August 30, 2006

Renewable Energy Committee Takes Shape

A new day is dawning in Southold Town. And it may be powered by renewable energy.

A newly formed town renewable energy committee is slated to conduct its first-ever solar seminar on September 13, at 7 p.m. in Southold Town Hall. The 10-member committee is working in tandem with Renewable Energy of Long Island and LIPA on the event. "We expect a big turn-out," said committee chair Marie Domenici. A crowd is expected, she continued, "especially since we are seeing more and more people looking for alternative energy solutions."

Domenici said the committee is working on several projects that utilize wind and solar power for agricultural and residential use.

"Having installed solar on my home three years ago,†I am considered a solar pioneer," she noted.

In May, the Southold Town Board authorized the creation of the new committee, which is†expected to tackle questions and issues regarding new proposals for renewable and alternative energy, after Mark Terry, acting department head of the Southold Town Planning Board, presented the town board with a newly drafted mission statement.

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 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.

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.

Southold is not alone in addressing the need for alternative energy. Earlier this month, Legislator Wayne Horsley (D. Lindenhurst) welcomed Winergy Power LLC, to the Suffolk County Legislature to discuss alternatives to the LIPA proposed offshore wind park.

"Winergy represents a more logical and balanced approach to creating sustainable energy. Rather than constructing a 40-turbine wind park, without a single successful demonstration, they are proposing a 3-turbine research and development wind park," Horsley stated.

Winergy's proposal would begin by placing three 5-megawatt wind turbines as many as 12 miles off the coast of Plum Island.

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