Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

December 2013

In This Issue
Featured Article: TC3 Plans Large-Scale Solar Project
Solarize Tompkins SE Goes Countywide in 2014
Sustainable Tompkins Awards Grant to Second Wind Cottages
Get Local Food Back into Holidays
One Last Thing: Climate Change and Social Equity
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Featured Article: 
Tompkins Cortland Community College Plans Large-Scale Solar Project




Welcome to the December 2013 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI)                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Wrexie Bardaglio


TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).


We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Solarize Tompkins SE Goes Countywide in 2014

by Alec Mitchell, TCCPI Steering Committee member


The Solarize Tompkins SE program and the Tompkins County Planning Department will be joining hands in 2014 to expand the successful effort to the entire county. The original pilot focused on the communities of Caroline, Danby, and Dryden, signing contracts with over 100 home owners, well beyond its minimum target of thirty. 


The Tompkins County Legislature, by unanimous vote on December 17, authorized county acceptance of an $80,000 grant from the Park Foundation to support the Solarize Tompkins project. The project seeks to further support for solar power through community mobilization,

One of many homes that have participated in Solarize Tompkins SE. Photo credit: Solarize Tompkins SE.

public education, and bulk purchase of solar photovoltaic systems to reduce financial and technical barriers and produce community momentum. 


Planning Commissioner Ed Marx at the meeting lauded the grassroots effort that Solarize Tompkins SE has undertaken so far. Jonathan Comstock, chair of the project, expressed excitement about the potential of the expanded program. The new program is expected to submit requests for proposals by mid-winter and plans to have the program up and running by spring. 


Each of the homes in the 2013 pilot project committed to either have solar electric and/or solar hot water installed on their property. Approximately one quarter of the installations will be done by the spring of 2014.


The pilot created a tiered pricing structure that reduced the cost of a system based on the number of individuals who agreed to participate and it initiated a competitive bidding process for the installers. Expecting to triple the historic annual average of nine installations across the three towns, the committee set out five pricing tiers, each involving a specific number of installs and accompanying price. The unanticipated demand resulted in the program meeting the requirement for the cheapest tier offered by the program. The final price-per-watt for the base solar electric system ended up at $3.05 while the average for NYSERDA installations in New York was approximately $5.


Solar Liberty, based in Buffalo, won the contract for the solar electric installations and Renovus Energy, a local firm, took on the solar hot water projects for Solarize Tompkins SE. A total of 102 solar electric contracts, adding up to over half a megawatt, and 32 contracts for solar hot water systems were signed.


As in the first round, several factors will be taken into account when selecting the winning installers. These metrics include pricing, whether the company is local, how sustainable the companies are, their employee pay scales, and the diversity of their work force. A number of community activists have expressed their hope that workforce development will play a larger role in the selection process this time and the steering committee is considering a number of ideas along these lines. 


The first Solarize program in the U.S. started in Portland, Oregon in 2009. The goal was to bring together a group of homeowners and allow solar installers to bid on their collective projects. This process drove down the cost of the systems for the homeowners and guaranteed the winning installer a pre-determined amount of work. Other similar efforts in New York include Solarize Madison and Solarize Genesee.


If you are interested in learning more about the Solarize Tompkins initiative and checking for updates as the 2014 program rolls out, go to

Sustainable Tompkins Awards Grant to Second Wind Cottages

by Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI Coordinator


Sustainable Tompkins announced recently that its Finger Lakes Climate Fund has issued a grant of nearly $3,500 to the Second Wind cottages in Newfield.The Fund provides community members the opportunity to purchase offsets for carbon emissions involving their travel and commuting. Money from the purchase of these offsets go toward grants to fund energy efficiency projects for low to moderate income households in the Finger Lakes region.

According to Gay, Nicholson, president of Sustainable Tompkins, an anonymous donor approached the organization a few months ago with a proposal to establish a Sustainable Newfield fund where people concerned about climate disruption could donate money to help lower-income residents in Newfield make their homes more efficient and less dependent on fossil
Earl Evans and Bill Johnston team up to inatall siding on one of the Second Wind cottages. Photo Credit: Gay Nicholson.
fuel. As the word got out, other donors joined in this special effort to help Newfield residents.

At about the same time, Community Faith Partners, an alliance of religious organizations in Tompkins County dedicated to volunteer service, asked Sustainable Tompkins if it could apply for a grant to help pay for the insulation of six cottages it was building this fall on donated land in Newfield.  
The Second Wind cottages, which will provide transitional housing for homeless men, grew out of the vision of Carmen Guidi, a Newfield business owner who donated the land. Working with volunteers from Community Faith Partners as well as others in the community, these six cottages will provide a safe haven for homeless men and give them the opportunity to get back on their feet. The ultimate goal is to build 14-18 of these cottages.

The carbon offset grant from Sustainable Tompkins was enough to pay for most of the insulation materials for the six cottages at Second Wind, but Snug Planet stepped up to donate the rest of the materials and to provide their skilled workforce to supervise the insulating and air sealing process.
The Finger Lakes Climate Fund represents the convergence of climate and social equity issues. "It is the global poor who are being hit hardest by climate disruption," observes Nicholson. "Our efforts to reduce fossil carbon emissions serve the cause of justice by ratcheting back a bit on the creation of more damage." At the same time, she notes, "our donors have stepped up on the side of economic justice by making it possible for those with modest incomes to keep more of what's theirs instead of giving it to the oil, coal, or gas industries."

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund can do so at its website ( as well as the kiosk at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport. Especially during this time of holiday travel, it's a great way to show your commitment to helping the less fortunate members of our community as well as the environment.

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, January 31, 2013

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Get Local Food Back into the Holidays
By Karim Beers, Campaign Coordinator for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

For December we've compiled a list of ways to find your farmer and get some local, finger-licking food into your bellies and hearts. Try one out with a friend or your family and let us know how it went!            



  • Eat Out Local--Check out for restaurants that source locally and the farms that make their menus delicious. 
  • Eat in Local by using local, fresh ingredients in your recipes--how about a root vegetable roast? Find your ingredients at the Winter Farmer's Market or by joining a Winter CSA
  • Eat local meat--from turkey to venison, our region is well endowed with native protein. Find your farmer at the Meat Suite.
  • Drink local--there is so much more holiday cheer in local beer, wine, cider, and coffee!
  • Gift local foods--use Local First Ithaca coupon book for good deals
  • Tree local--i.e. get a local X-mas tree. Hey, it may not be a food, but you support local, sustainable farms!
  • And don't forget the best, local food ever, especially designed for babies: breastmilk! Workshops for new or expectant mommies here.
Local food. Good for you, good for your loved ones, good for the whole community. 
Visit to learn more!




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: Climate Change and Social Equity
If we needed reminding after last year's Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan's destructive path through the Philippines last month underscored the vulnerability of the least privileged populations to the kinds of superstorms that climate change models predict will become more frequent. According to the latest estimates from the government there, more than 6,000 people have been reported dead and nearly 1,800 more are still missing five weeks after the storm ravaged the country. The vast majority of the casualties occurred in low lying areas where the storm surge hit hardest.
Typhoon Haiyan inflicted the worst damage on poor families in rural areas. Photo credit: Pio/Arce Genesis Photos - World Vision courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons License.
These kinds of events will continue going forward; that is nearly certain. What isn't certain is whether we will become numb to their consequences and keep up practices that continue to accelerate climate destabilization and make the lives of poor people around the world even more exposed than they already are to the destruction that results.

Democratic society, and its core commitment to social equity, requires a livable climate. "Climate change causes drought, floods, and resource scarcity, leading to famine, civil unrest, armed conflict, innocent suffering and government oppression," writes Ashley Anderson. "Anyone who believes that all individuals deserve basic human and civil rights should see the climate crisis as an imminent threat."

Especially as the holidays approach, we need to take stock of how each of us can act to protect the climate and reduce the vulnerability of those less fortunate than ourselves to its disruptive effects. Whether it is participating in Solarize Tompkins to expand renewable energy in our community, purchasing carbon offsets from the Finger lakes Climate Fund, or taking steps to put local food back into our holiday celebrations, there are things we can do on a daily basis that, cumulatively, will have a global impact.

"We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it," observes Wendell Berry in a recent interview with Bill Moyers. "And to take good care of it we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it." It is hard to think of a better way to spend time during the holidays than to reflect on what Berry says here and (re)commit to this timeless truth during the coming new year.

Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator
Upgrade Upstate

Visit to get a no-cost or reduced-cost energy assessment. Learn which rebates, tax credits, and loans you qualify for to help pay for work. Check out how-to videos for low-cost/no-cost improvements and testimonial videos of Tompkins County residents who have made upgrades. Upgrade Upstate is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.