Cleaner and Meaner ATVs - Industry Tap

Doran Electric Vehicles

Vehicles / February 20, 2021

KNOX — This town wants to be the little town that could when it comes to fighting climate change. It would also like to be one of four small municipalities in the Capital Region to snare a $100, 000 grant — no matching funds needed — to finance a project or projects that would “achieve a direct positive impact on energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The incentive reward, which is being offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority or NYSERDA, promotes Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of making 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by the year 2030, approved by the Public Service Commission in August.

The Capital District Regional Planning Commission, which administers the grant program locally, is supporting Knox and other municipalities that have their eyes on the prize.

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the Knox board took another step forward in its search for another “high-impact action” to help it qualify for certification as a Clean Energy Community, thus making it eligible to apply for one of those big grants.

The town has two action items to its credit so far. It has made it town policy to benchmark energy use by town-owned buildings; and it has adopted a unified solar permit designed to streamline the approval process for residential solar installations. Four action items must be completed in order for Knox to be certified and become eligible to apply for the $100, 000 grant.

The first four certified municipalities to cross the finish line with a project deemed worthy of financing take home the prize.

A Hilltown first?

At the board meeting, the founder of a company busy installing electric-vehicle charging stations around the state placed a gleaming two-port charging station on a table and explained how it works. Installing such a station would satisfy another of the 10 prescribed high-impact actions.

But John Doran of PlugIn Stations Online met with so much scepticism at the meeting — not about his product but about its suitability for Knox — that his parting words were, “Can I take the target off now?”

The most sceptical listener was Town Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis who reminded the board and about two dozen audience members — Knox town board meetings may be the best attended in the Hilltowns — of a greater need.

He said most townspeople would say, “Screw this, put in a gas pump, overwhelmingly.”

Several persons wondered aloud about the need for the climate-friendly amenity in a town where best estimates place the number of electric vehicles at four, including the one owned by Deputy Supervisor Amy Pokorny and her husband, the town assessor.

But Pokorny said that almost all EV-owners, including herself, charge their vehicles at home so a Knox charging station would not be for the benefit of Knox EV-owners — Lefkaditis expressed concern about spending taxpayers money to benefit only a small number of residents — but, rather, a boon to economic development by drawing more visitors to Knox.

Pokorny said later, ” I would no more take my car to town hall for charging than I would take my phone there. “

No-cost option

Doran estimated that the cost of installing his charging station would be about $9, 000, including software for recording and reporting usage as required by a grant from the state Department of Conservation that would cover all but 20 percent of the total cost. The town could contribute the remaining $1, 800 in the form of in-kind services such as installation and maintenance, he said.

The station would be installed at the town hall, near the town park. Users, presumably, could enjoy the park while waiting for their cars to charge.

In the end, the board voted to move ahead and apply for the DEC grant. Lefkaditis and board member Dennis Barber voted “nay”; Pokorny, Eric Kuch, and Earl Barcomb voted in favor.

Another possible qualifying action — energy code enforcement training —was explained by town building inspector Dan Sherman. An on-the-job training path requires inspection of two energy-conserving building projects. Sherman, who is a building inspector in Albany too, explained that two qualifying projects there that he will inspect when completed will be credited to both the Knox and Albany applications for certification. Albany is competing for a grant of $250, 000.

Two other qualifying actions are possibilities. The town is undertaking the conversion of streetlights in the hamlet to light emitting diodes, but Pokorny says that may be completed too late to be a qualifying action. Another action, already submitted but returned for more data, is a “campaign to increase the number of solar rooftops.” The town — working with Solarize Albany and with Helderberg Community Energy, a clean-energy advocacy group that includes the Pokornys — has sponsored public information meetings to promote solar energy.

Asked what project the town has in mind for big-grant financing, Pokorny says an energy audit to be undertaken will pinpoint the need for insulating the town highway garage and demonstrate the benefits.

“We’re going to win no matter what, ” Pokorny told The Enterprise. Even if the town doesn’t get the big grant, she explained, it will still have taken steps to be a clean-energy community and will have earned some smaller grants along the way.

Other business

Among other business, the board:

— Appointed Travis O’Donnell, currently a member of the town’s conservation advisory council, to the town planning board, to complete the unexpired term of the late Dan Driscoll (see related story) ;

— Expressed thanks to Eric Kuch, who was attending his last board meeting as a member, for his service and his work to help block the Kinder-Morgan gas pipeline. Kuch chose not to run in November to complete the last year of Nicholas Viscio’s term. Viscio resigned at the end of 2015. Kuch was appointed to the seat for one year;