ways this has been done in other nations
  • Basically, you charge fee on fossil fuels at source, usually where they're mined or at refineries – fee starts low and then gradually increases each year
  • Gives economy a chance to adapt and people a chance to adjust their behaviors
  • Money from fee goes to government and then is directly given back to households as dividend – most people should break even and middle- and lower-income people should come out ahead
  • Overall, will motivate people to reduce their fossil fuel use
  • Five bills in Congress but Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act has most support and is most likely to pass – 96 co-sponsors in House, including both Republicans and Democrats
  • Imposes fee on carbon content of fossil fuels and on carbon intensive materials whose production releases greenhouse gases into atmosphere -- so it would charge fee not just on fossil fuels but also on materials like glass, paper, iron, steel, and chemicals
  • Fee imposed on producers and importers of fuels or carbon intensive products – starts out at rate of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions or equivalent from other GHG emissions – increases by $10 each year – can be adjusted depending on inflation and on progress in reducing emissions
  • Exceptions for fuels used in agriculture and in military and also for fuels used for non-emitting purposes
  • Credits given for carbon capture and sequestration – border adjustments are fees on imported fuels or imported products – important for stopping “leakage,” which involves shifting carbon emissions outside U.S.
  • Net revenue from fee goes into a carbon dividend trust fund, which by law could only be used for dividend payments and administrative expenses – dividends dispersed monthly to all US citizens and legal residents, one share to every adult and half a share to every child
  • If carbon emissions don't go down as quickly as required, then carbon fee will increase to make sure we're meeting those targets -- actual emissions reductions aren't required to start for few years
  • In all likelihood, emissions will actually start going down immediately because businesses will want to adjust – bill will encourage businesses to find most cost effective ways to lower carbon emissions
  • CCL believes this approach works better than a regulatory approach because you'll need a lot of regulations and associate bureaucracy to achieve same reductions
  • Regulations don't account for individual circumstances, and they don't easily reward innovative ways or new strategies for achieving reductions
  • Carbon fee and dividend allows more flexibility than regulations and likely to cost a lot less money – potentially more effective in long run by promoting innovative solutions
  • Projected to create lots of new clean energy and energy efficiency jobs to reduce emissions – estimated that investing in clean energy will create approximately three times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels
  • Net climate and health benefits of this carbon tax estimated to be $800B each year – in contrast, if we fail to take climate action, economists estimate global wealth could fall by 5% per year between now and 2100
  • Bill will also save 4.5M lives over next 50 years by providing cleaner air – poor air quality responsible for as many as one in ten American deaths per day -- will prevent 3.5M hospital visits over next 50 years and restore about 300 million workdays that would otherwise be lost because of air pollution and heat
  • About 60% will come out ahead and 20% more will break even or come close to doing so
  • Specifically for NY District 23 about 91% of residents are expected to either come out ahead or only suffer minor loss – 74% in our congressional district will actually come out ahead and another 17% will only have minor loss – 98% of lowest income households will come out ahead
  • Carbon fee expected to bring in about $20M in first year and grow significantly over next several years
  • After about ten years it'll stabilize and start going down because with less carbon being emitted there won't be as much to impose fee on
  • In first year, average household in Tompkins County would get net benefit of $15 a month and energy costs would increase by about $29 a month -- that same family would get dividend of $44 a month, so they'd come out ahead
  • Possible that bill could be included in reconciliation bill – negotiations now ongoing – Sen. Manchin, who is main stumbling block to climate legislation has said he is open to including climate legislation in stripped down reconciliation bill
  • If this does pass, it will probably pass within next several months, pass before congressional elections this year
  • Over 100 cities around country have endorsed a carbon fee and dividend policy, and dozens of major organizations and leaders have signaled their support for this type of legislation
  • We've been lobbying Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer and Rep. Reid – we've been doing presentations, contacting legislators, and publishing op eds
  • We now have 57 formal endorsements within NY 23rd District, including 20 in Tompkins County – if you or your organization would like to formally endorse the CDA or just endorse idea of carbon fee and dividend, please let me know
  • Currently, we’re working on a climate survey our chapter will send to candidates in 2022 congressional primaries – of course, this has been complicated by the debate over redistricting
  • Also our chapter is involved in commenting on Climate Action Council's draft scoping plan – requesting carbon fee and dividend in NYS, although not as effective on state level as on national level
  • You can't do same kind of border adjustment on goods coming in from out of state – possible, however, to do impose sales tax on fuels, carbon intensive products, and fossil fuel generated electricity that's sold in state – dividend could be some kind of annual tax rebate
  • We are also conducting national and international campaign to stand with Ukraine by urging rapid transition to clean energy to reduce demand for Russian fossil fuels – Ukrainian conflict underscores long term costs of depending on fossil fuels from unfriendly foreign nations

Q&A

  • Martha Robertson urged Leon to take carbon fee and dividend issue to new county legislature – a lot of new members who probably haven't heard about it
  • Martha also pointed out that impending European Union tariff that's supposed to go into effect January 2023 that will charge a tariff or fee on any imports into EU from countries that don't have their own carbon price
  • If we don't pass our own carbon price, our exports to EU are going to be at disadvantage – I hope CCL is using that argument in Washington – it has to pass in this session of Congress or else we’ll find ourselves at a competitive disadvantage
  • Brian Eden: Rep. Reed has supported both solar and geothermal in past so there is Republican support for some kind of climate action – but he didn't hold out much hope for something beyond extending tax credits in this session
  • Sarah Carson: I've seen lots of articles popping up recently about fossil fuel industry coming out in support of carbon pricing – is there hidden agenda or modification that fossil fuel industry might be pushing for or risk in partnering with them to advancing this policy?
  • Leon: American Petroleum Institute recently decided to endorse carbon fee and dividend – I understand why that might arouse suspicions, but I don't think there's a hidden agenda
  • They are obviously concerned with maximizing their profits and I think they realize that they are going to be facing climate regulations one way or another – they're seeing that momentum is growing to take much stronger action on climate, and they recognize that a carbon fee and dividend will not impact their profits as much as other possible solutions in part because of its predictability
  • Fee will increase gradually each year and they’ll be able to plan for it because they will be able to know what’s happening with it years down road
  • Ultimately, we need we need support from unlikely partners to get some kind of climate action to pass
  • Peter pointed out historical parallel railroad regulation at turn of 20th century – actual federal railroad regulation that was eventually put in place was supported by railroad companies because they were looking at a patchwork of state railroad regulations that would have really inhibited their ability to operate across state lines – so they got behind national regulation and it turned out to be one of great reforms of the progressive movement, in part because railroad industry got behind it because they saw the other alternatives were less predictable and could have bigger impact on their bottom line

 

Narch 2022

Cryptocurrency Mining, Pt. 2 – Anna Kelles

Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-125) spoke at our October meeting about the development of cryptocurrency mining in New York, its environmental impact, and her bill calling for a moratorium on proof-of-work cryptomining at power plants in the state. She joined us again this month to provide an update on her bill and the status of the Greenidge Generation application for an air permit.

  • Peter welcomed Anna back and started the discussion by asking her about the March 31st deadline for DEC to issue a decision on the Greenidge air permit renewal application
  • Anna pointed out that DEC can extend deadline indefinitely – also noted that the governor could impose moratorium using her executive authority
  • White paper issued by Sabine Center at Columbia University said legally it was within her purview to issue an executive order for a moratorium – likened it to the use of executive authority to put moratorium on fracking in NYS
  • But limited authority to place moratorium on issuing air and water permits, not on cryptocurrency mining in general – that’s why Anna’s bill calls for full environmental impact assessment of GHG emissions and air and water quality
  • In intense negotiations for the past 12 months to keep moratorium bill from getting stuck in committee – passed out of Environmental Conservation Committee earlier this month in spite of Republican opposition claiming it was an overreach on the part of the legislature and should be left to the appropriate regulatory agencies
  • Less than 8 years to meet goals of the CLCPA – Irene Weiser and Karen Edelstein’s work shows that if all of the proposed cryptocurrency mining operations in upstate NY were launched it would consume 1.3 to 1.6 gigawatts, equivalent of about 750,000 homes
  • Would require us to increase our wind and solar infrastructure by 77% – argument that cryptocurrency can be part of climate solution by taking up excess production is profoundly disingenuous
  • Focused now on getting members of the Ways and Means Committee to support bill and line up necessary number of co-sponsors
  • Cryptocurrency mining industry has spent $50M on efforts to oppose bill, according to NYT
  • Only way cryptocurrency mining can be truly renewable if renewable energy infrastructure is physically on site and energy generated is used by the facility behind the meter
  • Hydroelectric power not unlimited – lot of stress on system currently – due to increase in demand largest hydroelectric dams in state exceeding their capacity
  • Dawn Montanye: Reducing demand should be part of the strategy for achieving our climate goals
  • Anna agreed and said that we need to recognize that renewable energy infrastructure is itself energy intensive and we can’t just keep producing more power to meet growing demand
  • Also solar is in direct competition with farms we depend on to produce our food supply – will be increasingly critical if climate change continues and Northeast becomes country’s breadbasket
  • Increasing opposition in upstate to large wind development will also place constraints on expansion of renewable energy
  • In addition, electrification of buildings and transportation is going to place serious pressure on grid
  • Sara Hess: How is it still a good investment to be putting money into expanding proof of work technology in face of newer, less energy intensive methods for validating transactions?
  • Anna: Greenidge made $40 million gross in the third quarter of last year alone and that was with 7,000 rigs – their goal is to expand to 32,000 rigs
  • Tremendous resistance to making transition due to consolidation of wealth and market in bitcoin mining – against self-interest of industry and investors to make transition
  • In addition, they claim proof of stake, which is a lot less energy intensive, not as secure – lots of researchers dispute that claim
  • Proof of stake not competitive in nature – system designed to randomly select a user to validate a transaction, unlike proof of work, where validators are directly competing with each other and thus resort to increasing their computer power, which in turn consumes more energy
  • Guillermo Metz: Do you think it’s viable to require cryptocurrency mining operations to put any renewables they develop behind the meter?
  • Anna: That’s why full environmental impact assessments are so important – they will provide us with data required to determine what kind of regulations need to be implemented and to what extent cryptocurrency mining will keep us from meeting our CLCPA targets – will help us understand whether putting renewable energy behind the meter can be solution to cryptocurrency mining
  • Guillermo: Do you see a place for countywide or more localized legislation?
  • Anna: Very difficult to come up with local solution like zoning – environmental permitting operates at state level
  • Tom Hirasuna: What about General Assembly bill A7866 which directs NYSERDA to conduct study on powering cryptocurrency mining facilities with renewable energy?
  • Anna: For me it’s more important to get moratorium in place – afraid that this approach could be seen as alternative, which would simply delay action – A7866 would be a fallback – my main concern is rate at which the industry is moving into NYS – need to put industry on pause
  • David Kay: Why is NYS so attractive to cryptocurrency mining industry?
  • Anna: Number one factor is availability of cheap energy – second factor is moderate climate where it is less expensive to keep building from heating up due to the computer operations – third factor is clean air to prevent computers from gumming up works with low air quality
  • David: Why are the upstate grid, which is less carbon intensive, not well connected to the downstate grid? What is the status of efforts to improve the interconnection?
  • Anna: NYISO studies still underway – seem to be taking long time to complete – meeting coming up to find out what’s holding them up and when they are expected to be finished
  • Brian Eden: North-South connector recently granted certificate to go into production -- Champlain Hudson runs from Hydro-Quebec down to NYC
  • Hydro power has downsides, especially if you need to create new dams and flood new lands and thus you create more methane – no solution that doesn't have some downside to it – in any event, there will increasing electricity flowing to NYC through that Champlain Hudson connector
  • Anna: Also long-term battery storage technologies need more attention – wish there was more happening at state level than I'm actually seeing – would love to see legislative briefing this summer on the issue with scientists working on technologies for long-term battery storage
  • Irene Weiser: NYISO’s 2022 Power Trends coming out in June – should have update on transmission upgrades
  • There are west to east transmission constraints as well as north to south – also constraints where west to east intersects with north to south lines – but plans are in place and processes underway
  • Anna: My concern is there will be significant costs over and above the usual maintenance expenses – that conversation did not occur during budget season
  • Irene: These added costs should be addressed through state budget process and not through rate cases
  • Anna: Too late, unfortunately, for this budget season but should be priority for next budget – we need to make sure connections exist between environmental advocates pushing state legislators, data on how much it would actually cost to put in place required renewable energy infrastructure, and agencies responsible for it
  • Peter noted that Renewable Heat Now coalition designated Anna a champion legislator for her support of four bills in the RHN legislative package: All-Electric Building Act, Gas Transition Act, a bill to update appliance and equipment energy efficiency standards, and another bill to provide tax credits and sales tax exemptions for geothermal installations
  • Anna: Pushing hard to get geothermal tax exemption into budget this year – the gas transition act would remove the 100-foot rule and that’s an uphill political battle
  • Need to make sure that those left on natural gas aren't disproportionately low-income individuals and households left with burden of fixed cost infrastructure – a lot of pieces to work out, but not insurmountable
  • Governor’s building electrification proposal aimed at 2027 but many of us think that’s too far down road and we should be aiming for 2025 to require all new construction to be fossil free
  • Peter asked about bill to end $350M+ in state fossil fuel subsidies – Anna said she thought prospects of getting it passed this year are not good

TCCPI Issues & Topics for 2022-23 – All

We broke into small groups for 20 minutes and shared thoughts about what issues and topics participants would like to see TCCPI focus on in 2022-23. Then we came back together and shared out. Below are the main points covered in this discussion.

  • Monitor state legislative bills and policies regarding climate and energy issues – also state agency issues (DEC, NYSIO, PSC)
  • How do we prepare folks to be effective advocates?
  • Help develop questionnaire tor candidates running in the new 22nd congressional district race -- work with League of Women Voters?
  • Support city’s building decarbonization & electrification campaign
  • NYSEG rate case underway in late May & impact on IGND
  • Evaluation of climate work in terms of communication, collaboration, and coordination on climate – getting the word out about success stories
  • Cornell faculty research & other work
  • Supporting Ithaca Green New Deal beyond building decarbonization effort --> climate justice/equity
  • Climate impact on lake & related environmental issues – CLEAN, etc.
  • Fears, anxieties, and concerns regarding CLCPA and transition to green economy
  • Transportation issues & challenges need more attention – EVs & multimodal models
  • NYSERDA Energy Hub – awards announced later this spring/early summer
  • Development and growth of green jobs and who benefits? How can we ensure they are shared in equitable way?
  • Community Choice Aggregation – what will it take to work in the City and County?

February 2022

Tompkins Food Future – Don Barber

Tompkins Food Future is a two-year community planning effort aimed at engaging the community in the development of a long-term food system plan. Don Barber, chair of the Food Policy Council of Tompkins County and former Town of Caroline supervisor, provided an overview of the findings from this planning work. He and Katie Hallas, the Community Food System Plan coordinator, are gathering ideas for what should be included in the food system plan, with an eye towards submitting a final draft of the plan to the Tompkins County Legislature this spring.

  • Want to share what we’ve been learning about our local food system and where we’re headed as we put together county’s first ever community food system plan
  • Initiative focused on cultivating better understanding of and appreciation for local food system challenges and strengths, while generating collective vision for our community’s food future
  • Food system plan a roadmap or blueprint for long-term planning, actions, policy, advocacy, and support
  • Can provide common vision and collective energy to strengthen local farm and food economy, take proactive steps to mitigate climate change, and ensure equitable food system
  • After several years of pandemic, even more imperative to build more resilient food system – need to plan now to ensure we have robust farming economy and food secure population
  • Need to collaborate within regional and state food system to become less dependent on global food system
  • Food vital to public health, safety, and welfare of residents – takes up huge portion of urban and rural landscapes
  • Food system intersects with many facets of community: economic development, transportation, environment, energy, water quality, equity, neighborhoods, and more
  • Local food system needs to be strengthened
    • GHG emissions & climate change: food travels 1,500 miles on average to our tables
    • Food expensive in Tompkins County: $8,556 annual expenditure per household on average
    • 9% of adults and 13.6% of children considered food insecure – poor diet contributes to chronic disease and 24% obesity rate in county
  • Equity and community health can benefit from a local, sustainable, equitable food system that everyone can afford
  • Food plan process:
    • Identified key challenges, vulnerabilities, and assets in local food system
    • Captured stories, struggles, concerns, and hopes
    • Will articulate recommendations for future actions and policies based on input
    • After plan developed, will implement changes that move us towards our shared long-term vision
  • Many community members supporting this effort as volunteers – community engagement and input includes public meetings, surveys, interviews, conversations, databases, and reports
  • Farmers in Tompkins County in decline – 55% of farms report net losses and 70% of farms sell less than $40,000 a year
  • 94% of farmland devoted to growing animal feed
  • < 0.9% of farmers are of color
  • Average age of a farmer is 56.8 years old
  • 75% of farms < 180 acres in size – “small farms”
  • 55% of farms reporting net losses
  • Challenges we heard about in conversation with farmers include:
    • Labor / workforce issues (costs, limited, shortage)
    • Transitions (mature farms ready for new ownership, no one to take up reigns, barriers for new and minority farmers)
    • Profitability (supplemental off-farm income, regulations, limited access to retail markets, distributors to wider markets, and processors for value add, high costs of production)
    • Scale and markets (biggest challenge is marketing, limited capacity)
    • Regulatory burden (one size fits all, impedes access to new and diverse markets)
    • Land access (systemic racism, rising costs, dev pressures)
    • Climate change (significant impacts w/ more time / energy / resources required)
  • Production opportunities for farmers:
  • Financial incentives and transition support for retiring and beginning farmers
  • Education, training, and mentorship program expansion to prepare and support beginning farmers
  • Financial investment in small farmers who wish to expand would increase capacity in our local food system
  • Climate impact education would help farmers prepare, plan, and maintain resiliency
  • Climate mitigation funds would help farmers invest in infrastructure
  • Payments for ecosystem services would increase the carbon carrying / water retention capacity of cultivated areas
  • Collective infrastructure such as a grower’s cooperative would help farmers position themselves for growth
  • Food systems education expansion for children and area residents
  • Food insecurity in Tompkins County on rise – $7.5M needed to make up budget shortfall of food insecure families – higher levels of food insecurity among Black residents
  • Average meal here 17% more expensive than national average
  • 62% of county residents eligible for SNAP benefits are not enrolled – one-third of food insecure residents not eligible
  • Climate uncertainty promises food system instability – warming, extreme weather events, flooding, drought will likely reduce ability to access preferred foods and increase grocery bills
  • Opportunities to address food insecurity include:
    • Pay living wage to help more households afford food
    • Make SNAP participation easier to increase food budgets of the 62% of eligible households not currently enrolled
    • Provide free transportation for food access to support use of SNAP and WIC benefits
    • Provide free/low-cost food delivery for low-income households to minimize burden transportation places on food access
    • Expand community outreach to inform residents about their options and reduce stigma associated with financial food assistance and free grocery programs
    • Improve data and resource management for food donations, food rescue, and perishable items to optimize distribution of emergency food
    • Develop food assistance workforce to increase quality food and service in emergency food program
  • Food waste misuse of valuable resources – food single largest component of solid waste in landfills and incinerators – major source of methane emissions
  • 3M pounds of food waste composted annually by Cayuga Compost – 120K pounds of food scraps collected

  • Barriers to improving food waste situation:
    • Access to food scrap drop spots difficult for people without bike or car transportation, especially in low-income neighborhoods
    • Lack of small- to medium-sized collectors and community composting sites limit composting options for residents and businesses
    • Funding isn’t sufficient to expand all aspects of food reduction and recovery, small and moderate food scrap collectors, and processors
    • Curbside food scrap collection not currently available in any municipality, despite successful, since-concluded pilot program in City of Ithaca
    • Education and training related to composting needed -- people often don’t see direct benefit, have had negative experiences due to incorrect practices, or simply lack know-how
    • Having space to compost outdoors is challenge for many residents, especially those who rent in city (70%)
    • Businesses concerned about liability and food safety, refuse to donate all of edible, yet unsalable food
  • Process of how good gets to our plates complex, obscure, and poorly understood
    • Nationally, 85% to 90% of food produced processed, distributed, and marketed by agribusiness conglomerates
    • Supplying seasonal items from local farms at wholesale levels requires great deal of flexibility, lessens competitiveness with larger, diversified distributors
    • Scaling up operations at farms and value-added processing requires access to capital, facilities, technical expertise, understanding regulatory environment, sourcing supplies, and sufficient business support
    • Access to USDA-approved slaughterhouses limited due to regulatory requirements and shortage of trained butchers, causing multi-year backlogs
    • Hiring workers ongoing challenge due to national shortage of drivers, packers – low-skilled workers hard to come by and high cost of labor in NYS makes production expensive
  • “Food environment” includes grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, specialty markets, institutional food service, farmers markets, restaurants, public schools, and emergency food shelters
    • 105 full service and 74 fast food restaurants – only five provide living wage
    • 3,279 workers in food retail sector – annual average wage of $37K
    • Food service workers feel undervalued – lack of visibility and support
    • Hiring and retention significant challenges in food retail
    • Corporate decision-making restricts local retailers’ ability to buy local
    • Institutional food service limitations make it hard to incorporate local, seasonal
    • Local farmers lack incentives to sell to institutional buyers who require low prices relative to direct market sales
    • Volume and consistency of local food supply most challenging variables for retailers and restaurants trying to source local products
  • Key findings about food consumption in county
    • Fruits and Vegetables: 9 out of 10 Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables – in TC, only 32% of our community survey respondents claimed to eat two or more servings daily and 24% admitted to eating less
    • Limited Access to Nutritious, Fresh, Culturally Appropriate Foods: Produce challenging to distribute and keep fresh, so small retailers and many pantries opt for shelf-stable food options – convenience foods do not fill the nutritional, cultural, or preferential needs of county residents
    • Eating Out: Almost half of our meals are prepared by others – added salt, sugar, and fat in restaurant and other prepared foods difficult to identify and manage when ordering from menu or picking up quick meal
    • Chronic Illness: More than half of adults and more than one-quarter of school-age youth in Tompkins County are at risk for progression to diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease
  • Food system vision: sustainable, equitable, healthy, and affordable for all members of our community
  • Need to move local food system in three directions:
  • Build Resilience
  • Cultivate Equity, Sovereignty, and Economic Opportunity
  • Promote Human and Ecosystem Health
  • Steps towards implementation of plan:
    • Collaborate with community and stakeholders to develop food system plan recommendations and finalize it in spring 2022
    • Provide support and coordination for collaboration among local governments, organizations, institutions, businesses, and community groups to implement recommendations and achieve shared food systems goals
    • Develop and gather signatures on a Tompkins Food Future Charter based on Food System Plan – encourage stakeholders to become champions, get involved in food system, provide endorsements, and provide funding as sponsors

 

Recent Developments with the Finger Lake Land Trust – Andy Zepp

The Finger Lakes Land Trust has been especially active in recent months, most notably with efforts involving Bell Station and Camp Barton. Andy Zepp, executive director, updated the group on this recent land and water conservation work that will strengthen the climate resiliency of the region.

  • Finger Lake Land Trust works with variety of farms – primary goal is to secure land base for future so best soils available for farming and to ensure adequate watershed protection
  • Trying to find scalable niche for our region other than growing commodity crops for cows and other animals a huge challenge – taking the long view
  • Work in 12 counties that equal size of Vermont – been in operation for about 32 years – have protected more than 28,000 acres to date
  • Lot of work is watershed based, especially in light of increase in toxic algae outbreaks – 40% of FLLT service area in upper Susquehanna watershed
  • Network of more than 35 nature preserves open to public -- established with trails, parking lots, and wayfinding signage
  • 160 conservation easements – perpetual agreements on land that remains in private ownership protect land ranging from small area of pristine lake front to 600-acre farm
  • Unlike many other land trusts, FLLT has developed enough financial liquidity to buy land in partnership with other nonprofits or state and local governments that would otherwise be lost to market
  • Bell Station is most ambitious effort so far along these lines – originally site of proposed nuclear power plant that was never built – 500-acre property originally put together by NYSEG more than 50 years ago
  • FLLT has been pursuing this property for decade – single largest tract of undeveloped shoreline in all of Finger Lakes – 3400 feet that is easily accessible due to railway that runs along entire length
  • Includes significant amount of forest land as well as land leased for agriculture
  • Plan was to put it up for public auction but thanks to community call for Governor Hochul to step in, which she did
  • FLLT negotiated purchase contract – expects to own property by early May due in large part to generous low-interest loan from Park Foundation as well as FLLT’s own internal revolving loan fund
  • So far $360,000 raised towards gap of $500,000 – hope is that FLLF will be made whole when entire $500,000 raised and then dollars raised will go back into internal revolving fund for future use
  • Forest and first row of fields will be taken over by NY DEC to be used as state wildlife management area that is publicly accessible – should be really popular site for outdoor recreation
  • Fields beyond that to Lake Ridge Rd. may be possible 200-acre site for solar array – but FLLT doesn’t want to be involved in any project that would facilitate bitcoin mining at nearby Milliken Station
  • Eventually hope to sell shoreline to NYS – will probably take at least 1 to 1 ½ years
  • Acquired 200 acres just north of Myers Point from Sims family for Cayuga Cliffs Nature Preserve in 2021 – Sims family also donated conservation easement on land they are retaining
  • Would like to use open fields on property for grazing but challenging to find right arrangement for that
  • Away from lake, FLLT has been working on putting together a green belt – the Emerald Necklace – as ecological resource and recreational attraction
  • Another recent acquisition involved a seven-acre field in a key location bordering Route 13 on Finger Lakes Trail near Treman Park
  • Land zoned as industrial but bought by the trust for $133,000 to avoid its likely fate of becoming a mini-storage or propane facility – site of informal parking lot that people use on weekend as public access point to trail
  • Emerald Necklace includes 50,000 acres of former Depression-era farms acquired by state and federal governments
  • FLLT trying to maintain connections between these lands as development in valleys spreads out from Ithaca – includes headwaters of all streams that feed Cayuga Lake and 100 miles of Finger Lakes Trail and dozens of county-designated unique natural areas
  • Will expand trail system as opportunities arise but not completely connected yet
  • Part of purpose behind Emerald Necklace is climate resiliency – these areas of conservation important to plant and animal migration over time because tracts of development can sever their ability to move north
  • Partnering with NYS, Wildlands Project, Nature Conservancy, and other similar organizations to ensure forests extending east and west from Emerald Necklace remain continuous as possible
  • Bobcats, fishers, and black bears making comeback in population as captured by wildlife cameras – underscores importance of sustaining this habitat
  • Another area of focus is south end of Coddington Rd. in Caroline – acquired several properties here and retaining one to manage as Eberhard Nature Preserve
  • Finger Lakes Trail insecure through Coddington-White Church valley so FLLT rerouting it through this nature preserve – building parking area and kiosk and opening it to public this summer
  • Within Emerald Necklace, Sue Compton and John Saylor donated conservation easement on 65 acres of land they own – bordered on three sides by Hammond Hill State Forest and includes headwaters Owego Creek, one of best trout streams in area
  • Conservation easements primary tool for farmland protection
  • FLLT receives state funding through NYs Department of Agriculture and Markets to purchase development rights using conservation easements – provides flexibility in designing agreements involving farms
  • Cyanobacteria outbreaks due in significant part to influx of nutrients from farms using fertilizers – FLLT encouraging proper farming practices to improve lake health, as well as quality of water supply
  • Overly dense residential development on lakefronts also contributes to these outbreaks
  • More frequent and more intense rain events due to climate change have worsened impact of pesticide and fertilizer runoff
  • Boy Scouts need to sell Camp Barton to raise money for indemnification from lawsuits – FLLT and State Parks have been in discussions over the past year about acquiring property
  • Town of Ulysses and Village of Trumansburg in agreement with state about playing role in managing site so it looks like state will purchase about 90 acres for public park and lease property to respective municipalities for them to manage
  • May be gap in timing so FLLT will step in to fill that gap

January 2022

Solar Siting and Land Use – David Kay & Guillermo Metz

David Kay is a senior extension associate in the Department of Global Development at Cornell University and Guillermo Metz is the energy team leader at the Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins County. David and Guillermo have been working on issues raised by large-scale solar development and the opposition that has emerged in response. If New York State is going to achieve the ambitious goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions established by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, then the thorny problems encountered by efforts to build utility-scale solar farms need to be understood and addressed.

David Kay

  • David and Guillermo have been working together closely for the past few years on the issue of solar siting, but especially in the last year
  • David noted that the size of development in solar energy in NYS is important to consider when considering solar siting issues
  • How much do we have, how much do we need, and how do these relate to each other?
  • NY Sun Residential Project
    • About 1.5 GW in NYS (already constructed or in pipeline), broadly distributed across the state
    • Not all solar projects are on record – most projects are completed, with some in construction and a small portion not on record
  • NY Sun Nonresidential Projects
    • About 3.7 GW in NYS – most projects are under 5 MW, which NYSERDA classifies as distributed power
    • Most projects are in pipeline
  • About 4.6 GW in large-scale solar currently – 72 projects in development with 8 cancelled
  • Projects initiated through NYSERDA’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Program sell their renewable energy credits to NYS through a competitive bidding process
  • Smaller projects with less than 20MW of power go through the SEQR process
  • Large number of 20 MW proposed projects (100+ acres in size per project)
  • 9 GW currently in queue – 80% of capacity in projects 50 MW or larger
  • Two large solar projects in queue in Tompkins County, 160 and 200 MW respectively – two other projects have been withdrawn – total of 115 MW across all categories
  • What are factors that affect solar siting?
  • Most important one is access to grid – proximity to transmission line and its capacity
  • Except for Adirondacks most of transmission lines run through rural areas – not as many downstate, around NYC and Long Island
  • Land most suitable for solar projects that are also adjacent to transmission lines tends to be located away from load centers downstate
  • Solar existing or in pipeline:
    • NY Sun: ~5.2 GW
    • NYISO Queue: ~12.2 GW
    • Total ~17.4 GW
  • How much do we need? We don’t really know – NYS official policy is that “market will decide”
  • Back of envelope guesstimate: about 23 GW solar
  • NYSERDA study on supply curves found that at $60/MW maximum economic potential was 2 GW – little supply response above $60/MW
  • Another estimate incorporating impact of climate change concluded we may need between 31 and 39 GW of solar by 2040
  • How much solar we will need obviously affects how much land will be affected
  • Study of 40 largest solar projects (Article 10) found land cover within project’s boundaries distributed as follows:
    • Forest: 33%
    • Cultivated crops: 25%
    • Pasture/hay: 23%
    • Wetlands:12%
    • Other: 7%
  • Total of 48% farmland compared to 46% of acreage classified as agricultural by local assessors
  • Soil types within boundaries of same 40 Article 10 projects:
    • Farmland of statewide importance: 31%
    • Prime farmland: 21%
    • Prime farmland if drained: 25%
    • Not prime farmland: 23%
  • Analysis of “land cover” (satellite data) is similar: 48% agriculture, forest 33%, woody wetland 12%
  • What’s a “small” fraction of prime farmland???
  • 40 Article 10 projects account for 6.5 GW capacity in 28 counties – if all of them are built they would have following impact on farmland:
    • 8% of all soils with agricultural potential in the 28 counties hosting projects
    • 4% of prime farmland soils in those counties
  • What happens when you scale 6.5 GW to 20 GW capacity, assuming similar geographic distribution as current 40 large-scale projects and projected need for solar is about 20 GW?
    • About 6% of all soils with agricultural potential in those 28 counties
    • 4% of prime farmland soils (28 counties)
  • What if we need 40 GW of solar?

 

Guillermo Metz

  • Cornell Cooperative Extension has put together team to develop and implement system-wide response around ag and solar issues
  • Working with ag educators in CCE offices around state to make sure staff inside system understands the issues and what facts are, and then provide them with tools necessary for them to reach out to their communities
  • Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) of 2019 governs overall decarbonization of economy – it establishes following goals:
    • 85% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050
    • 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040
    • 70% renewable energy by 20309,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035
    • 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030
    • 6,000 MW of solar by 2025
    • 22 million tons of carbon reduction through energy efficiency and electrification
  • CLCPA created Climate Action Council and directed it to develop plan for how these goals will be achieved
  • Draft Scoping Plan recently released and is open for public comment through late April – final draft issued by end of year
  • Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act establishes new rules for siting electricity generating facilities – designed to streamline approval process for solar and wind projects
    • Created Office of Renewable Energy Siting and Article 10 process for projects >25 MW
    • Projects between 20 and 25 MW can choose Article 10 route if they wish
    • Project approval still guided by local laws/zoning, however, unless they are found to be “unreasonably burdensome”
  • Concerns from various stakeholders:
    • Municipal planners – concerned about loss of ability to control development within boundaries, but also opportunities.
    • Ag and farmland groups – loss of farmland
    • Rural communities – loss of rural character/viewsheds, but also opportunities
    • Farmers – loss of farmland, but also opportunities
  • NYS doesn’t have eminent domain authority to construct solar and wind projects – but private developers offering farmers attractive payments for their land
  • NY Ag land has long been subject to development pressures but solar adds to these pressures
  • Statewide:
    • 9 million acres land in farms, according to 2018 Agriculture Census
    • 2 million acres of “ag land use” (including 4.6 million in crops, 2.3 million in pasture)
    • American Farmland Trust (AFAT) estimate for NY: about 5 million acres of “high quality agricultural land”
  • Other forms of farmland loss:
    • 253,500 acres of farmland permanently converted over 15 years – about 17,000 acres per year on average
    • Of that, 128,300 is in AFT’s “Nationally Significant” farmland class, a conversion of about 8,600 acres per year
  • What are farmers’ main concerns?
    • What does a lease look like?
    • What protections do I have?
    • Can I still farm the rest of my land?
    • Can I pick where it goes as a part of my farm?
    • How long are leases for?
    • What happens at the end of the lease term?
    • Payment: How much? When?
  • Opportunities for co-siting: how can you keep farmland in production and still have solar capacity?
    • One possibility is to space panels out so you can farm underneath
    • Sheep grazing is another option
  • How is the Cooperative Extension responding to the farmland and solar discussion?
    • Two-day Ag & Solar Summit last year – planning another one for this year
    • Putting together resources and making them available online
    • Established listserve
    • Other activities: lunch & learns, train-the-trainer sessions, road show
    • Einhorn Center for Community Engagement Public Issue Network proposal to fund students working on project
    • Clean Energy Communities program: work with local municipalities on solar siting permits, training for code officers, educating municipal officials about solar and land use issues
  • Cornell’s research focuses on co-siting (pollinators, grazing, food), environmental impacts of solar arrays, planning implications/siting recommendations, and social science research (acceptance, barriers, etc.)
  • Public acceptance for smaller-scale projects and community solar greater than that for large-scale, commercial projects
  • NY-Sun has recently increased rebate for rooftop solar to $0.50/watt to stimulate market

 

Q&A:  

  • What questions and concerns does group have and what would it like to see happen in way of resources for stakeholders, and programs?
  • Irene Weiser: Why not put solar in parking lots?
    • Solar canopies have many issues – bottom line: not affordable compared to installing solar in field
  • Al George: Access to transmission lines – so many places aren’t connected. Why?
  • Political barriers prevent building new transmission lines
  • Economic factors also play big role: transmission lines cost about $1million per mile
  • Certainly not going to happen for a 20 MW facility
  • Most of the money is going into upgrading the capacity of current transmission lines
  • Rick Mancini: NYISO assesses reliability of system annually to figure out where reliability issues will appear in future – once they identify issues, they solicit bids on upgrades to system to alleviate issues
  • Ingrid Zabel: Is growing crops under solar panels actually feasible?
    • Depends on crop -– there are farmers doing this in Europe and parts of U.S.
    • Some herbs can be high profit on relatively small amount of land
    • Early research shows some areas can benefit from solar arrays such as high-drought or heat-stressed areas
  • Peter wrapped up the discussion by pointing out important role offshore wind is going to play going forward if NYS is to meet its climate goals

 

Dairy Farms and Renewable Natural Gas – Irene Weiser

Irene Weiser is the coordinator of Fossil Free Tompkins and a longtime climate and clean energy activist. She has been paying close attention recently to the problems posed by the production and distribution of gas generated by manure ponds big dairy farms in the region.

  • Two industrial-sized dairy farms outside Auburn, NY capture methane from manure using anerobic digesters
  • They have proposed shifting from using the biogas on site to transporting it through Tompkins County to sell on the market: Bluebird Renewable Energy Petition to PSC - Case #21-G-0576
  • Project consists of installing a 5.5-mile pipeline to connect these dairy farms, then collecting and transporting biogas from farms
  • Company would purchase biogas as it leaves each anaerobic digester, condition it to remove impurities, compress it, and then load it into tube trailers – the project “anticipates” delivery to an injection point about 70 miles away near Corning, NY
  • At the injection site, the RNG would be unloaded from tube trailer by a process that would include re -heating, filtering, drying, confirming quality, and metering before the gas enters receiving pipeline
  • Petitioner “currently anticipates that the Project will ship one (1) tube trailer per day.”
  • According to the petition, "depressed power prices and the approaching expiration of carbon credit contracts make conversion to production of pipeline quality RNG a more attractive option“
  • The farms currently use the biogas to generate electricity and heat onsite and sell excess electricity into the electric grid.
  • But now, via petition to PSC, they propose to truck methane through Tompkins County to an injection point in Corning because it makes more economic sense than selling into the grid
  • BUT it may not be better for the environment
  • Methane leakage and use has dramatic impact on climate change – 86x more potent than CO2 over the next 20 years
  • The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) calls for 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2035
  • The petition applies for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCM) due to state’s lack of action to meet this goal
  • Similar to certificate of occupancy: “In making such a determination, the commission shall consider the economic feasibility of the corporation, the corporation's ability to finance improvements of a gas plant or electric plant, render safe, adequate and reliable service, and provide just and reasonable rates, and whether issuance of a certificate is in the public interest”
  • Questionable statements in the petition regarding claim of renewable energy benefits – states “the Project will benefit the participating farms and further New York State’s goals of reducing GHG emissions, as set forth in the Climate Leadership and community Protection Act, by reducing the release of methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere”
  • Then later says “the RNG from the Project will participate in both the U.S. Federal Renewable Fuel Standard and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard programs. The Project’s RNG will annually displace 926,143 gallons of diesel fuel consumed by the transportation market.”
  • But only the owner of the renewable energy credits (RECs) – in this case, California and U.S. can claim the environmental benefit – not clear how NYS derives environmental benefit since it won’t own carbon credits
  • RECs sold to owners who can claim they benefited the environment – attached to renewable energy products to differentiate them from fossil fuel energy products
  • Trucking natural gas dangerous – recent incidents in region:
    • 2/11/17 rollover – Forest Lake, PA
    • 5/27/17 spontaneous venting – Binghamton (closed 4 lanes of interstate)
    • 7/12/17 tipover into ditch – Forest Lake, PA
    • 9/12/17 rollover – Hartwick, NY
    • 12/21/17 collision with car – Little Falls, NY
    • 2/9/18 slide off road – Hartwick, NY
    • 2/22/18 slide off road – Hartwick, NY
    • 3/5/18 mechanical out-of-service, towed – Hartwick, NY
    • 6/2/18 rollover – Bethlehem, NY
    • 6/8/18 spontaneous venting – Little Falls, NY
    • 7/9/18 mechanical out-of-service – Oneonta, NY
    • 7/11/18 rollover (gas leak, evacuated ¼ mile radius, road closed 12 hrs) – Exeter, NY
  • Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PMHSA) has recommended following to reduce these kinds of incidents:
    • Verify Driver Training for High Center of Gravity Vehicle
    • Equip Trucks with Electronic Roll Stability
    • Electronic Monitoring (black box) to record vehicle/drive actions in case of crash
  • Why are NY farmers shipping their gas out of state? What is wrong with NYS policy that it drives farmers to ship their gas out of state instead of getting paid for offsetting their emissions here?
    • NYSERDA program providing carbon credits for biogas are expiring, not plans to extend
    • CLCPA doesn’t regard biogas as renewable energy – hence biogas-generated electricity is not eligible for RECs or VDER pricing
    • Climate Action Council has been divided on RNG issue
    • Best option is to convert biogas to electricity via fuel cell (no combustion) – still experimental and costly – also will it count as renewable per CLCPA?
  • Issues that need to be addressed in comments to PSC:
    • Per CLCPA 7.2, need full lifecycle analysis of GHG emissions from proposed project vs existing biogas system.
    • No Double Counting Carbon Credits!!
    • Safety requirements per PHMSA need to be addressed – also safety and evacuation planning with emergency responders for all municipalities CNG trucks will pass through
    • Instead of transporting biogas out of state, we need to push for NYS policy change to provide more reimbursement for farmers who generate electricity onsite and feed it into the grid
  • Petition leaves many questions about the project unanswered
  • Public Statement Hearing Feb 2 (register by Feb 1)

Meeting Highlights: 2022

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to the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative

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