BNL scientists help clean up energy on Brookhaven Town Task Force


In the Spring 2009 edition the Town of Brookhaven’s Green Gazette, BNL appeared in a list of some of the most important players in the “green” energy game.

Under the heading “Clean Energy Task Force,” Brookhaven Lab, along with the Sierra Club, the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition, Renewable Energy Long Island and the Green Energy Council, among others, received mention for participating in a committee designed “to recommend Town Code amendments concerning retrofitting existing buildings or new construction to include solar, wind, other renewable energy sources, and energy conservation.”

Representing the Lab on the Task Force are Jeff Williams and Peter Pohlot, both of the Environmental Protection Division. In their view, it is natural that Brookhaven be involved in implementing clean energy technology and policy in local communities.

“It’s really about networking,” said Pohlot. “Brookhaven is a major player in developing new energy technologies, and our scientists are often involved in the most cutting-edge programs. It makes sense that we work with institutions such as Stony Brook University and municipal and county governments on these issues.”

Meeting at least twice a year, community leaders and officials from the various organizations “network” to share information, experiences with specific initiatives and advice on what has worked in their organizations and communities. Most sessions also include a presentation from a green energy business or organization proposing new programs.

Williams noted the value of this type of collaboration, pointing out that “as organizations, government entities and businesses all work on clean energy, it’s helpful to compare results.” New ideas and cleaner methods circulate between towns across Long Island, improving the overall standard and making the region relatively progressive compared to the rest of the nation.

According to Pohlot, being ahead of the energy curve is a necessity for Long Island.

“We have the nation’s second highest energy cost and terrible traffic congestion,” he said, also pointing out that Long Island is particularly well positioned to lead the world in certain areas, such as photovoltaic solar power. “Germany is in the forefront of PV usage right now, but we get a greater intensity of sunlight. It makes more sense to pursue the technology here.”

Beyond the environmental reasons to promote green energy, the Task Force also tries to couch the discussion in terms of economic benefits for the town and region. Both men spoke about the loss of manufacturing jobs on the Island, predicting that new clean energy industry and investment, such as a proposed photovoltaic cell plant, would bring many new jobs to the community and increase the tax base.

Williams elaborated on this issue, noting that due to the strong presence of university and technical training in the region, “we need to bring jobs back here for young, highly skilled people. Until we do that, they will continue to move away.”

Since first being convened in 2004, the Brookhaven Town Task Force has done much work towards these goals. Many municipally owned automobiles have run on biodiesel since 2002, and the town garbage trucks use compressed natural gas. Hybrid vehicles were in use as early as 2005.

Aside from these basic steps, the Task Force has overseen other innovative measures. Pohlot described one program in which the town government fronts the money for energy-efficiency improvements for low-income housing (which might cost on the order of $10,000 for new windows, insulation, etc.), making up the funds in the subsequent energy savings. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said.

The future looks even cleaner. The Town of Brookhaven has recently begun working on a parking garage project that would use solar cells on the roof to power the “plug-in” hybrid/electric cars on the levels below. Another proposal, from local company Long Island Green Power, suggests placing a solar array at landfills that would be used in conjunction with methane gas extraction to operate low-pressure turbines, generating totally clean power.

In their role as liaisons from BNL, Williams and Pohlot hope to be both sources of scientific information from the Lab and messengers for the needs of the community to scientists. “We’re both engineers and community members,” Williams explained. “We’re very invested in making our town a better place.”

Tags: energy

2009-1269  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom