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Meeting hosted to discuss solar power in Geneva

Joule Community Power and Town Supervisor Mark Venuti hosted a meeting to discuss the potential inclusion of a solar farm for Geneva residents and other NESEG patrons which would lead to both individual-bill savings and the development of community sustainability projects. The meeting was held in the recently-renovated Cabaret room at the Smith Opera House on Wednesday, April 10. 

In order to establish the solar farm program, 400-households are needed to participate in “flipping the switch.”

Venuti first expressed reasoning behind why residents and NESEG subscribers should partake in the program. If the initiative is successfully cleared, each household will receive a 10-percent decrease on their electric bill on a monthly basis for signing-up. He also explained how that residents will learn more about where their power and electricity come from, a 200-MegaWatt solar farm in Owego.

But in addition to the individualized cost-benefits, the City of Geneva will incur $25,000 to utilize towards minimizing environmental impacts through a selected sustainability project to help Seneca Lake and the surrounding area; and that funding does not directly go into the general funding budget but specifically allocated on behalf of environmental efforts versus discretionary allocations.

The $25,000 figure derives from saving costs in marketing and strategizing to acquire the proper cliental to participate in the solar farm.

Instead of getting a gift-card as a promotional deal from competing solar farm sales companies, those who join Joule Community Power will make a direct investment into the community: a meaningful stake of ownership with foreseeable future impacts.

“You’re helping us, helping the community. I’m happy to do this because I believe in this stuff,” Venuti said.

Currently, Joule Community Power has signed-on 200 residences, both in Geneva and beyond; and 300 have already started applications to join the “grassroots electricity initiative.”

Although this funding will transfer through Geneva, Geneva residents are not the only persons who qualify to participate in the no-cost program, as long as the resident is a NESEG customer. Additionally, buildings of residential and general-retailer, commercial designations are able to take advantage of this deal as well.

While this community-driven electricity source alternative has much upside, residents who participate will receive two bills, one from NESEG and another from the solar farm owner, both of which shall total only 90-percent of the total monthly electricity cost.

Mike Gordon, an unpaid consultant for Joule Community Power stated that 1 in every 10 Geneva residents  have already signed-up to get lower electric bills.

Venuti shared that he has deputized all those in attendance to become ambassadors on behalf of this community initiative to spark enthusiasm and passion.

Project ideas ranged from exploring solid waste reduction to home efficiency renovation initiatives and community-municipality power distribution. But most of all, the possibility of stormwater infrastructure was the most popular, as favored by Venuti and many vocal members of the public.

Ontario County Water Resource Technician Katie Cappiello provided insight regarding potential stormwater intrusion infrastructure plans which would limit sediment spillage into Seneca Lake as well as others initiatives including upland water retention and the protection of watersheds.

Cappiello also mentioned that while $25,000 is not nearly enough financial capital to make significant impacts through building infrastructure, further investments can result in additional funding through state grant writing opportunities which could tally at a minimum of $100,000.

If the $25,000 was purposed for stormwater infrastructure, the Ontario County Soil and Water Conservation District would identify projects, coordinate with landowners, write grants to receive funding, hire contractors to outsource the construction work and oversee the workspace in a project management capacity.

“We got a crisis here,” Venuti expressed while sharing his thoughts about the stormwater initiatives.

Aside from the environmental issues, Gordon emphasized the ethics and mission for an unprecedented project by changing the power-electricity business model from a “corporate-led to community-led dynamic.”

“We are changing the power dynamic to grassroots by taking control and spending it on things that we value and care about,” Gordon continued.

Joule Community Power is the pilot program and if its campaign is successful, it may start a new trend for alternative electricity-sourcing options along Seneca Lake and throughout the rest of the Finger Lakes for communities.

Those seeking additional information may visit www.joulecommunity.com.


– Reporting & Photos by Gabriel Pietrorazio

An undergraduate student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Pietrorazio has written for the Town Times of Watertown, Connecticut and Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York. He’s currently an intern reporter for FL1 News, and can be reached at gabriel@fingerlakes1.com.

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