Gurney's Inn
May 17, 2006

New Energy Committee Forms

Wind turbines are a proposed alternative source of energy. (click for larger version)
The Southold Town Board has authorized the creation of a new committee, which is expected to tackle questions and issues regarding new proposals for renewable and alternative energy.

Mark Terry, acting department head of the Southold Town Planning Board, presented the town board with a newly drafted mission statement for the committee at last week's work session.

The time is now, emphasized Southold Supervisor Scott Russell, who said area municipalities are all hopping onto the alternative energy bandwagon. Riverhead, for example, is exploring the issue of solar-powered trash compactors on town beaches.

The purpose of forming the brand-new committee, said Russell, is to develop a town policy for renewable energy as alternative energy proposals sprout up all over the county.

Russell said an increasing number of initiatives, including the proposal by Winergy Power LLC for three wind turbines that would be located off Plum Island, solar alternatives, and a proposal for an East End trash incineration facility, have sparked the need for a new town-wide policy.

"The industry is moving faster than any of us can keep up with," said Terry, who created the statement at the supervisor's request.

The goals of the committee include investigation and recommendation of renewable and alternative energy policies and applications to the town board based upon federal, state, and utility legislation, initiatives, incentive programs, and industry advancement.

In addition, the committee will work with local businesses, landowners, utility companies, and government entities to establish a proactive approach to integrate renewable and alternative energy into land use and building designs, as well as seek funding sources for town projects.

Russell said the town can help to educate the public about alternative energy sources and solutions in the rapidly expanding field.

Councilman Tom Wickham reminded that initial plans for the new town animal shelter included components for a "green," environmentally sound building. Those facets of the design have been deemed too costly by members of the board. But, says Wickham, "if we move toward energy savings, there are investment costs that have to be made."

Wickham agreed with Russell that the energy issue is a regional one and the town needs to establish a policy for handling controversial new proposals.

For instance, said Wickham, "it's unbelievable that the town board is discussing incineration."

Russell agreed, but said that if waste companies come in with an energy component to their incineration plan, the board needs to be prepared to address the issue.

"I'm not in favor of incineration of garbage, but I want Southold Town represented," said Russell.

In regard to windmills, Wickham said the issue is zoning, and Councilwoman Louisa Evans likened the discussion to that of cell towers. While wind energy may be essential to keeping agriculture alive on the North Fork, Russell said it will be "a balancing act" so there are restrictions in place regarding the height and number of wind towers erected.

"Right now, the town code is silent on the wind turbine issue," said Russell.

Terry stressed the need for a committee to address the ramifications of all the rapidly emerging proposals.

The town board is now seeking volunteers to sit on the new committee.

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