Renewable energy parks are at the forefront of discussions lately; in fact, the US Department of Energy (DOE) recently held a webinar to showcase communities that have integrated multiple energy technologies to create renewable energy parks in their areas.
What is a Renewable Energy Park?
A renewable energy park, or “energy park” is an evolving concept, and the definition still varies; but for the most part, it is an area used and planned for the purpose of clean energy development, like wind and solar generation. This renewable infrastructure can serve as smart and sustainable assets for areas with surplus industrial property. Renewable energy parks not only provide a source of reliable, locally-produced clean energy, but they have also contributed to eco-tourism and served as an educational resource to local schools, universities and business groups.
In the past, energy sites have been one-dimensional with a coal or gas plant producing electricity, for example; whereas, energy parks today can incorporate an assortment of technologies and purposes. For instance, generation can come from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, nuclear, clean fossil or hydrogen generation.
Grant Opportunities and Utility Incentives
Communities interested in developing renewable energy parks should pursue grant opportunities, state-funded programs, and/or utility incentives to assist in them with developing and implementing energy efficiency and conservation strategies. One example includes the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and administered by the DOE. Securing these types of grants enables a community to advance and complete energy efficiency projects in their community with the assistance of government funding. As part of renewable energy projects, communities should also be prepared to develop an Energy and Environmental Conservation Strategy (EECS) to define measurable goals and objectives. These steps are critical to the overall success of a renewable energy park initiative.
The Town of Hempstead Renewable Energy Park
An example included in the DOE webinar featured the Town of Hempstead, New York, and its renewable energy park in Point Lookout, New York. Located on the western south shore of Long Island, the Town of Hempstead is the largest township in the United States and a leader in renewable energy demonstration and education. Today, this renewable energy park features several innovative demonstration projects, including a hydrogen refueling station powered by wind energy; various solar photovoltaics (PV), solar thermal, and geothermal technologies; electric vehicle car charging stations; and an off-grid capable solar/wind shellfish aquaculture facility.
After securing a $4.5 million EECBG, The Town of Hempstead implemented a variety of energy projects, including wind, solar, ground-source heat pump systems, lighting and HVAC retrofits, vehicle fleet improvements, an energy and greenhouse gas database, an energy master plan, metering data acquisition system and public outreach efforts.
Renewable Energy Adoption and Education
The DOE webinar discussed several of the unique projects at the energy parks, the successes and challenges during stages of implementation and operation, and the educational opportunities for the community and industry as a whole. During their lifetime, these projects will generate valuable case studies and performance data that will provide a better understanding of the installed performance of alternative renewable energy technologies.
The Town of Hempstead is currently working with local educational institutions and establishing a team to provide regular tours of the energy park to leverage the educational benefits that the park offers and to promote renewable, clean energy projects. Raising public awareness, understanding, and confidence of the benefits of renewable energy technologies will help further the adoption and development of these technologies in the United States.
Clean Energy Saves Money and Reduces Carbon Footprint
As of March 2013, the Town of Hempstead has completed $4.2 million in projects from the EECS and obtained approximately $200,000 in utility rebates for additional clean energy projects. Project benefits include lowering the Town’s carbon footprint, bringing about major energy savings and improving the Town’s facilities. The Town of Hempstead’s clean energy initiative and energy park serves as a blueprint and model for other communities to follow when developing renewable energy parks and/or implementing locally-produced clean energy.
Learn more about the project and the Town’s clean energy initiatives from the case study and press release, or visit the Town of Hempstead’s Clean Energy Project website.
Ralph Ciardulli, PE, DCEP, LEED AP, is the Director of Engineering for the SourceOne, Inc. New York office, and serves as the Project Manager for the Town of Hempstead project, providing technical and fiscal guidance in administering the $4.5 million EECBG. With over 10 years of experience and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Brown University, Mr. Ciardulli is a New York certified Professional Engineer, certified Data Center Energy Practitioner, and a LEED Accredited Professional. Mr. Ciardulli is responsible for a wide range of projects involving renewable energy applications, electrical engineering design, specification development, plan review, testing and commissioning for new and modified critical power systems. SourceOne Website: http://www.sourceone-energy.com/.