Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

November-December 2014

In This Issue
Featured Article: Cornell to Buy Black Oak's Wind Power
Solar Tompkins Exceeds Its Goal: 400 Installations Scheduled
Tompkins County and TCAD Agree to Collaborate on GHG Emissions
Who Let the Heat Out (of My Office?)
One Last Thing: How We Will Get There from Here
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Featured Article: 
 Cornell to Buy Black Oak's Wind Power




Welcome to the November-December issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo by NASA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
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. 

Solar Tompkins Exceeds Its Goal: 400 Installations Scheduled
By Michael Nocella, Ithaca Times

Solar Tompkins is set to exceed its goal of doubling the total deployment of residential solar power in a single year, as more than 400 solar installations within the county are scheduled to be completed by June 2015.

According to Solar Tompkins Program Director Melissa Kemp, these installations will add approximately 3 megawatts (MW) of residential solar photovoltaics (PV). The contract signing period for the Solar Tompkins program ended on November 1.
The Solar Tompkins board of directors. Photo credit: Solar Tompkins.

In all, the program netted more than 1,300 enrollees, and of those, 401 projects were sold. Solar Tompkins board member Guillermo Metz, who is also the Green Building and Renewable Energy Program Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC), called the nearly 30 percent closing rate "really, really great." Solar Tompkins's self-proclaimed goal was 300 contracts.

According to a Solar Tompkins press release, the households moving forward with installations will start saving money right away, and "are creating a boom in the solar installation business that has resulted in at least 22.5 new, permanent, full-time, living-wage jobs created in our communities in just the last six months."

Solar Tompkins is a volunteer-based non-profit group with the mission of accelerating the transition to affordable, renewable power. According to Kemp, the program reached out to every town in the county, holding 34 community meetings and more than 25 other educational events during the summer of 2014.

For an average residential customer in New York, up to 69 percent of the cost of a solar PV system is covered by incentives. These incentives include a $1 per watt (W) upfront grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), a federal tax credit of 30 percent, and a state tax credit of 25 percent. Solar Tompkins was also able to provide a 20 percent below regional market pricing as a result of volume discounts negotiated with participating installers.

As a result of these incentives, an average family using 7,500 kWh/year can typically purchase a system to cover 100 percent of their current electricity needs for between $5,500 and $8,000, depending on whether it is roof- or ground-mounted. Homeowners can also lease a system for no upfront cost and pay about the same price per month they are paying to their electric utility today.

Solar Tompkins does not plan to hold this program in 2015. The deal was a one-time offer, Metz said. It will be up to solar installers to decide what kind of prices they can offer moving forward.

"The hope is we're establishing a new normal," Metz said. "Once residents start seeing it commonly around the community, and your neighbors are talking about it, and they're all excited -- I do think that momentum will [result in more installations]."
Tompkins County and TCAD Agree to Collaborate on GHG Emissions

by Nick Babel, Tompkins Weekly


Balancing the community's energy needs with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions poses an big challenge. At the same time, developing a growing local economy that provides more job opportunities is a top priority of the Tompkins County Legislature.


Tompkins County Area Development (TCAD), the county's economic development agency, and the Tompkins County Planning Department recently announced an agreement to collaborate on addressing long-term and immediate energy needs and emissions in ways that contribute to a vital local economy.

Michael Stamm, President of Tompkins Area Development.


This collaboration will include bringing a broad array of voices to the discussion of community goals and strategies, as well as tangible steps to meet both energy and economic development goals.


"This can be accomplished through construction or renovation of efficient buildings that use less energy and utilization of renewable energy sources that are not subject to the market fluctuations associated with commodities such as fossil fuels," Tompkins County Commissioner of Planning Ed Marx says. "Tight building envelopes, highly efficient HVAC systems including, where appropriate, ground source (geothermal) and/or air source heat pumps, highly efficient lighting, and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, water and biomass are all likely to be components of solutions for businesses."


Both Marx and TCAD President Michael Stamm agree that sustainable energy and job creation can go hand in hand. 


"A movement toward more sustainable energy infrastructure and economic development and job creation are not mutually exclusive goals," Stamm notes. " TCAD is committed to working with the leadership of the county to create and implement sustainable energy solutions that also meet the energy needs of our customers."


While both organizations believe that overall goals for strengthening the local economy and reaching energy and greenhouse gas emissions targets are compatible and can be mutually reinforcing, they also recognize that there may be specific instances where they come into conflict.


In such cases, the county Planning Department's Energy Fund and the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency's tax incentive tools will be employed in an attempt to find a mutual-gains solution to the perceived conflict. They also acknowledge that, in instances where no clear mutually beneficial solution can be identified, the attempt to meet both goals will be weighed in making a decision. 


An Energy Fund of $20,000 is allocated by the county legislature as part of the Planning Department's 2015 budget. The Planning Department will work with TCAD to make a portion of this funding available to help businesses considering expansions and residential developers proposing new projects evaluate efficiency and renewable energy options to reduce their carbon footprint while supplying the energy needed for their business operations.


TCAD, which provides staff support to the Industrial Development Agency, will work with the IDA and Planning Department to create an incentive program for businesses that reduce their carbon footprint as part of a job-creating expansion.


TCAD and the Planning Department agree to institutionalize economic and energy impacts throughout their work, including individual project review and technical and financial assistance efforts-in part, making businesses and developers aware of available community resources and encouraging them to consider energy options as they pursue economic development projects.


"One of the greatest challenges of our time is how we can foster economic growth and also make meaningful reductions to our carbon footprint," stated Michael Lane, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature. "[T]he merger of being smart about environmental goals and the promoting of serious economic development is not only possible but is the wave of the future." 

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, January 30, 2015

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

Who Let the Heat Out (of My Office)?
By Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Campaign Coordinator

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, Taitem Engineering, and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to create a program to help businesses and non-profits cut down their energy bills and reach their energy goals.

The Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative (TC-CEEC), will be launching in January with a hands-on workshop series led by energy professionals, in which participants receive a comprehensive energy audit of their building and learn about and implement cost-effective measures such as air sealing and insulation, equipment upgrades, LED and other efficient lighting, solar energy, wood pellets, and other renewables.

CCE-Tompkins County reduced its energy costs by 40% through cost-effective improvements. Photo credit: CCE-Tompkins County.

TC-CEEC is based on numerous experiences of local businesses and non-profits reducing their energy bills. The Cornell Cooperative Extension office building on Willow Avenue in Ithaca reduced its electricity usage by nearly 35% and natural gas usage by about 15% through low-cost measures over the last decade, even as the number of workstations doubled.


An office building managed by Taitem on South Albany street in Ithaca cut its energy use by 80%. "Participating in this free program is a fantastic opportunity for commercial property owners," says Jennifer Tavares, President of the Tompkins County Chamber. "There are many things they can do right now that will cut energy bills, improve their bottom line, and help reduce carbon emissions. This program will walk them through the process step by step."

Participation in the workshop is free.  The energy audit and building analysis for businesses or non-profits with 10 or fewer employees (full-time-equivalent) is free as well; larger organizations may be eligible for a subsidized energy audit. Space in the workshop is limited to 20 participants, and eight spots are already filled. 

The deadline for registration is Friday, January 9, 2015For more information, or to register for the workshop series, contact Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins coordinator, at[email protected], or (607) 272-2292.




Take a step to save money and energy.








One Last Thing: How We Will Get There from Here

2014 turned out to be a momentous year for the climate protection effort, culminating in the historic march on September 21 in New York City that brought more than 400,000 people, including many from Tompkins County, to join in a demand for action from world leaders. The news on November 12 that the U.S. and China, which together account for 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had struck a deal to limit these emissions suggested that perhaps they were listening.

Then, on December 17, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his administration would ban fracking in the state largely because of concerns over risks to the public's health. The watershed decision came after years of citizen activism insisting that the state should leave its considerable fossil fuel reserves in the ground because of the threats fracking posed to the air, water, and soil of its communities.
The call for leaving carbon in the ground also came from a rapidly growing divestment movement. Beginning with students at U.S. colleges and universities, the movement soon encompassed, among others, higher education institutions in Scotland and Australia as well as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the World Council of Churches, and Ithaca's Park Foundation. As a result of this campaign, according to Fossil Free, more than $50 billion in assets have been divested so far. Building on this momentum, and its partners have begun organizing a Global Divestment Day for February 13-14, 2015. Stay tuned.

At the same time, renewable energy rapidly gained traction throughout the world. As the year wound to a close, reports out of Germany indicated that the country had generated a record 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources during 2014, with wind and solar leading the way. On May 11, almost 75 percent of Germany's overall electricity needs were met by renewable energy.

All of these impressive developments, however, took place against the backdrop of a rapidly worsening outlook for the planet's climate. According to climate scientists, all indications are that 2014 will be the hottest year on record for the planet, marking 38 years in a row of higher-than-average temperatures.

In Rebecca Solnit's words, "It's hard to see how we'll get there from here." But, she notes, that's how it felt to lots of ordinary 18th-century Europeans when they contemplated overthrowing the divine right of kings and becoming citizens rather than subjects. It takes sustained, concentrated effort on the part of lots of people working together to create a new reality.

Looking no further than the local developments reported in this issue of the TCCPI Newsletter -- Cornell's purchase of community-owned wind power, the doubling of residential solar power in Tompkins County, the growing recognition that economic development and greenhouse gas emission reductions are not mutually exclusive, and new initiatives to make our commercial buildings more energy efficient -- the examples of how to build this new reality are all around us. May those examples continue to multiply and grow in 2015.
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.