Potsdam receives ‘inventory’ to cut gas emissions

The hydro electric plant on the west bank of the Raquette River in Potsdam. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — The village’s primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions have been identified by a local task force, which will aid the goal of becoming a state-certified Climate Smart Community.

The “greenhouse gas inventory” provides a guideline for how to reduce emissions in the village, which Clarkson University’s Dr. Susan E. Powers identified as a “really important part” of gaining the certification, which entitles communities to exclusive state grants pertaining to energy-related projects.

Dr. Powers said that in order to reduce emissions, “we have to know where they came from,” speaking to the village Board of Trustees on Monday as a representative of the Climate Smart Communities Task Force.

The eco-friendly program is based on a points system, wherein communities are credited for undertaking and executing green initiatives. The village has been registered with the program since 2017, but will not receive certification until it submits a report to the state this spring.

“That’s what we’re working toward,” Dr. Powers said.

All of Potsdam’s municipal buildings are included in the inventory, including the Civic Center complex, Pine Street Arena, Damon Field Airport and the village’s wastewater treatment plant, among other sites. Energy consumption from outside lighting also applies, as does fuel for the village’s vehicle fleet, which accounts for roughly 23% of total emissions. Roughly half of that amount derives from vehicles operated by the Department of Public Works, with another 30% coming from the village’s police cars.

Dr. Powers noted that energy usage and emissions from the village’s water and wastewater treatment plants comprise a “very substantial” portion of totals discovered in the study, adding that a great amount of energy is necessary in purifying wastewater, adding to “fugitive emissions” natural to the treatment process.

No major changes in Potsdam’s greenhouse gas emissions have been recorded since 2018, aside from a greater amount of natural gas — the village’s largest greenhouse gas emitter and primary heating source — being used during colder than average years.

The village reported that roughly 14% of its energy consumption derives from street lighting when it announced that it would be swapping its traditional high-pressure sodium fixtures for more efficient LED streetlamps last week.

“It’s not a huge amount ... but the new LED lights will cut that down to less than half,” Dr. Powers reported.

Potential remedies include improving the efficiency of municipal buildings and their HVAC systems, and the use of electric vehicles, though Dr. Powers noted village police are reticent to embrace the technology, which would also be unsuitable for some of the larger DPW vehicles.

“New York state is looking to electrify everything,” she added, noting that the infrastructure and incentives are in place “when the time comes” to replace part of the village’s existing fleet.

Dr. Powers added that the village could also save money, if not greenhouse emissions, by studying premium electrical demand charges in order to streamline operations at the wastewater treatment plant.

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