08/01/14 8:00am
08/01/2014 8:00 AM
Credit: Patrick W. Moore

Credit: Patrick W. Moore

For years people have been talking about solar as a clean alternative energy source, but only recently has the prospect of large-scale solar farms started taking shape on the North Fork.

Two years ago, Long Island Power Authority sought proposals for solar energy projects that would generate 100 megawatts of power —enough to power about 13,000 homes —and 76 solar projects across Long Island were selected in April.

In addition, LIPA and PSEG-Long Island — which manages LIPA’s electric grid — are now seeking additional proposals for projects that would generate 280 MW more in renewable energy, including solar, natural gas and wind.

“One of the main reasons large scale solar development is initiated is because the utilities issue requests for proposals for projects, and that’s exactly what happened on Long Island,” said Chris Wiedemann, director of development for S Power Solar, a West Coast company that had three projects chosen in April by LIPA, one each in Calverton, Southold and Shoreham. In total, 12 projects were chosen that would be located in Manorville and throughout the North Fork. Project owners will be responsible for construction, installation and maintenance costs, which will then be offset by selling power to PSEG-LI.

But only now that solar power is starting to gain momentum are local municipalities catching up to regulating the energy source.

And not everyone is feeling so sunny about it.

Riverhead and Southold towns have both proposed restricting where power-generating solar farms that would sell energy back to PSEG can be built. The restrictions would not apply to farms that generate solar energy to power their own operations.

Both towns decided to limit commercial solar energy production to industrial zones, prohibiting the practice on agricultural parcels.

“This town, the County of Suffolk, and to some extent, the State of New York, have spent tens of millions of dollars preserving the Agricultural Protection Zone in town,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in discussing the zoning amendments last month. “I think it sends the wrong message that we would now allow this sort of industrialization [solar panel farms] on preserved farmland.”

Southold already adopted the code change in June, and the Riverhead Town Board has scheduled an Aug. 5 public hearing on its proposal.

Riverhead leaders actually based their proposal on Southold’s, which determined that the town’s two industrial zones were the best locations for solar farms — keeping agriculturally-zoned land out of the mix.

“There is a real demand now to locate solar arrays, and we’ve been getting inquiries from solar companies who are very interested in locating them on farmland,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said in an interview. “We didn’t quite go that far yet.”

Last July, LIPA announced that an increased focus on solar power would “help defer, reduce or eliminate the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on building new generation, infrastructure, and transmission and distribution lines.”

That announcement came after the utility had already called for 50 MW in solar projects in 2008, while it was calling for its next 100 MW — the request that resulted in the 76 solar arrays currently in the works — and before a request for another 280 MW of solar power last fall. Those bid winners will be announced this December.

All these requests for solar power projects — among other sources of cleaner energy, such as wind or natural gas — are bringing LIPA in accordance with its Electric Resource Plan 2010-2020, which called for reducing emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020, and by 80 percent by the year 2050, benchmarks set by former Governor David Paterson.

07/28/13 10:00am
07/28/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John and Boanne Wysoczanski’s pool at their Baiting Hollow home has the added feature of deck jets.

Own a pool and on the fence about replacing the pump this season? Consider purchasing a new energy-efficient model now — while the Long Island Power Authority’s rebate of up to $400 is, like the weather, still hot.

LIPA officials said they hope the new mail-in rebate offer will encourage pool owners to replace their single-speed pumps with Energy Star-rated equipment. The updated models operate more efficiently and at the lowest speed necessary to filter swimming pools.

Energy Star was established in 1992 as part of the Clean Air Act and is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program to promote energy conservation. Products earning an Energy Star label have been certified through tests conducted by EPA-recognized laboratories, according to Energy Star’s website.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | After the Wysoczanskis installed a new pool pump, they got a $400 rebate from LIPA.

A traditional pool pump’s motor speeds are typically unchangeable and are usually set higher than is required to circulate water and clear debris, LIPA officials said.

The authority is offering two different mail-in rebates: a $150 rebate for a two-speed pool pump and a $400 rebate for a variable-speed pump.

John Wysoczanski, owner of Islandia Pools in Riverhead, said he took LIPA up on its offer last week and installed a new pump in his own pool in Baiting Hollow.

“A lot more people are thinking about it because of the rebate,” he said. “It cuts down energy costs and cleans more efficiently. It’s a no-brainer.”

Mr. Wysoczanski, who sells Pentair pool pumps priced at least $1,500, said the newer machines use less energy by operating with a magnetic field device and should last between 10 and 15 years.

While energy-efficient pool pumps initially cost more, LIPA officials said customers will see a return on their investment from energy savings over the life of the unit.

LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said the new models “minimize energy consumption by up to 90 percent, are extremely quiet, provide maximum water flow and pay for themselves in five years.

“On average, an Energy Star-certified pool pump can save you over $160 per year,” she said.

LIPA began offering rebates in 1999, starting with compact fluorescent bulbs and commercial lighting. Ten years later, several other products were added to the list, including photovoltaics in 2000. One of the newest products for which LIPA is offering in-store rebates is LED bulbs, Ms. Flagler said. She added that LIPA is working to incentivize other products, including energy-efficient clothes dryers.

In addition to the current pool pump rebate program, LIPA is offering $40 to $75 rebates for air conditioners, $40 for dehumidifiers and $50 to $100 for refrigerators. All appliances must also be Energy Star-rated.

LIPA’s pool pump rebate applies only to residential pools and there’s a limit of four rebates per LIPA customer. Purchases must be made between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 and must be installed by a participating dealer in order to qualify. Rebate checks will be processed within six to eight weeks.

For more information about LIPA’s pool pump rebate program, click here.

jennifer@timesreview.com

05/14/13 10:00am
05/14/2013 10:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Stony Brook earlier this year.

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Governor established the Moreland Commission to investigate utility companies’ storm preparation and response efforts, including the Long Island Power Authority. The Commission found that in addition to LIPA’s failure to perform during the storm, the organization’s structural dysfunction was responsible for poor customer service, high rates for customers, a large debt load, and an insufficient and antiquated infrastructure.

That’s why Governor Cuomo proposed legislation today to transform the utility service on Long Island into one that puts ratepayers first and focuses on ensuring better performance and accountability for customers. The Governor’s proposal privatizes the operations of the utility system, creating a structure that prioritizes customer service and emergency response, reduces the cost of LIPA’s debt, and puts in place real government oversight.

The people of Long Island deserve more value for the rates they pay, which is why the new utility company is seeking to freeze rates for three years. This will be welcome relief for a region still in recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Click here to read more about the Governor’s detailed proposal for a new Long Island utility company.

Together, we are making government work for the people once again.

Sincerely,

The Office of the Governor

01/31/13 9:00am
01/31/2013 9:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO  |  A LIPA crew was working on a power line knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A LIPA crew was working on a power line on North Wading River Road knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

A few hundred residents in and around the Riverhead area were without power this morning after heavy winds came whipping across the North Fork overnight into today. A Long Island Power Authority outage map showed 88 customers affected along Sound Shore Road in Northville.

Another 49 residents were without power near Deep Hole Road in Calverton.

LIPA expects to have power restored to those affected by late morning, according to the map.

The National Weather Service issued another severe weather warning at 7:58 a.m. for a “squall line moving across Eastern Long Island.”

There were more than 34,000 outages total across Long Island as of 8:33 a.m., according to LIPA.

While scattered showers are expected to pass the area by around 10 a.m., the wind will likely remain throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts could reach 49 mph and wind will be sustained around 24-28 mph.

01/23/13 4:52pm
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Erek Berntsen cuts wood at a construction site near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Construction worker Erek Berntsen near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

For most, even the easiest tasks become a hassle when temperatures start to drop.

But for many workers across the North Fork this week, being out in the cold is just part of the job.

“You can’t take a job outside and not expect to be out in the cold,” said Erek Berntsen, a construction worker at the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

High temperatures reached 20 degrees on the North Fork Wednesday, about 10 to 15 degrees below normal, said Dan Hoffman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Upton.

“The next 36 hours are going to be the coldest,” Mr. Hoffman said. Temperatures will slowly rise into the weekend, reaching the freezing point by Sunday, he said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Berntsen had been out in the cold since 7 a.m., cutting pieces of wood to build the rafters of a new farm stand on the property.

A few miles east on Route 25, Bob Boergesson, a Mattituck-Cutchogue School District crossing guard, said wind is the biggest challenge he faces in the cold.

“Layers … [cover] up as much as you can,” he advised. “It’s the wind that gets you.”

On South Harbor Road in Southold, seven LIPA workers were found using a utility trucks to trim trees away from power wires.

“It is extremely cold,” conceded a LIPA foreman, who did not give his name. “Even colder up there.”

Despite the frigid temperatures, the foreman said worker morale is still high.

“We’re always good,” he said. “We complain, but we get the work done.”

At a local vineyard, laborer Emilio Jebier used a pruner to cut away dead vines from the trellis.

“Good vines means good selection [of grapes] for next year,” Mr. Jebier said while working at Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport. Mr. Jebier has been tending to vines for 13 years, and said he’s used to working in the cold when he needs to.

Nearby, Herman Salazar of Mattituck was also clipping vines, a black ski mask covering his face from the bitter wind.

A group of half a dozen workers had been out at the vineyard  since 7 a.m. and will keep trimming until 4:30 p.m., Mr. Salazar said. The next day, they’ll do it all again. The group works six days a week in the field.

“The snow isn’t bad, the cold [is],” Mr. Salazar said, peeling the ski mask below his face. ”Today is very freezing.”

But some workers said this week’s cold weather wasn’t the worse they’ve experienced.

“This is nothing,” said a Suffolk County Water Authority worker on Route 25 in Cutchogue. “When you have a water main break, you’re out there for 24 hours straight in the cold.”

Their advice? Keep busy.

“Working a couple years in this, you get used to it,” said another worker.

psquire@timesreview.com