Voices of Long Island: Energy

Clifton Smith, 68, an Elmont truck driver, talked

Clifton Smith, 68, an Elmont truck driver, talked about energy on Long Island. (Credit: Jennifer Smith)

Newsday staff asked Long Islanders about the future of energy on Long Island.

Clifton Smith, 68, of Elmont

A truck driver, Smith is concerned about the high cost of power. these days. He tries to save energy at home by unplugging appliances and turning off lights. Smith thinks the future of energy lies in upping generation from renewable sources. He said switching from oil to natural gas will only delay dependence on fossil fuels.

"I think to go to natural gas would be the same difference [as relying on oil]. They still have to drill for it. And coal is very dangerous... Wind power is good. I would like to see more of it."

Joan Mahon, 46, Syosset

Mahon is a senior instructor with Everblue Training Institute and teaches energy and environmental design LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) classes at Hofstra University’s school of continuing eduation. She said Long Islanders will ramp up energy efficiency in the coming decades, and anticipates growth of building-by-building solar projects and wind turbines on land.

"Some projects I think point to the future, like the installation of the wind turbines at wineries on the North Fork. Those I think are very appropriate, and once they gain success it will be easier for people to understand the value and embrace it... The other thing that will play out in a big way is the individual homeowner who wants to address the energy efficiency of their existing home — the best way to reduce energy demand is to conserve."

Itai Ben, 26, of North Bellport

A salesman originally from Israel, Ben said that alternative energy is too costly right now. But he but thinks that eventually technology will ramp up and provide new ways to power homes and businesses.

"In Israel, they have charging stations for electric cars, but the problem is that it’s expensive... If I had extra money, I would put solar panels on my house to save money [on energy bills]. I think that in the future, scientists will find a solution. Technology will develop."

Julie Rand, 43, of Glen Cove

Rand is a stay-at-home mother of two who opts for the smaller, fuel-efficient car instead of the family mini-van when she isn’t driving the kids around. She has considered installing solar panels on her roof, or maybe a solar thermal system to heat the pool.

"I think we’ll eventually run out of natural gas. It makes sense to try and use less energy. We should try and get away from the pollution. I grew up in St. Louis, and we had marble floors that helped it stay cool in the summer. Now when I leave the house I shut everything off, and close the blinds."

Barbara Shinn, 47, of Mattituck

Shinn, co-owner of Shinn Estates Vineyard, says the winery’s use of solar power and a newly installed wind turbine not only cut energy use and the farm’s carbon footprint but also spur awareness of renewables, which she believes are crucial to the future energy mix.

"Being on Long Island, we’re one of the sunniest and windiest places in New York. The opportunities to install more solar and wind energy are huge. My vision is to see high-tension wires [which run across an outdated tower system on the North Fork] taken down, and replaced with wind turbines. Everywhere there’s a tower, there’s a turbine instead."

Matthew Mathosian, 29

Mathosian, a project manager for EmPower Solar, an Island Park firm behind some of the largest solar-energy projects here, including a recently completed 100 kilowatt project at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset.

"The renewable-energy industry has got to sustain itself. Equipment prices are coming down, and we’re getting additional incentives as far as tax credits. We’ll accelerate our business in the sector. Today, I’m in Long Beach. The only thing I see all day are oil tankers. What’s the difference if there are wind turbines in the water? Of course we’d like to see the power plants all shut down, if what the government is striving for is a totally sustainable renewable economy."

Leighton Delgado, 56

Delgado, a technical representative at the Matouwac Research Center for the Montauk Indian Nation, says Native Americans are in a unique position to help advance in the advancement of renewable energy.

"We were recently assigned by Montauk Nation Chief Robert P. Pharaoh to explore possibilities for renewable energy initiatives that could be implemented on Eastern Long Island, the Montauk tribe’s original territory. Chief Pharaoh’s vision is to protect and preserve Eastern Long Island through natural and renewable practices that cause no harm to the environment. Wind resources available on Eastern Long Island, especially the areas surrounding Montauk Point, are consistent with utility-scale energy production."

Michael White, 57

White, an executive director of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said affordability of the Island’s energy supply is a vital part of the equation in planning the energy future. His answer: plan for more natural gas to fire baseload plants along with plans for more renewables and transmission improvements to import more power.

"Don’t just look at green energy. Lack of affordable energy is one of the huge issues that discourages business on Long Island ... We have a clear difficiency with respect to availability of natural gas. However you frame it, there’s going to be a resource battle."

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