I received several thoughtful comments from our readers concerning the last column and would like to address them.
The investment bank Lazard published the most recent Lazard’s “Levelized Cost of Energy and Storage” in late 2020. The comprehensive report includes all the costs of creating and storing a megawatt of power including land, construction, operating and maintenance.
According to the Lazard report, new, unsubsidized utility scale power sources have the following midpoint levelized costs per megawatt hour: solar $34, offshore wind $86, on-shore wind $40, nuclear $164 and combined cycle gas $59.
It is pretty easy to see that money drives political decision-making especially when deciding between new nuclear, wind and solar power. Offshore wind is relatively expensive, but unlike solar, it can occasionally generate base load power. The public is less likely to resist offshore wind, and one of the windiest places in the U.S. is off Long Island.
New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. The law will propel New York towards a climate change friendly economy that will rely much less on burning fossil fuels for energy by 2050.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan is ambitious. It calls for an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable energy by 2030.
In 2020, New York derived approximately 0.1% of its electricity from petroleum, 1% from coal, 36% from natural gas, 30% from nuclear, 26% hydroelectric, 5% wind and solar and 2% biomass.
The shut down of the Indian Point nuclear plant on the Hudson River, completed in April 2021, decreases carbon-free nuclear power to 20% of the state total and increases greenhouse gas emitting natural gas to 46%, with two new natural gas plants in Orange and Dutchess Counties now operating.
This doesn’t make sense if carbon-free electricity is the goal.
SEMINAR – 8:30 – 11 a.m. Learn about the progress in bringing Broadband internet to Otsego County from Otsego Electric Cooperative CEO Tim Johnson. Free, registration required. Presented by The Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. 607-432-4500 or visit otsegocc.com
ENERGY WORKSHOP – 6:30 – 8 p.m. Learn how homeowners can reduce energy bill, impact on environment in NYS with speakers from local organizations like Heat Smart Otsego, Revolution Solar, others. Refreshments available. Free, registration requested. Awestruck Cider, 8 Winkler Rd., Sidney. 607-282-4087 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/clean-energy-workshop/
ONEONTA – Coming off a week of “Town Halls,” with students, small-business owners and farmers, U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-19, said in a teleconference press briefing this morning that while there were “critically important” national issues, most people in his district want to know “how do we improve the area.”
In discussing how to improve the area, Delgado often framed his responses in big corporations/industry/Washington insiders versus the little guy: i.e., his constituents. He cited a poll published yesterday in the Washington Post that found 60 percent of Americans feel that way.
Jay Egg, CEO, Geo Egg, inset photo, speaks about heating Southside Mall with geothermal energy at a packed Oneonta Town Board meeting this evening in West Oneonta, as Town Board member Randal Mowers listens. “The writing is on the wall,” Egg said about future energy use. Municipalities and counties like Westchester are already declaring moratoriums on expanding natural-gas use while the state is green-lighting renewable energy. The Town of Oneonta is considering installing a geothermal heating system in Southside and other parts of the municipality, while the City of Oneoneta this week contracted with Geo Egg for a feasibility study on retrofitting a geothermal heating system in South Main Street. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT – 7 – 9 p.m. Join panel to discuss Economic development, renewable energy possibilities, existing conservation/renewable energy programs, more with Karl Seeley professor of economics at Hartwick, Dan Butterman candidate for NYS Assembly district 121, Leslie Orzetti executive director Otsego County Conservation Association. Followed by Q&A session. Elm Park Methodist Church, 401 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Visit www.facebook.com/Concerned-Citizens-of-Oneonta-196346611258936/
Those who oppose using fossil fuels to provide the bulk of our energy needs without offering viable alternatives are depriving this and future generations of job opportunities. When our country attempts to keep our illegal immigrants seeking to enter our country illegally in pursuit of jobs, Nancy Pelosi and those aligned with her call it “immoral”. What should we call doing that to our own citizens?
When those opposed to fossil fuels argue against them, they point to their environmental impacts, especially their contribution to “climate change” and laud renewables as being “pure” when it comes to the environment. Is that really the case?
To the Editor:
Albert Colone’s letter in your Dec. 20-21 editions suggested a “municipal microgrid” might be something the different factions in the energy discussion could all agree on. The letter touched on technical matters that deserve discussion.
We need to understand that a “microgrid” refers to a local electric grid that can be isolated and continue to function for an extended period even when the larger grid goes down. Of course, the main grid is very reliable so, in fact, we don’t need a microgrid.
Colone writes that solar panels and wind turbines could provide electricity and heat for a complex at the railyards with gas used only as back up.
First, because of intermittency of solar and wind power, any microgrid that must support several buildings or run in “island mode” (off the main grid) for an extended period must primarily rely on hydropower or gas.
To the Editor:
Two reports and a conference warning that climate is warming due to human activity, i.e., greenhouse gases (GHG). This warming will “disrupt many areas of life,” affecting trade and precipitating conflicts.
Let’s assume for the moment that the data warrants the conclusion – man-made GHGs are the cause of global warming. How do we solve this problem? What works?
For smooth transitions to a less carbon-intensive future, the best path is the use of natural gas – the bridge fuel. Two decades of data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) is testimony to its efficacy.
According to the EIA, the substitution of gas for coal in power plants has lowered CO2 in the USA to levels not seen since the late 1980s. This happened while population and GDP grew over the same period.
If We Want Solar Energy,
Let’s Get Serious About It
If we care about solar energy, it’s time to get serious about it, don’cha think?
Happily, Otsego 2000 may be doing just that, having taken a leadership role among local environmental groups on this matter. On Feb. 24, its board adopted a resolution that reads, in part:
“Climate change, driven in large party by fossil-fuel use, is a significant threat to our region and way of life.
“We call for and support energy conservation and efficiency to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the necessity or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure and delivery systems.
“In addition, we call for and support smart development for renewable energy sources to meet the goals adopted by New York State for greenhouse-gas reductions.”
Caveat (conservation first), then support.
The resolution continues in the same vein. It supports rooftop solar panels. And solar farms, but again with caveats: Put them on “previously disturbed areas,” protect farmland, “protect historic, cultural and scenic resources,” maintain conserved lands. This is fine, and clearly in synch with Otsego 2000’s overarching mission – to protect, not develop.
But if, in fact, we want solar energy around here, a more affirmative strategy is necessary.
The most significant solar project proposed so far in Otsego County – thousands of panels on 50 acres north of Morris – is on hold, according to Chet Feldman, spokesman for Distributed Solar, Washington D.C. As he explained it, a PSC ruling last year on economical proximity to power lines, and federal tariffs made the project “not conducive,” at least for the time being.
Promisingly, Feldman said “We’re always looking forward to doing business in New York.” So it, or another project, may still happen.
So far though, solar power locally is limited to boutique uses: People who can afford it equipping their homes with panels. Otherwise, the Solar City installation near Laurens, by county government for county government, is the only functioning solar farm in the county. (Thank you, county Rep. Jim Powers, R-Butternuts, now retired, for pioneering it.)
If Otsego 2000, Sustainable Otsego, OCCA and other environmentally focused entities – goodness, even the Clark Foundation – really wants solar power widely used here, they need to say so and go after it, without the caveats.
If it chose to be, muscular Otsego 2000 certainly has the clout to get it done.
Meanwhile, Otsego 2000’s executive director, the able Ellen Pope, has taken the new policy seriously, attending a forum March 27 organized by Scenic Hudson, and – she reports – well attended by municipal officials from around the state.
It’s complicated. Large installations – 25 megawatts and up – fall under state Article 10 regulations for siting electric-generating facilities, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2011. Below that, a good town plan can guide where things happen, or don’t.
Attendees were advised, “plan for the town you want.” Of course, we all know that means: Keep everything the way it is. If we really care about global warming, about renewables, about humankind’s survival, that probably won’t fill the bill.
The Otsego 2000 policy dwells on what needs to be protected. But let’s turn it around. Let’s identify appropriate sites – sure, brownfields (Shur-Katch in Richfield Springs, maybe), former landfills, acreage shielded from public view – those black panels are ugly – and so on.
It might make sense to rule solar farms out, period, in the extra-protected Otsego Lake watershed. It makes sense to extra-protect a national environmental icon. But that leaves plenty of space elsewhere in Otsego County.
The Morris installation, tucked in the beauteous Butternut Creek Valley, would have been an eyesore, and perhaps polluted the creek, too. The county’s Solar City site is in a former gravel pit – ideal.
If Otsego 2000 could identify ideal spots for solar farms – a half dozen, a dozen, even more – and put the regulations in place to enable them, it would be doing our 60,094 neighbors (as of last July 1, and dropping) a favor. When a solar developer shows up, no problemo, with enhanced tax base and jobs to follow.
Plus, an itty bit, we might even help save Planet Earth.