Final Word on the Renewable Energy Conference

Renewable Energy ConfrenceOn Saturday Nov 9, 2013 The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in Arkville, NY hosted the first regional conference on renewable energy. Targeting the municipalities, small business and not for profits, the Manhattan Country School and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County and RUPCO encouraged people within Delaware, Sullivan, Greene, and Ulster counties to attend the event with topics focusing on renewable technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and biomass, plus energy conservation methods.

Helping to organize an event like this was something that I had looked forward to since I started working as an Outreach Coordinator for NYSERDA. Being able to get a group or people in a room to educate the public on programs that are out there that can help them not only save money, but get their foot in the door on living a more sustainable life style. See, it can’t just be about one or the other when it comes to “going green”. it MUST be about everything to do with the whole idea and MUST trickle down to the simplest of concepts, starting at home.

Todd explains how a Thermal Imaging Camera is used during and Energy Audit.

Todd explains how a Thermal Imaging Camera is used during and Energy Audit.

We started the conference that way by having the first of 5 panels touch on the subject of Energy Conservation. With Todd Pascarella leading the panel off. Todd is a Home Performance contractor for NYSERDA and has been a valued partner for us at RUPCO. Todd graduated with a degree in Integrated Science and Technology from James Madison University and holds a wide array of energy conservation related certifications from BPI, including Building Analyst, Envelope Specialist, and Heating Specialist. Todd also has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry adding to his extensive knowledge of new and old buildings. Todd spoke about what a home owner can expect from a comprehensive home energy assessment as well as how a home losses most of its energy.

Jeanne talks lighting.

Jeanne talks lighting.

Next up was Jeanne Darling, the Executive Director of the Delaware Cornell Cooperative Extension. Jeanne got into great detail about types of lighting that can be used to replace traditional incandescent bulbs. Modern lighting options like Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) and Light Emitting Diodes (LED). She spoke about the how we used to measure bulbs by the wattage and how we need to change that thinking to looking at the LUMENS. I would never be able to explain it in quiet the way she did so I found this explanation on the web.

“Lumens refers to a “total quantity” of light. One lumen is the amount of light that emerges from a hole 1 square foot in area in a two foot diameter spherical (opaque nonreflective) enclosure with a lit candle (of a certain size and material used to define lumens with) at the center.  If the one lumen of light coming out of that hole were focused into a narrower beam (using lenses or whatever) then some object in the path by that beam would look brighter compared with not focusing the light. So the same lumens rating will mean different things for a lamp where all of the light emerges more or less in just one direction (most individual LED units) versus spreads out in all directions (most incandescent electric lamps).” source

So basically it breaks down like this for incandescent bulbs…

  • 40 watt incandescent = 380 – 460 Lumens
  • 60 watt incandescent = 750 – 850 lumens
  • 75 watt incandescent = 1100 – 1300 lumens
  • 100 watt incandescent =  1700 – 1800 lumens
  • Direct sunlight = 100,000 lumens.
More about lighting

More about lighting

Jeanne also brought many bulbs with her to demonstrate the different types. One of the demonstrations included 2 lamps with 2 different LEDS in each. One lamp/bulb being a higher Lumen then the other. I can’t remember how many lumen the brightest bulb was, but it was so bright that she was asked to turn it off by an audience member! This speaks to the amount of light 1 low wattage LED bulb can produce.

Also a part of the first panel was Jonathan Hunt. Jon explained the rationale behind air sealing and insulating your existing windows instead of replacing them. With a main focus on historic homes, Jon talked about the need to preserve older style windows to maintain the integrity of the home and gave some examples of how this could be done in an affordable way such as interior storm windows that are laser measured to fit into windows that might not be perfectly square (most likely like the one to your left or in the room you are in now!) to dealing with sash windows. Now for me, this was one of those AHA moments. My house was built in 1911 and has the weighted sash style windows. With not a lot of options for air sealing these, I thought I had no choice but to live with the cold air on my back as I watched a movie with the kids in the middle of February. Well, I was wrong.. There are 2 very good and cost effective ways to insulate these bad boys, one is to use spray foam and foil backed rigid foam board. Simply put, the idea is to remove the trim around the window, exposing the “pocket” that the weight lives in, spray foam the very top and very bottom of the void and cut a piece of 2 – 2 1/2 inch foam board to fit just inside the void. This should be a tight fit and if you have any gaps, using a product like metal duct tape or even calking can help make the seal. I found a DYI video to help better explain the steps HERE.

Another way is to use 3 inch PVC tubing to insert into the void, taking the weigh and having it live inside the tube. After, you spray foam the rest of the cavity insuring a good air and thermal barrier. With both methods, replacing the old cordage with new rope is the best practice. I mean, you have it all exposed anyway, just take a few more minutes and replace the cord before it becomes frail and brakes. (Most likely this has already happened to more than one window if you these in your home)

From my perspective this was one of the more important parts of the conference. As we are out there promoting the NYSERDA Green Jobs Green New York Legislation and the programs that go along with it, this is one of the first things you hear from people. “I have those REALLY OLD windows and would have to have to replace them with crappy vinyl ones.” I’ve always had an easy time talking about the difference between the 17-20+ year ROI for replacement windows in comparison to the 7-9 year RIO for air sealing and insulating the existing ones, but never really had an understanding of how that could be done. Thank to Jon, I can further educate the home owner and potential customer, hell I may even try it out on my home next spring.

Man talking about saving energy

Joe Ponzi explains how easy it can be,

For the second panel I had invited Mark De Chiro and Joseph Ponzi to speak on Funding and Energy Audits for commercial spaces. Mark De Chiro from L&S Energy Services, Inc. Technical Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. Mark will be touched on the NYSERDA existing facilities commercial program and the FlexTech Program. and Joseph Ponzi from Southern Tier Regional  Economic Development Corp. Joe is a NYSERDA Regional Outreach Contractor for the EDGE program. He explained New Construction and existing buildings programs and also discuss the EDGE program and financing options. Both Mark and Joe had so much information to share that it’s hard to put everything they spoke about into a blog post so i have gone ahead and inserted links back to the NYSERDA programs they cover as well as links to their organizations and contact information. One thing I can say is they are very passionate about helping the small business and not for profits in and around Delaware County. These programs help companies who have 10 employees or less and an average annual electric demand of 100 kW or less receive a Free energy assessment from NYSERDA. Mark and Joe will help those in need of these services from the very beginning to the end. And don’t get me wrong here, they aren’t here to help only small business, if you have new construction and existing buildings on the large scale… these are the guys for you. Simple give RUPCO a call at 331-2140 ext:260 and we will make sure you get pointed in the right direction.

Next up lead into a conversation on Biomass Energy with Liz Callahan leading the charge. Liz, the Executive Director of Hanford Mills Museum spoke about their use of a mass wood pellet furnace and about the mill as a whole. She also included a slide show with many pictures from the past and present from the mill. Some of the images she brought in can be found HERE.

Being a fan of education, one of the programs the Mill has that stands out for me is what they call the School Programs for Kids. These programs include

  • The Working Mill – a basic one-hour guided tour of the Mill for all grade levels
  • The Mill and its Community – for grades K-2, play the Community Game and learn about the importance of interdependence in rural nineteenth century communities
  • Exploring the Industrial Age – for grades 3-8, a science and history-based course with simple machine experiments and the use of primary source documents
  • From Box to Boxcar – for grades 3-8, our most expansive program where students construct milk crates and participate in a math-based railroad shipping activity
  • Waterpower and the Mill Environment – for grades 4-12, learn about trees and their uses, and take part in activities which teach how water and steam power work
  • Ice Harvesting (Jan-Feb only) – for grades 2-12, students cut ice from the frozen Mill Pond, stock the ice house, and learn about the science and history of ice harvesting.
  • From Field to Feed (Sept-Oct only) – for grades K-8, see our gristmill in action and follow the path of corn from the field to the many foods corn products are used in today through a series of activities

We encourage you to visit their site and schedule a tour of the grounds. And consider enrolling a young in some of the programs.

“Hanford Mills Museum operates an authentic water- and steam-powered historic site. We inspire audiences of all ages to explore connections among energy, technology, natural resources, and entrepreneurship in rural communities, with a focus on sustainable choices”

Speaking of Biomass, Cornell Cooperative Extension worked with a company called Enviro-Energy. Enviro-Energy is basicly taki ng the weeds from an unused field and producing a grass pellet product that can be used in ANY pellet stove. The company is run by the Miller family. According to their website…

“Enviro Energy LLC is a manufacturing facility in it’s 4th year of production. It is owned and operated by a life-long Delaware County dairy farming couple along with their son and his wife. In our time, we have progressed from the clueless “we can do it” attitude, to the humbling process of making quality pellets.”

Much of the equipment they use was bought used and/or customized to fit their needs. Items such as a hay grinder, a forage wagon, a hammer mill, a storage bun, an auger feed, and a pellet mill were purchased for a few hundred dollars and are always in need of maintenance and upkeep.

Bob Miller

Bob Miller

According to Guillermo Metz Green Building & Renewable Energy Program Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County…

“Raw material comes from local farmers, most from within a ten mile radius, but sometimes from as much as 45-50 miles away. Mike Miller, one of the owners, reported that about a dozen farms contributed material last year. Most of the material is ruined hay or material too weedy for cows to eat. Some of the contributors are dairy farmers, and many contributions come from acres that have gone out of dairy farming, which the farmers want to keep viable for agricultural uses in the future. The Millers buy the material for $60 a ton, and sell the finished pellets for $225 a ton. Miller reported that the company has to produce a ton and a half of pellets per hour in order to make a living, which has been a struggle to approach.

The pellets are being bought by locals, from within the same radius as the raw material is coming from. Most of the pellets are used for residential heating, and what Miller predicted to be an increasing (though currently small) amount is used for the heating of town sheds and commercial buildings. Miller reports that since their first pellets were made in late October to early November of 2008 there has been a large amount of interest from locals in the whole enterprise. Miller says that there is some interest in purchasing the pellets, but that a lot of stoves need to be altered to burn grass, due to its higher ash content. As of now, the facility is producing only grass pellets, but there may be plans to manufacture wood pellets, or pellets mixing wood and grass, in the future.

– See more at:

For me the Millers where the most entertaining of the speakers during the conference. I’m going to try and help the Miller’s by seeing if we can’t fit them into the NYSERDA Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program. Through this program, NYSERDA offers assistance to identify and implement electric and natural gas energy efficiency measures for eligible farms and on-farm producers, including but not limited to: orchards, greenhouses, vegetables, vineyards, grain dryers, and poultry/egg. Farms must be a customer of a New York State investor-owned utility and contribute to

Bob talks roots

Bob talks roots

the System Benefits Charge (SBC). Please check your farm’s current utility bills.

Through the Agriculture Energy Efficiency Program you can request an energy audit, project implementation services, or both. NYSERDA will assign a FlexTech Consultant to perform an energy audit at no cost for audits up to $2,500. For more complex energy audits, exceeding $2,500, cost-sharing by the applicant will be required. Sounds like a job for one of our first speakers, Mr. Mark De Chiro.

The last panel touched on the topics of Alternative Energy Case Studies/Education. Liz Callahan spoke again about historical electricity production at the Mill which led into a bit about education about renewable energy and was followed by a brief presentation on micro-hydro power. I’ll admit, this isn’t something I knew very much about. According to Wiki.

Microhydro System

Microhydro System

“Micro hydro is a type of hydroelectric power that typically produce up to 100 kW of electricity using the natural flow of water. These installations can provide power to an isolated home or small community, or are sometimes connected to electric power networks. There are many of these installations around the world, particularly in developing nations as they can provide an economical source of energy without the purchase of fuel.[1] Micro hydro systems complement photovoltaic solar energy systems because in many areas, water flow, and thus available hydro power, is highest in the winter when solar energy is at a minimum. Micro hydro is frequently accomplished with apelton wheel for high head, low flow water supply. The installation is often just a small dammed pool, at the top of a waterfall, with several hundred feet of pipe leading to a small generator housing.”

How many of our friends and family live next to a small stream that could use this type of information? When I was younger, I live off of Upper Granit Road in Kerhonkson NY. Behind my house was stream that my Mom and I had built a small dam in to create a wading pool for us to chill out in during the summer. If I had known then about Micro Hydro I would have taken full advantage of this and helped my family same some cash. According to Wiki, Microhydro systems are typically set up in areas capable of producing up to 100 kilowatts of electricity.This can be enough to power a home or small business facility.

Solar power took up the rest of the time. Catskill Solar and Solar Alchemy spoke in great detail about photovoltaics and solar hot water. David M. Austin, Founder of Great Brook Solar NRG gave an extremely passionate presentation and review of factors that affect funding for solar power.  He spoke of the need to view energy efficiency not only as a step to saving money, but to view it as saving mother earth by lessening the amount of pollution created by burning fossil fuels. The room was extremely moved by David and hopefully there are a few more people on the Earth that realize the damage we are causing….

.. That last line actually made me pause right before finishing it. It’s a heavy thought that we, with every light we turn on, with every small clock display on the cable box, with every turn of the ignition, with every single bit of electric we use, we are poisoning the earth. I know that I’ve thought about this in the past but now I’m actually in a position to help people take small steps toward putting an end to that.

With every farm house that gets an energy audit and retrofit, with every barn that replaces its lighting with LEDS, with every small business that puts into place and energy reduction plan, we are helping the planet we live on maybe last just a little bit longer. The idea of that is powerful…. the idea that we can prolong the life of this planet by 1 day should be enough for us all to take a step back and do what we can.

With that I’m going to bring this blog post to a close. The conference was amazing. The speakers were moving and inspiring. And Ginny Scheer from the Manhattan Country School Farm did a great job in not only having the vision to create the conference, but to hand pick many of those a fore mentioned speakers. In the future, the Manhattan Country School Farm will be putting a great deal of focus on renewable energy and the education that goes along with it and I look forward to helping her achieve her goals for the school and for Delaware County! RUPCO was proud to sponsor the event and we want to thank Ginny, Jeanne and everyone involved for sharing the outstanding day with us. THANK YOU!

For more information about the speakers and the organizers, please click through the links provided in the post. Let them know how you found them and ask how they can either help you or how you can help them.

Photo Credit goes to : Thanks for sharing your work with us!

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. 
-Anne Frank

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