State government should lead in converting to renewable energy

To the Editor:
Many Albany County residents work in the Empire State Plaza or the neighboring state buildings. These workplaces could become a leading example of renewable energy use if a bill currently in the legislature passes.

The Renewable Capitol Act (Senate bill 2689-B, Assembly bill 5633-A) would require the state to convert the Empire State Plaza, the Capitol, and other buildings to renewable energy within three years.

At present, these buildings are connected to a steam system that provides both cooling (by steam-driven compressors) and heating to the buildings. The steam is produced by a gas-fired steam plant located in a low-income residential neighborhood a few blocks north of the Capitol.

The Office of General Services and the New York Power Authority have already taken some steps towards renewable energy at the plaza, including replacing a chiller with an electric one and converting the incandescent lights to light-emitting diodes.

Other parts of the state’s renewable energy plans for the plaza appear to be bogged down, however, including an energy study that was supposed to be completed almost a year ago but has not been released.

Several states have updated their capitol buildings by using ground-source heat-pump systems, also known as geothermal heating and cooling. Michigan, Colorado, and Oklahoma have made this transition, with Michigan’s project reportedly creating about 500 construction jobs.

At the Michigan capitol, the conversion to a heat-pump system was done within an 18-month timeline. In contrast, New York State General Services Commissioner Jeanette Moy recently stated that OGS is developing a plan for the plaza, which would take 10 years to do while only accomplishing a 50-percent reduction in carbon emissions.

If New York State is to comply with the deadlines it set in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, many buildings will need to be converted to renewable heating and cooling in the near future.

The state government should take a leadership role in this conversion and should expedite the work. Passing the Renewable Capitol Act would be an important step.

Susan DuBois


Editor’s note: Susan DuBois co-chairs the policy committee for SHARE, the Sheridan Hollow Alliance for Renewable Energy.

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