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Smart Loans

State program promotes energy efficiency

March 3, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN , The Leader-Herald
Since 1998, New York businesses and individuals have been able to receive low-interest loans through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to invest in conserving energy.

NYSERDA spokesman Sal Graven said several local businesses and entities have taken advantage of the program.

“Residential borrowers can get up to $20,000 at 4 percent interest spread out over 10 years to reduce their energy usage,” Graven said. “Commercial users can get up to $1 million plus $500,000 in ‘green building improvements.’”

Johnstown Animal Clinic, Amsterdam Memorial Hospital, Universal Custom Millwork in Amsterdam, Northville Central School District, Fulton County Residential Facility and Helmont Mills in St. Johnsville were among those that elected to take advantage of the Energy Smart Loan funds.

Two projects that show the versatility of the funding usage are at the Fulton County Residential Facility and the Johnstown Animal Clinic.

County Building and Grounds Superintendent Kevin Stanzel said two “single pass” 100-horsepower steam boilers were replaced as part of the renovations at the county infirmary.

“We replaced two steam boilers that were over 40-years old with two high-efficiency 60-horsepower, four-pass steam boilers,” Stanzel said.

He explained that while the out-of-date boilers sent vented heat at 500 degrees, with the high-efficient four-pass replacements, the vent temperatures dropped to 150 degrees. More heat was retained as it passed through chambers four times before being vented into the air.

“The new system is much more efficient,” Stanzel said. “We have projected 20 percent energy savings. But we just got the system up and running and will have to see.”

Stanzel said the $290,000 price tag should have about a 15-year pay-back time on the boiler portion of the project. The NYSERDA re-capitalization drops the 5 percent loan to 1 percent, which can be spread over the 20-year estimated life of the boiler. The other three parts of the facility’s project include asbestos abatement, a new roof and electrical-system replacement for a total of $900,000.

“The work shows our commitment to the facility, our residents and the community,” Stanzel said.

At the Johnstown Animal Clinic, veterinary-owner Amy French said the move to a new building on Route 29 was the perfect time to make energy-saving renovations to what was formerly a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. She said she hopes to be 80 percent self-sufficient from the “green energy” installations.

Parts of the installation are already running, including photo-voltaic panels mounted on the roof to produce electricity, a hot-water storage tank for heating the building and for domestic hot water, and an outside radiator to release excess heat in the summer.

“It’s a bit hard to see the need to release excess heat production this time of year, though,” she said with a laugh. “We call the hot water tank in the basement our ‘hot tub.’”

LOANS — On Page 6D

French said pre-warming water going into heating system with solar panels made the system more efficient because water from either domestic or municipal water sources usually came out at 50 degrees. She said she expects the electricity-producing portion of her system as well as the hot water system to pay for themselves over seven years.

“That’s at today’s electric rates,” she said. “And we all know today’s cost of electricity will go up.”

French said the cost of the system was between $110,000 and $120,000, but there is a 40-50 percent savings with government grants, federal tax savings and low interest loans.

She said part of the system, the photo-voltaic panels, were automatically part of the NYSERDA loan program and the hot water system had to be submitted by her contractor, groSolar of Vermont, for approval. All the components were approved by NYSERDA.

“Right now we don’t have battery back-up,” French said. “I plan to put in batteries in the basement so we will have power if we go off the grid.”

French said that although there was some snow build-up on the solar panels on her roof from the recent snowstorm, it usually melted off in 24 hours.

“Either that or it melts off before we decide we need to go up and brush it off,” she said. “The company said the panels could be brushed off if needed, but we haven’t had to yet.”

With the building being heated with sub-floor hot water pipes and the digital monitors working quietly away in the basement to regulate electric usage and conversion from solar energy to usable electricity, French said the system is self-regulating and comfortable to use. She said any extra electricity produced goes back on the grid with the potential of billing National Grid instead of the other way around.

The program is also available to residential users, but Graven didn’t know of any in the local area who were taking advantage of it. It will be available until the end of July 2009 and he encouraged other commercial and residential customers to access the low-interest loan money.

“The Energy Smart Loan Fund has proven to be a key component of NYSERDA’s highly effective portfolio of consumer programs,” NYSERDA CEO Paul Tonko said in a news release. He encouraged others to take advantage of the program “thereby lowering their energy bills, reducing harmful emissions, mitigating global warming and helping to meet Gov. [Eliot] Spitzer’s goal of reducing electric consumption 15 percent by 2015.”

For more information call 866-NYSERDA or go to http://www.nyserda.org.'>www.nyserda.org.



Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at ga@leaderherald.com'>ga@leaderherald.com.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen

A worker from Gro Solar installs photo-voltaic panels at the Johnstown Animal Clinic Oct. 25.

 
 

 

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