Articles By Chris Baiamonte

NYS Energy Efficiency Goals

In 2013 the Governor rolled out the Reforming the Energy Vision (“REV”) program, which broadly set forth the state’s energy policies and goals. Two of the central goals laid out in the REV were to have 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 60 percent of 1990 levels. These are in addition to commitments the state made as a part of its membership in the 17 state United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states determined to combat climate change. Currently only about 25 percent of the state’s electricity is derived from renewable sources.

Need for Energy Storage

One major obstacle to the widespread adoption of renewable energy resources have been their intermittent nature. This just means that they cannot produce electricity on demand. Taking two of the most widely known renewable sources for example: windmills do not generate electricity when the wind is not blowing and solar panels do not generate electricity when the sun is not shining. These facts put these energy sources at a disadvantage when compared to a coal or natural gas burning power plants which can produce more electricity whenever their operators decide to burn more fuel. Coupled with the inconsistent nature of electricity demand, (i.e. we tend to use a lot more electricity on hot summer days to power our air conditioners) much more widespread adoption of renewable energy sources cannot be achieved without overcoming this hurdle.

The Role of Energy Storage in New York

Enter large scale electricity storage. Currently the most common form of energy storage utilized in our electric grid is that of hydroelectric dams, which store gravitational potential energy in a reservoir, to be released whenever there is excess demand. However wind and solar electricity require a sophisticated battery to store the energy they produce. This burgeoning technology allows for excess electricity produced when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining to be saved for a time when there is more demand for electricity then is being produced. Famous technology company Tesla, who employs over 500 workers in their Western New York facility, is one of the world’s most prolific developers of these batteries, by some accounts installing half of the global stock since 2015. New York recognizes the need to invest in energy storage technology to achieve its renewable energy targets.

Goals

In 2017, New York became the fourth state to set a target for energy storage capacity. And in his 2018 State of the State address, the Governor publicly proclaimed a goal of 1.5 gigawatts of energy storage capacity by 2025. For context, that is enough to power about 450,000 homes. According to the state’s estimates, this would allow New Yorker to avoid over discharging a million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Incentivizing Battery Implementation

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) has committed $260 million to energy storage investments. Last November Assembly Bill A06571 was enacted, creating the “Energy storage deployment program” with the goal of encouraging any economically feasible type of electricity storage that could potentially help New York reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The implementation of this law includes things like using NYSERDA’s Green Bank to invest in this technology, incorporating storage into the approval criteria for renewable energy procurement requests, and reducing regulatory barriers to storage projects. One example of a regulatory barrier being removed was an order issued in April by the New York State Public Service Commission modifying the standardized interconnection requirements to allow energy storage units to connect with the grid more easily. To date, NYSERDA has provided funding for over 50 new storage systems in the state.

Roadmap

To further solidify its commitment to being a national leader in the electricity storage industry, the New York State Department of Public Service released a comprehensive Energy Storage Roadmap on June 21st. The intention of the Roadmap is to provide a “set of recommended near‐term policy, regulatory and programmatic actions to support energy storage deployment in New York State.” If the energy storage industry becomes as central to the world’s energy infrastructure as the state believes it will, New York may well be in good position to capitalize on this budding technology.

 

Picture: rev.ny.gov

 

The Land of Opportunity:

Independence Day, when we get together to commemorate the Declaration of Independence and to celebrate all things American. Our country has really come a long way since rebellious colonists threw off the shackles of monarchical rule in the 18th century. From a humble agrarian nation, it has grown to be the dominant military and economic superpower on the globe. Its cultural, political, and commercial influence is felt in every nation on earth.

Over the course of its rise to prominence, America has been known for, perhaps more than any of its many idiosyncrasies, its willingness to welcome foreign immigrants. The seeds of this ethos were firmly sown by the first Independence Day in 1776. Many of the first European settlers of North America came to escape poverty, religious persecution, and even political violence. These settlers brought with them a real sense of empathy for the plight of outsiders.

Thus, immigration became a defining feature of the American experience throughout its history. Immigrant labor was responsible for many of the great American achievements of the 19th century. Chinese immigrants laid the first intercontinental railroad, German and Italian natives built the longest suspension bridge in the world connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn for the first time, and the Irish dug the longest canal in the world in upstate New York enabling commerce between New York City and the Great Lakes.

Immigrants founded some of the greatest American companies: U.S. Steel, Levi-Straus, AT&T, DuPont, Proctor &Gamble, Yahoo!, Google . . .  These firms created technologies that transformed standards of living the world-over and provided millions of good jobs to American workers. The success of immigrants in America was so profound as to provide an impetus for the moniker ‘the Land of Opportunity’.

Successive waves of immigrants have come and assimilated into American society. Each one bringing with it new ideas, philosophies, religions, inventions, and traditions. All of these have shaped the nation into the one we know and celebrate today.

Of course, this is not to say that Americans have always and everywhere welcomed immigrants with open arms. Racism, xenophobia, protectionism, and plain old-fashioned intolerance have reared their ugly head in America, as they have everywhere in the world where people from different places, who speak different languages, or practice different faiths try to live and work together. But Americans have traditionally managed to move beyond our differences.

In many ways the success of the American experiment can be attributed to our willingness to welcome immigrants into our midst and to incorporate their perspectives into our national identity. Independence Day is a chance for us to reflect on what we love about America. Surely, our ability to incorporate individuals from all over the world into our society is one of our best features. Indeed, today America is home to 50 million immigrants, more than the next four nations combined. This Independence Day, reflect on how your ancestors came to live in ‘the Land of Opportunity’ and on how we can keep the opportunities abundant for all who seek them.

 

Picture: www.shopbackdrop.com

Walk-it-off.

Walking

The banal perils of our sedentary work habits and lifestyles are well documented. Muscular diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome linked to keyboard usage skyrocketed beginning in the 1980s. Back and neck problems associated with sitting have also been on the rise. Workers who spend all day at a desk or in the car have been show by medical studies to be at higher risk for heart disease, obesity, certain types of cancers, diabetes, even depression. Sitting has been called, perhaps hyperbolically, “the new smoking”, by Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Sitting for an extended period is also negatively impacting our work performance. The British Medical Journal has concluded that prolonged time spent off our feet contributes to fatigue. This can be detrimental to productivity for workers in the knowledge economy and downright dangerous for those of us who drive or operate machinery. In a national survey conducted by the National Safety Council, among 2000 working adults, 76% of respondents reported feeling tired at work, 44% had trouble focusing, and 16% admitted to falling asleep unintentionally while driving!

There are countless remedies to the issues of workplace fatigue and health problems associated with prolonged seat exposure. Potential fixes to these common problems range from limiting screen time, changing our diets, transitioning to a standing desk, coordinating sleep schedules to more closely reflect our circadian rhythms, something called a Pomodoro Timer? Unfortunately, most of us just crack our knuckles and reach for that second cup of coffee when we feel stiff or lethargic.

But, there is one very simple way to combat these potential perils without making any sacrifices, spending any money, or going on some weird energy diet: walking.

A short walk gives the brain a chance to rest. As we think about the scenery or our destination our brains get a chance to decompress. We get a break from whatever task we were working on. Breaking up thinking about a topic can often lead to a fresh perspective on an issue. One we could miss if we refuse to come up for air. Research conducted at the University of Illinois has shown that even light aerobic exercise increases the number of blood vessels servicing the brain. This increase contributes to the speed of brain activity and facilitates problem solving. Walking has been shown to improve mood. It can give us a restored sense of balance when we are feeling frustrated or angry. Albert Einstein famously made a ritual of taking a brief walk around the neighborhood every afternoon. He reported having many of his ideas on these strolls.

In addition to the psychological benefits of walking, there are numerous physiological benefits. Walking increases heart rate, improves circulation, it facilitates deeper breathing, and stimulates muscle activity. Even a brief walk can positively impact cardiovascular health, balance, bone strength, and muscle health. Walking outside gives our body a chance to capture much needed vitamin D from sunlight (well, at least a few months a year in upstate NY). Being away from our work station also gives our eyes a chance to readjust, reducing strain that comes from reading small print or looking at screens. All this can be accomplished with a five or ten-minute walk down the block, or even around the office.

Sitting down all day reading off a screen and making repetitive hand motions is not great for our bodies or our minds. And remedies such as drinking caffeine, eating sugary snacks, or browsing social media can actually be making the problem worse. Taking a short break to get up and walk around for a few minutes provides numerous benefits both for our physical well-being and for our ability to do our jobs well.

 

Picture: www.pinterest.com