Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

September-October 2014

In This Issue
Featured Article: County Releases Draft Comprehensive Plan
Black Oak Wind Farm Moves Forward With New Investment Round
County Planning Commissioner Challenges Plans for Gas Piipeline
Three Ways to Save Energy In Your Home This Fall
One Last Thing: Will Alaska Be the New Florida?
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Featured Article: 
County Releases Draft Comprehensive Plan




Welcome to the September-October issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Arden Rd. 10-14
Photo by Peter 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. 

Black Oak Wind Farm Moves Forward With New Investment Round


Black Oak Wind Farm, LLC has opened a new equity investment round for New York residents and companies, providing them an opportunity to join the existing investors in owning seven, 1.7 MW GE turbines on a ridge in the Town of Enfield, just outside of Ithaca. 


Currently, 120 New York households own the company, which is managed by a Board of Directors comprised of leaders in the community who are also investors. As a community-owned business, Black Oak makes it possible for the profits and control of the project to stay local. 


The Black Oak Wind Farm site in Enfield, NY, with turbines added at proper scale. Photo credit: Black Oak Wind Farm. 

The project has been awarded a ten-year contract with NYSERDA for its renewable energy credits, and qualifies for the federal investment tax credit. An AA credit rated institution is purchasing all the power output from the project for ten years.


Project manager Marguerite Wells has been working on bringing this to fruition for seven years; she'll be able to see the turbines from her farm in Enfield. Her vision for community ownership stems from the fact that most wind farms are owned by distant corporations, often foreign-owned. 


"I asked myself a long time ago...if wind farms are profitable then why shouldn't they be owned by regular local people instead?" observed Wells.  "I quickly learned that wind farm financing is extremely complex, and although community ownership is a common model in Europe, there are few such projects right here in the US."


Val-Add Service Corporation, the financial consultants who developed a similar wind project in South Dakota, are members of the Black Oak team, as well as Juhl Energy, a Minnesota firm specializing in small and community-scale renewable energy development. GE Renewables is based in Schenectady, NY, and will be providing both the turbines as well as the operation and maintenance services.


Black Oak has uniquely protected itself against the financial risk caused by the uncertainties of weather-driven production through the use of an innovative risk management product offered by Nephila Capital, in partnership with REsurety of Boston. Nephila Capital, the world's largest investment manager dedicated to natural catastrophe and weather risk transfer, provides the risk capacity for the hedge. REsurety, a financial technology start-up, provides Nephila with the cutting-edge analytics required to structure and settle the hedge.


The investment opportunity comes in two parts; the current round is open only to accredited investors in the State of New York. There will be another round this fall for non-accredited investors. Black Oak will be hosting meetings around the state in the coming months to present people with in-depth information.


Go to for details about the investment opportunity, contact information, and for the schedule of meetings in your area. This is the first time ordinary New York residents have had the chance to directly support wind development in our state.


-- Press Release, 9/23/14

County Planning Commissioner Challenges Plans for Gas Pipeline

by Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI Coordinator


Ed Marx, planning commissioner for Tompkins County, raised serious questions earlier this month about the advisability of proceeding with the construction of a 10-inch pipeline running from Freeville along West Dryden Road to Warren Road in the Town of Lansing.


According to New York State Gas and Electric (NYSEG), this pipeline is necessary to meet growing demand for natural gas that will support business expansion and new residential development in this area. The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the construction project, arguing that, in particular, new business development at the Cornell Business and Technology Park will be "obstructed" unless the new pipeline is built.


In an October 9th memorandum to the County Legislature, Marx pointed out that the County's stated goal of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 and a 20% reduction from 2008
Ed Marx, Tompkins County Planning Commissioner, called for an increased commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Photo credit: Shaleshock Media

levels by 2020 cannot be achieved "if we continue to increase fossil fuel use in the County, including the use of natural gas."


Noting increasing evidence that climate change is already underway, Marx said that "it seems clear that the time for making the necessary energy transition is now and the period within which we can take effective action is narrowing."


Rather than building new natural gas pipelines, Marx contended that the County "should position this community to quickly adapt to a changing energy future."  Solar, wind, biomass, and hydro generation options are not only feasible, he said, these new technologies also would strengthen local economies, add to tax bases, and create new jobs. In addition, new energy storage and demand response options would help reduce issues associated with the intermittent nature of solar and wind power.


Marx suggested that, in the near term, the County should try to identify more precisely where the natural gas supply deficiency exists, outline actions to reduce demand through increased efficiency, and assess the feasibility of switching to renewable sources.


The County is working on an Energy Roadmap that will develop scenarios to achieve its greenhouse gas emissions targets. "Just as important as reaching the long-term goal is making immediate progress toward and achieving short term GHG reduction targets," said Marx, adding that "Investing in infrastructure that will effectively encourage increased fossil fuel use for the next 20 years could undermine our ability to meet these targets."

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, October 31, 2014

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Three Ways to Save Energy in Your Home This Fall
By Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Campaign Coordinator

As colder weather arrives once again in Tompkins County, it's hard not to think back to the polar vortex winter of late 2013 and early 2014. The weather may not be as harsh as last year -- and let's hope it's not -- but in any event there are three things you can do to stay warm and comfortable, and keep your energy expenses down.

1. Weatherize Your Home

Making sure that your home isn't leaking heat is the most important step you can take to lower your energy costs this winter. There are
free home energy audits to help you pinpoint improvements that will make your home more comfortable, safer, and reduce your heating bills. Use a local certified contractor and support our local economy.
Free home energy audits can help you identify ways to reduce your heating bills with the onset of colder weather.

2. Go Solar
The cost of solar panels has fallen significantly in the last five years and there are incentives to help lower the cost even more. Over 300 people in Tompkins County have decided to go solar in the last year, supporting dozens of local, living wage jobs. Find out more information about outfitting your home or business with solar panels hereA list of local contractors is here.

3. Heat with Wood
Modern wood pellet stoves offer an alternative to heating with propane, oil, or natural gas. While older stoves were inefficient and had problems with emissions, modern wood pellet stoves have greatly improved efficiency and reduced pollution issues. NYSERDA is offering $1,000 to upgrade from a wood stove to a pellet stove for homes that don't heat with natural gas, and more for families with low and moderate incomes. You could save significantly on your heating bills by switching to wood pellets! Click here for more information on the benefits of heating with wood. 

Each step on its own is great. Together they can virtually eliminate your home's carbon footprint and save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year. Many of your neighbors are already doing this. Why not join them?




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: Will Alaska Be the New Florida?

The current debate over the proposed construction of the West Dryden Road natural gas pipeline raises a fundamental question: at what point will we acknowledge that we can no longer conduct "business as usual"?

Implicit in this question is another one: what does it actually mean to put this understanding into operation? Are we willing to move in a radically different direction, as uncomfortable and anxiety-producing as that may be? When will we stop saying, "yes, but ..." and recognize that the time to act is now?

The County target of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is not just a nice idea; it's the minimum necessary to avoid runaway climate disruption. If we can't accomplish this task in Tompkins County, then where in the U.S. will that target be met?

Oroville Lake, California, in 2011. Photo credit: California Department of Water Resources.
The same lake in 2014. Photo credit: California Department of Water Resources.


A New York Times article in late September examined the issue of climate refugees, not in Bangladesh or the South Pacific, but in the United States. At current rates of global warming, one of the climate researchers observed, "Alaska is going to be the next Florida by the end of the century." 

Matthew E. Kahn, an environmental economist at the University of California, Los Angeles, predicts that "millions of people" will be moving inland to cities such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Detroit to escape coastal flooding in the East and Gulf Coast. By the middle of this century, California and the Southwest will be experiencing catastrophic water shortages and extreme heat.

Aside from the upper Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska will be among the few refuges left. Even in these places the weather will be dramatically altered. "Summer in Minnesota is projected to be like the climate is in northern Oklahoma - the trees and the forests there, the crops that farmers plant," according to Thomas C. Peterson, principal scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. 

We still have time to avoid the worst effects of climate change, but only if we recognize that the decisions we make now will determine whether we do so or not.

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.