On December 19, 2022 the Climate Action Council charged with developing strategies to implement New York’s “Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act” issued the “Scoping Plan” that outlines their recommendations to meet a net-zero goal by 2050. This year the Department of Environmental Conservation will propose regulations and the Legislature will consider legislation to implement those recommendations.
The Scoping Plan outlines how to “achieve the State’s bold clean energy and climate agenda.” In brief, that plan is to electrify everything possible and power the electric grid with zero-emissions generating resources by 2040. I have found that New York’s emissions are less than one half of one percent of global emissions and that the average increase in global emissions is greater than one half of one percent. In other words, even if we eliminate our emissions, the increase in global emissions will replace our reductions in less than a year. That does not mean we should not do something, but it does mean that we can and should take the time to be sure that the things we mandate do not do more harm than good and that tradeoffs between today’s resilient and affordable energy system and an “all-electric” energy future are considered.
The Town of Columbia is being pitched a 350 megawatt solar and 20 MW battery storage project by French owned, and San Diego based EDF Renewables. The project outreach to local landowners began quietly in 2019 and will require approximately 2,200 usable, contiguous acres—equal to 10 percent of the land in the Town of Columbia, which is known to have some of the most fertile farmland in the state.
The flood of large solar projects around New York State popping up over the last few years is fueled by the state’s aggressive goal of using 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. In 2019, the state passed and signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which led to the creation of the Office of Renewable Energy Siting and, through executive law, the 94-c process, in efforts to speed up and ease the permitting process that project developers had long sought.
The most important news item of the 21st century occurred on Tuesday, December 13. It was not about the war in Ukraine. It was not about the U.S. political crisis or political crises anywhere else in the world. It had nothing to do with the ongoing three-year pandemic that we’ve gone through and which is now being exacerbated by epidemics of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and other diseases. The most important news item of the 21st century was the announcement by the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California of the ability to create a thermal nuclear fusion reaction that generated more energy than it took to initiate it.
Allowing for the fact that there was additional energy needed to set up the experiment, the importance is that the actual reaction produced more energy than went into starting it.
On Sunday, October 16 from 3-4:30 p.m., Cooperstown’s Friends of the Village Library and Otsego 2000 will co-host a 90-minute panel discussion on how New York State’s energy plan will affect the community.
Topics will include the process for siting of renewable energy projects, the possible use of farmland and forest and how multiple use might be encouraged, and the present and future energy demands in our region and state and how those demands might be met.
We at Otsego 2000 applaud the progress that has been made at local, state, and federal levels with regard to clean, renewable, and carbon-free energy production and we hope that this is only the beginning for serious, thoughtful, and timely policies to protect our environment.
At the local level, leaders in Cooperstown have contracted with solar power producers in the North Country region to offset 100 percent of the electrical demand for municipal buildings in Cooperstown, with production likely by 2023 and with a price tag favorable to the village. Not only did the village make this commitment to a renewable source of energy, but they performed due diligence by investigating the solar contractor and assuring themselves that prime agricultural land use was respected. Secondly, the Village of Cooperstown has installed EV chargers in the Doubleday parking lot, and heat pumps, LED lighting, and improved insulation in village buildings. We are aware that other municipalities and towns have been considering adoption of similar policies. We strongly encourage our county, town and municipal leaders to move expeditiously in this direction.
Climate change and land use are inextricably bound together. The collision between the two creates tension. We are experiencing that tension in multiple ways — not least of which is the drive to create more renewable energy through use of solar and wind-power generation on central New York farmland.
There currently are proposals — some approved and some being considered — to develop large solar and wind “farms” throughout upstate New York, including Schoharie, Delaware, and Schenectady counties.
In some cases, these projects will reduce or eliminate crop production from previously fertile farmland and reduce or eliminate grazing capacity for livestock. The result of this will be a reduction in agricultural productivity
in central New York and removal of these lands from agricultural production for at least a generation.
Otsego 2000 was instrumental in the elimination of hydrofracking for natural gas in New York and has advocated for responsible development of solar and wind energy production for local use. Large-scale production of solar and wind energy, however, can be quite a different proposition if it involves taking potentially productive farmland out of service or fragmenting the ecological integrity of natural systems.
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?