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Bethlehem secures NYSERDA grants

Recovery money to supply solar panels, energy consulting

The Town of Bethlehem is due to receive $291,000 in grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for solar panel installation and the hiring of an energy management employee.

The grants are provided for under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and were awarded after a competitive process, said Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Erik Deyoe.

The contact I talked to at NYSERDA said that statewide there were between 400 and 500 applications, for about $24 million in grants, said Deyoe, who prepared the grant applications.

A $112,000 grant will allow the town to install solar panels on the Elm Avenue Park administration building. The array is expected to offset energy use at that building by 70 percent, for an annual $4,000 savings.

The town will assume 10 percent of the costs, or $12,500.

"We figure it's a little over a 3-yr payback, which for these kinds of investments is a great deal," Deyoe said.

The remaining $179,000 will be used to hire a new employee in the Engineering Department to focus on moving energy efficiency and climate impact initiatives forward. This position"which will be filled through an advertisement and interview process"will coordinate energy audits of the town's eight biggest energy-using facilities.

Having someone dedicated to examining the town's energy use will hopefully advance some of the goals the Engineering Department has been tackling piecemeal, said Deyoe.

"We really need someone to kind of focus on it," he said. "It's really an opportunity to jump start those programs a little more aggressively than we would in the past."

The grant is intended to pay for the position and related work for a one-year period.

The town also submitted an application for $114,000 to make energy efficiency upgrades to Town Hall's heating system, the Elm Avenue Park warming hut and at the Highway garage. That application was not approved.

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