- Ten businesses and nonprofits in Ithaca, New York, will be fully electrified in the coming months as part of the city’s goal to achieve decarbonization by 2030. The project represents $1.9 million in clean energy investments, the city reported.
- City decarbonization partner BlocPower will implement electrification projects, weatherization upgrades and heat pump retrofits in the commercial structures, the Ithaca Department of Planning and Development’s sustainability office announced last week. These include two retail stores, a municipal building, office spaces, a roastery and an architectural warehouse.
- Federal and state incentives are subsidizing nearly $1.4 million of the clean energy investments, saving building owners about $1 million, or around two-thirds of the costs they would otherwise incur on installations and upgrades, the release said.
The energy upgrades will avoid the annual emissions of an estimated 680 metric tons of greenhouse gases, the release said, pointing to estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency based on currently available data.
The electrification initiative is part of the Ithaca Green New Deal, which the Ithaca Common Council unanimously adopted in 2019. The measure aims for the use of 100% renewable power across government operations by 2025 and complete decarbonization by 2030.
The city contracted BlocPower in June 2022 to manage efforts to decarbonize its entire building stock through electrification. In 2023, the city’s focus shifted to helping non-residential buildings take advantage of an incentive provided by New York State Electric & Gas as part of its NYC Clean Heat Rebate Program. That incentive, which has since expired, targeted commercial properties to install heat pumps in gas-constrained areas, per the Feb. 2 news release.
Ethan Bodnaruk, Ithaca program manager at BlocPower, said the installations being done in the 10 buildings are air-source heat pumps because geothermal heat pumps can be more expensive. “A lot of our work was driven by the local utility heat pump incentive, colloquially called the ‘gas kicker,” Bodnaruk said in an interview. The company connected with many operators of participating buildings via the 2030 Districts Network, which seeks to bring property owners and building managers together with local governments and businesses, he said.
The heat pump incentive “was specifically designed to bridge the gap between a heat pump system and a fossil fuel replacement system … for businesses that would otherwise struggle to afford a heat pump system and possibly look at having to invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Bodnaruk said. For the Aeroplane Factory business campus, which is one of the participants, “whole-building electrification costs would be $200,000 or less because that’s the ceiling for the heat pump incentive.”
Upgrades at another participant, the Historic Ithaca cultural center, were completed last week with the removal and decommissioning of the building’s existing gas furnaces. A transformer upgrade in an adjacent neighborhood held up the project for a few months, Bodnaruk said.
Bodnaruk noted that the city’s leadership has changed recently. “We’re looking forward to working with our city staff, partners and the city government to go after state and federal funding that can help accelerate [electrification] efforts. Larger support and continued improvements in federal and state policy will make a difference.”
This week the City Council discussed how the city will measure and monitor the impact of these electrification projects on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, Rebecca Evans, director of sustainability at the city of Ithaca, told Facilities Dive. “We’re in the process of doing an updated greenhouse gas inventory,” Evans said. “We had some disagreement with previous staff members about how to calculate [these emissions], which led to double counting in previous years. [That] will not happen, going forward,” Evans added.
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of the Ithaca program manager at BlocPower. He is Ethan Bodnaruk.