A group selection program and a lack of pure fuel are enabling Marbletown to realize 100 % renewable power and deal with 100 % renewable power —while saving cash.
by Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA
View over Marbletown from Shawungunk Ridge. Photograph by Tom Konrad
With advances in know-how, the pathways to 100 % renewable power have gotten clear. As a outcome, the central problem has turn into much less about how you can get there, and extra about how you can pay for it.
The city of Marbletown, in New York’s Hudson River Valley, is finding that drawback is solving itself.
Marbletown is a town of 5,500 individuals overlaying 55 square miles on the sides of the Catskills and Shawangunk Mountains, containing the hamlets of Stone Ridge and Excessive Falls. The Town’s Environmental Conservation Fee (ECC) and Sustainable Hudson Valley lately carried out a planning effort for 100% clear power (together with not only electrical energy but buildings and transportation as properly.) They found that, despite its small inhabitants, Marbletown has two benefits that the majority other municipalities around the nation lack: a community-choice aggregation policy and a lack of pure fuel.
These two features are enabling this New York city, where this writer resides, to realize 100 % renewable electrical energy, while also saving money.
Potential savings in annual power prices for Marbletown residents and businesses from conversion to 100% renewable electricity.
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Renewable electrical energy at lowered value
Enabled by New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, Marbletown lately joined the Hudson Valley Group Energy, a Group Selection Aggregation (CCA) program. The CCA will take the place of the town’s electrical utility, Central Hudson, because the default electricity provider in New York’s deregulated market. The CCA will procure era for the town. Central Hudson will proceed to offer electrical energy supply, service and billing. Clients also have the opportunity to choose out of the program at any time, but they may doubtless have little incentive to do so.
By leveraging the facility of group purchasing electricity, the CCA administrator and the city anticipate that will probably be capable of present 100 % renewable electrical energy at a lowered worth in comparison with electrical energy provided by Central Hudson. If it seems that the CCA can’t get hold of electricity on advantageous phrases, the city can depart the CCA for free of charge and no further obligation.
When the Marbletown CCA begins operating in early 2019, the overwhelming majority of electrical energy used by the city’s residents will come from renewable power assets, while decreasing their costs.
Saving money with building electrification
Another thing going for Marbletown — although it might not look like the case at first — is its lack of entry to pure fuel. This lack of natural fuel infrastructure allows Marbletown to cost-effectively leapfrog to all-electric buildings, in the same approach many nations in Africa have been capable of leapfrog over the set up of pricey telephone infrastructure when wireless phones turned out there.
Chilly climate warmth pumps and heat pump water heaters are the cellphones to pure fuel’ landlines. The 2018 report The Economics of Electrifying Buildings from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) in contrast the life-cycle prices of cold climate air supply warmth pumps (ASHPs) with typical heating with and with out air conditioners in 5 cities: Oakland, Houston, Providence and Chicago in a number of situations.
Economic modeling of chilly climate air source warmth pumps by Rocky Mountain Institute.
They found that ASHPs have been often more economical than natural fuel in new development, and all the time cheaper than gasoline oil or propane warmth within the one city the place these two fuels are used: Windfall, RI.
I spoke to Mike Henchen, a supervisor with RMI’s electricity follow and one of the authors of the report, to learn how these economics would translate to Marbletown’s climate. He says that the two most necessary elements in translating the ASHP results from Windfall to Marbletown are the somewhat colder climate and the variations within the prices of electricity and gasoline oil.
RMI’s modeling discovered that, due to the colder climate in Chicago, the ASHPs studied are 15 % less efficient at producing heat from electricity in Chicago than in Windfall over the course of a typical winter.
In accordance with the National Weather Service, Windfall’s typical winter day by day temperature ranges from 24 levels F to 40 degrees F. For Chicago, that range runs from 15 to 32 degrees, while the standard vary in Marbletown is 21 to 36 degrees. Hence, Marbletown’s local weather is almost halfway between that of Providence and Chicago for the purpose of winter heating. Therefore, we will anticipate that ASHPs can be around 7 % less environment friendly for producing heat in Marbletown than in Providence.
In line with the U.S. Energy Info Administration, common retail electrical energy prices are 16.3 cents per kilowatt-hour in Rhode Island. In Marbletown, electrical energy at present costs about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (not including anticipated savings from the CCA). The EIA quantity for New York state as a entire is 14.5 cents.
A spot examine of heating oil costs in Rhode Island and the Decrease Hudson Valley region of New York also finds that Marbletown heating oil prices are roughly 20 % larger than those in Windfall.
With electricity 20 % cheaper in Marbletown than Windfall, and gasoline oil approximately 20 % costlier, these worth differences will utterly overwhelm the slight reduction in ASHP effectivity brought on by Marbletown’s colder climate.
The fee savings from heating with an ASHP as in comparison with with gasoline oil must be about 30 % larger per unit of warmth than in Providence, as a consequence of a combination of lower electricity costs and better gasoline oil costs. Where fuel-oil-to-electric conversions are cost-effective in Windfall, in Marbletown they’re compelling.
In contrast to with heating, Marbletown has few benefits in the transition to electrical transportation. As a rural city, most residents are utterly car-dependent for his or her on a regular basis needs. One advantage we do have is being situated in the middle of Ulster County. The county authorities has been a chief in the installation of EV charging stations at county amenities, and it makes these charging stations out there for public use as properly.
The city also used a state grant to put in an EV charging station at the town’s group middle. Marbletown is working with the neighboring city of Rosendale to install an EV charging station at our shared municipal workplaces, and they’re serving to two native nonprofits to put in EV chargers on their premises.
New York state has a generous grant program for EV charging stations, but the program requires using networked business stations. In at the very least two situations, this has made the grants extra hassle than they are value, when the stations turned out to be incompatible with the limited native cellular phone network.
Town leaders consider the state grant program might be a lot improved if it also offered much smaller grants for the set up of non-networked charging stations more appropriate to rural areas. The present program is overly targeted on high-speed charging along key transportation corridors to the neglect of Degree 2 charging at destinations like workplaces and recreation areas, like climbing trails.
Another problem of transitioning to 100 % renewable power by converting heating masses to electrical energy is seasonal mismatch. Heating masses peak within the winter. At Marbletown’s 42° N latitude, the city will get solely nine hours of daylight in midwinter, however 15 hours in midsummer. This, mixed with a a lot lower sun angle, leads to solar installations producing only one-half to one-third as a lot power in January as in July.
Lower solar manufacturing in winter, combined with greater winter electrical energy demand for heating, will ultimately transfer New York’s peak electricity demand to winter from summer time. Solving this drawback of seasonal mismatch shall be best if we start planning as we speak by minimizing winter peak demand and on the lookout for renewable electricity sources that have vital production through the coldest winter months.
Many attainable solutions to seasonal mismatch should be addressed outdoors of Marbletown’s borders. The state is pursuing the deployment of two,400 megawatts of offshore wind, and has vital hydropower assets. More hydropower is imported from Quebec.
Long-distance north-south high-voltage DC transmission tasks, such because the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection, would not solely allow the connection of huge amounts of offshore wind energy, but would also permit for the import of renewable electricity to New York in the important winter heating season. As well as, the strains might export extra solar era to areas with extra vital cooling masses in the summer.
Marbletown has no wind assets of interest to wind energy developers. Aside from photo voltaic, its native renewable power assets are hydropower and biomass.
The city has quite a few small streams and an present run-of-river hydro plant, which it’s taking a look at creating and upgrading with a local developer, Current Hydro. One small stream we are taking a look at dries up throughout most summers, however it has such a substantial drop that it varieties a lovely waterfall within the winter. The local property house owners can’t see it from their houses, they usually fear about trespassers falling and hurting themselves on the ice. Making this engaging nuisance protected through the use of the water for hydropower can be a great approach to each clear up a potential liability drawback for the landowners, whereas also producing renewable electricity when it’s wanted for heating.
Many town residents at present get monetary savings by heating with wood stoves, somewhat than gasoline oil. Encouraging the adoption of more efficient wood pellet stoves and advanced wooden boilers may also scale back winter electrical energy use while decreasing air pollution from less environment friendly, older models. The state has beneficiant incentives for the installation of superior wooden heating techniques.
RMI’s Henchen means that the city may also “minimize the winter peak through weatherization.” Specializing in the most effective heating technologies also can enormously scale back the peak load. The most effective cold climate ASHPs will use one-third as much electrical energy over the course of the winter as electrical resistance heating, and a little less than half as a lot on the coldest days, when they are least environment friendly and heating needs peak. By focusing on changing resistance heating with extra efficient technologies, winter heating masses may be decreased, leaving room for extra fuel-oil-to-electric and propane-to-electric conversions.
By the way, Central Hudson just launched $750 immediate rebates on two models of hybrid heat pump water heaters costing $1,299 with out the rebate. The utility’s rebates on sensible thermostats also can help shift heating and cooling masses away from peak hours. (The prevailing rebates on ASHPs are right here.)
Many policy suggestions for transitioning to 100 % renewable power involve utility and incentive packages which might be past the purview of a rural city of a few thousand individuals. But we aren’t solely without policy levers. The town points building permits, and has control over building and zoning codes, though modifications in constructing codes require and exemption from the state.
The greatest limitations on what the town can do are the labor and experience of its small number of staff. This restricted capacity is augmented by volunteers in town’s committees and commissions, probably the most related one in this case being the Environmental Conservation Fee (ECC), which I’ve led since 2014. The flip aspect of Marbletown’s small measurement is that a few volunteers like these on the ECC can have an outsized impression. My group and I’ve moved Marbletown from the middle of the environmental pack to a town that has drawing constructive consideration statewide.
Potential paths to 100 % renewable power thought-about by the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission as a part of an power planning effort at the side of Sustainable Hudson Valley.
Listed here are a few of the steps the city has already taken to maneuver the city in the direction of 100 % renewable power.
- Accomplished a listing of power use within the town with Sustainable Hudson Valley (PDF presentation).
- Removing of roughly a third of the city’s streetlights, and the alternative of the remaining lights with LEDs.
- A ban on hydraulic fracking.
- Installation of EV charging stations (noted above).
- Obtaining a $50,000 grant for the power retrofit of the city’s group middle.
- Joined the Hudson Valley Group Energy CCA.
- An LED lighting retrofit at the Town Highway Department.
- Participated in a Solarize campaign that resulted in 16 residential photo voltaic installations in the town and 30 further installations within the other two collaborating towns and past.
Present and planned future tasks embrace:
- Connecting a number of local non-taxable organizations with a solar developer prepared to lease their rooftops for group photo voltaic developments.
- Working with a small hydropower developer to research upgrading the native utility-owned hydropower plant to extend its manufacturing, as well as to assess the viability of small hydropower installations the place local streams cross town property and right-of-ways.
- A (principally symbolic) ban on natural-gas connections and pipelines within the city.
- Modifying the cost of building permits to favor constructing effectivity and electrification, and to favor warmth pumps over air conditioners that lack heating functionality.
- The adoption of New York’s stretch power code when it’s finalized.
- Working with local solar installers build group photo voltaic on municipal property and native nonprofits, reminiscent of churches and emergency responders.
- Encouraging local solar installers to incorporate a 240-volt outlet for EV charging as part of solar installations.
Burdens create alternatives
Weaknesses may also be strengths. The high value of heating with gasoline oil and propane has long been a burden on Marbletown residents. Now, it is a robust incentive to modify to a more trendy, far more economical, and much cleaner supply of warmth with chilly climate ASHPs. Advances in electrical automobiles are enabling comparable financial savings in transportation.
These compelling economics are enhanced by robust help for clear power by New York state and Ulster County.
All together, these developments are setting the city of Marbletown on a path to a prosperous, clear power future.