Long Island Business News, June 1-7, 2007

East End leads island's 'Green' energy initiatives

By Claude Solnik

Homeowners, businesses turn to alternative energy sources

Laurie Wiltshire, owner of Land Planning Services Ltd. in Wainscott, has cut her electric bill in half, and thinks she can shrink it even more.

Wiltshire installed solar panels on the roof of her company's building. Including rebates from the Long Island Power Authority, the 5.1-kilowatt photovoltaic panels cost about $25,000 up front, but when she factors in depreciation and tax credits, Wiltshire believes that number will drop to around $8,000 - and her monthly $230 electric bill has dropped below $120.

"I expect the system to pay for itself in five years," Wiltshire said. "Depending, of course, on the price of energy. If the price of energy goes up more, it'll pay for itself sooner."

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Bridgehampton-based Renewable Energy Long Island (the group is relocating this month to East Hampton), eliminated his electric bill completely with solar panels. "I got money back from LIPA," Raacke said. "I produced more than I could use."

So-called "green" energy is gaining ground all over, but it's really picking up speed on the East End, as residents and businesses go solar, or sometimes geothermal. With solar energy, photovoltaic cells are installed on roofs, where they're energized by the sun; with geothermal energy, groundwater is pumped around to heat or cool businesses and homes.

Marc Clejan, managing director of Bridgehampton-based energy consulting and installation firm GreenLogic Energy, said his firm is installing alternative energy systems at a rate of one home a week, primarily on the East End.

Although they are less visible than solar panels, geothermal systems typically cost between $40,000 and $50,000 to install, Clejan said, and usually pay for themselves within five years.

On the East End, solar appears to be the alternative energy of choice. Lower housing densities give houses better exposure to the sun - "You can design with a south-facing roof and take advantage of sunlight," Wiltshire noted - and both residential and commercial owners are catching some rays.

Amaden Gay Insurance Co. in East Hampton Village has a solar system on it's roof, while the Springs School in East Hampton is looking to install its own 20-kilowatt solar system. The Town of Southold, meanwhile, is buying green energy in the form of wind power produced by Wayne, Pa.-based Community Energy Inc.

"These systems eliminate the emission of greenhouse gases," Clejan said. "Customers tell us 'I'm concerned about the environment.' Most of the time, when they say that, they mean global warming."

But Clejan said most people don't install systems solely for environmental purposes. Rising electric costs have made the systems as good for the bank account as for the atmosphere.

"Save money and save the planet," Clejan said. "That's what people are going for."

"It's nice to know that it helps a little in a small way," said Wiltshire, a GreenLogic customer, "but ultimately, it's about the bottom line."

And alternative energy can affect a bottom line in more ways than one: Businesses can benefit by letting customer's know they've taken a more enlightened approach to energy usage.

"It helps them attract customers who value the environment," Raacke said. "More and more, that's somthing they use in their marketing."



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