Region using renewable, cleaner resources to cut costs

Sources of renewable energy including wind farms with turbines and mills, solar panels fueled by photons, hybrid and compressed natural gas busses and more are being used in Lycoming and Tioga counties in an effort to reduce energy costs and carbon footprints in the state.

Dr. Edward Maginn, Dorini Family professor of energy studies at University of Notre Dame, explained in an “Energy 101” lecture at Penn College, that energy is a resource that allows us as humans to do work.

“Without energy we can’t do anything,” he said. “We can’t live, we can’t breathe, we can’t eat, we can’t move. We have to have energy to do something.”

He added that renewable energy sources — like wind and solar — can make a difference if communities, business owners, land owners and others take a step to change their efforts.

“Wind and solar are definitely making a difference at a global scale. At current growth rates, wind and solar could generate 30% (or more) of the US electricity needs in 20 years,” he said. “But even in places like Williamsport, solar and wind can help contribute to the energy mix.”

Maginn said changing the energy climate will not happen overnight, but the regular use of automobiles, services of petroleum, oil, and gas, as well as furnaces can be replaced by other energy-friendly sources.

“Getting rid of all this infrastructure and replacing it with something else will not happen overnight. Changes in energy usage will happen over a long period of time. That is why if we want to change energy usage patterns, we need to start now and stop wasting time,” he said. “Energy is a fundamental human right. We all should have access to it.”

River Valley Transit and the Loyalsock Township Supervisors have made efforts in Lycoming County by making changes to their buildings and equipment.

Chris Clark, fleet manager at River Valley Transit, said that out of the 54 current busses and other vehicles the company owns, 19 of them are busses that use compressed natural gas and six of them are hybrid busses.

The purchase of these busses was made in 2012 as a “logical decision by the state,” according to Clark.

“It was a logical thing,” he said. “The rest of the state was on this green footprint, and we got grants through alternative fuel energies to offset fuel costs compressed natural gas is just the way to go.”

He added that with these natural gas busses, there is almost zero percent of nitric oxide coming from exhaust and that it is mostly water and vapor, making it a first choice for River Valley as it is using a good supply of the state’s renewable resources.

“We are getting four new ones by the end of the year and hopefully some more as money accumulates and grants come forward,” he added.

Marc Sortman, Loyalsock Supervisors chairman, and Bill Burdett, township manager, added that the township building on East Third Street has had their solar panel roofing for at least seven or eight years now and it was constructed specifically to reduce energy costs.

The construction of the panels was originally $100,000 for the life expectancy of the panels being 25 years, but soon was halved after receiving grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the SEDA-COG Energy Resource Center. They paid the full amount and started saving money in seven years, much shorter than the projected 20 year pay-back period.

“We are saving 85 percent of what we used to spend,” Sortman said.

“We are happy we did it,” Burdett said.

Armenia Mountain Wind Farm, owned by ALLETE Clean Energy, is a windfarm containing 67 wind turbines and about 100 megawatts throughout Bradford and Tioga Counties. The farm was produced to help reduce the carbon footprint in the state according to Al Rudeck, company president.

“It was built in commission by AES Energy and we bought it from them in 2015,” Rudeck said.

“It was built to service the local energy providers and communities. They wanted the carbon-free energy that the mountain produces. It was a good place. It certainly added the carbon-free clean energy to the system. I can say they enjoy the long-term stable energy they have.”

He added that the renewable energy and energy technician field is a growing one in that there needs to be people at the windfarm to take care of maintenance issues and to keep the turbines running.

“We have about six or seven people there at any time,” he said. “Those turbines require continuous maintenance: blade repairs and maintenance from erosion from dust and particles and weather, trouble shooting to restart them and keep them turning and running. It’s a growing field, it’s a growing profession across the nation.”

Maginn added to this saying that the field will seemingly have more job opportunities but they need people trained for said positions.

“It seems clear that there are going to be lots of jobs for people who can help implement solutions to the energy problem. One of my main messages is that we need more people who are trained to deal with the technical, economic and political issues surrounding energy use,” Maginn said.

Allete Clean Energy however does in house training for all technicians because of the equipment used at the wind and solar sites.

“Allete Clean Energy has projects all over the country, and we provide training for our technicians ourselves,” Rudeck said. “There is a lot of sophisticated equipment to run and we need to learn about them and how to run them.”

He added that the windfarm will see cost savings overtime with Allete Clean Energy’s help but it will continue to bring clean energy to Bradford and Tioga counties.

“We value bringing clean energy to America and bringing clean energy across the country,” Rudeck added.

Maginn added that our current energy system needs help, as it is making negative changes to our planet. He said that our country needs to have more resources to combat these changes like implementing wind and solar energy.

“There is no argument that our current energy use pattern, which relies on fossil fuels for 80% of our energy, is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, with unpredictable consequences,” he said. “We should expend more resources on coming up with ways to continue to provide plentiful, cheap energy to humanity without the negative consequences for the environment. So far, we have not done so, and my message is that people need to ask for more to be done and go into fields where they can directly impact the problem.”