Narrowsburg news

Bringing energy to government

By GREG TRIGGS
Posted 2/1/22

Government loves a good acronym. Tusten is no different. The TEC, aka the Tusten Energy Committee, began in 2011 as the town board was enacting an anti-fracking law. Under the leadership of …

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Narrowsburg news

Bringing energy to government

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Government loves a good acronym. Tusten is no different. The TEC, aka the Tusten Energy Committee, began in 2011 as the town board was enacting an anti-fracking law. Under the leadership of chairperson Brandi Merolla, other current members include Star Hesse, Naomi Holoch, Catherine Lewis, councilmember Kevin McDonough, Jennifer Porter, Scott Porter and me.

Having recently attended my first meeting I learned quite a bit and thought it worth the energy to share.

The Tusten Energy Committee has worked  on many town projects in the last decade, including but not limited to:

  • An energy audit of all town buildings/facilities and the insulation of the town hall;
  • Encouraging the Tusten Town Board to take the New York State Climate Smart Community pledge;
  • Replacing all lighting for municipal buildings and facilities with energy-efficient LED lighting;
  • Being presented with the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) Community Service award in April 2015;
  • Installation of a solar array that provides power to all town buildings and facilities in 2017;
  • Instituting a unified solar permit in our building codes;
  • Designating an area at the town hall for e-waste;
  • Educating the community about the environmental dangers of plastic bags and straws and distributing free reusable Tusten Recycles tote bags to local households; and
  • Labeling all public-use town receptacles to separate trash from recycling.

Tusten was certified the 19th town in New York state to be a Bronze Climate Smart Community and thus received a $5,000 grant.

The TEC supported instituting the Tusten Repair Cafe, which services the community four times a year at the town hall.

Chairperson Brandi Merolla was presented with the UDC Community Service award in April 2019.

The TEC received a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation full grant of $138,100 to purchase a town food-scrap digester called a HORSE (High-solids Organic-waste Recycling System with Electrical Output) to reduce food waste, produce nutrient-rich probiotic plant food and biogas.

Tusten became the first municipality in the U.S. to power its own municipal food digester by their own municipal solar array.

HORSE operations began in 2021 at the town highway barn next to the town solar array on Route 97 in Tusten.

Since August 2019, town businesses and residents have collected and contributed more than five tons of soft plastic waste to send to TREX for recycling, rather than putting it in a landfill. This qualified Tusten to receive six TREX benches for our efforts. The benches, made from recycled soft plastic, can be seen throughout town at our town deck, the library, at the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability office and at the HORSE.

The TEC advocated for the transfer of ownership of local streetlights to the town.

Tusten received a $20,000 grant for our new LED streetlights in 2021. The town board voted to use the grant for WiFi Smart Nodes on streetlights from Main St. to Bridge St. to Erie St.  By February 2021, 90 percent of Tusten LED streetlights had been installed.

Completion of the LED streetlights installation is expected in spring 2022. The good news keeps coming. Six decorative pendant LED light fixtures will soon adorn Main Street.

Thanks to the efforts of the TEC and our community, we are well-positioned for the anticipated advances in green initiatives. About 77 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should further develop renewable energy sources like wind and solar power rather than produce fossil fuels.

Renewables will make up 24 percent of the U.S. electricity generation by 2030. Experts say solar energy could easily satisfy the Earth’s energy consumption year-round, with five times more jobs created by renewable energy compared to fossil fuels. Wind currently produces about 2.4 percent of the overall energy used in America.

The rewards of renewable energy are significant ecologically and in very real dollars and sense. Eleven million people around the globe found employment in the green energy industry in 2018. That number, and the efforts of the TEC, are only expected to grow.

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