What follows is a guest essay by Daniel Mason who is the Director of the North Country Clean Energy Conference and a Board Member/Clean Energy Leader of the Adirondack North Country Association. He retired as an engineering manager after 34 years from a Fortune 100 petrochemical corporation.
People get excited about clean energy for a number of reasons. Clean energy use helps businesses and organizations save money, homegrown renewable energy keeps more money in the region’s economy, and creates local jobs.
An assessment, conducted by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council’s Clean Energy Team, backs up these claims. The team has determined that the impact of cleaner greener energy on the economy could reduce unemployment by up to 1.5 percent in the seven-county region of the North Country; the equivalent of bringing in a large factory.
Last June, over 250 people attended the North Country Clean Energy Conference in Lake Placid, hosted by the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) and a team of conference planners from around the region. The conference goals include: to provide a forum to educate commercial and public energy customers on real clean energy technologies, share best practices for these technologies, and share how to obtain funding for clean energy projects.
The conference planning team and ANCA are working to make the 2013 conference, held on June 5-7 at the Lake Placid Conference Center, an even greater success. This year’s conference focuses on success stories, highlighting projects that have gained significant savings relating to heating and electricity consumption and costs. Presentations from businesses, municipalities, and a school will focus on real projects, real benefits and real technology—hence real successes. The 2013 conference also features an exhibitor showcase, business-focused roundtables for municipalities and schools , a discussion on Community Based Virtual Net Metering and a report on the North Country Cleaner Greener Communities Sustainability Plan. These are in addition to clean energy seminars about solar, wind, hydro, biomass, biodigesters, building conservation / efficiency, transmission and special topics.
Some of the greatest success stories in the region are those that feature conversions from oil to biomass, demonstrating significant monetary savings, support for local forestry industries, and reductions in the consumption of imported heating oil. With public funding, the Edwards-Knox Central School, in Russell (St. Lawrence County), reduced their heating costs by 75 percent by replacing fuel oil with wood chip combustion. By using biomass heat, they freed up money to spend on classrooms and teachers without raising school taxes, while offering an educational opportunity for their students. Additional facilities, such as Petrova School in Saranac Lake and Ausable Central School are either making this transition, or have made the transition in previous years. These schools are also realizing significant savings by changing their fuel source to a lower cost supply and keeping their energy dollars local.
Municipalities in the region are realizing the benefits of adopting solar technology as well. For example, eight towns, villages, and school districts from Jefferson County recently worked in collaboration with Fourth Coast Solar, pooling their resources to gain purchasing power for the 18 solar arrays installed on town garages, park pavilions, and school rooftops. The savings began immediately, with the town of Clayton alone reporting annual savings of $17,000 on their electric bill.
The North Country Clean Energy Conference is open to all and should be of special interest to those who would like to save money from the installation of cleaner greener energy. More information on the conference is available at www.adirondack.org.