Solar Panel (copy)

Solar panels sit atop a hill on Booth Road in Scipio.

The Citizen file

AUBURN — The city of Auburn is taking steps to purse a Clean Energy Community designation in order to qualify for state grant money to fund clean energy projects. 

In order to be eligible for funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the city must adopt four out of 10 NYSERDA-approved high impact action items

The reason the city is pursuing the designation at this time is to get funding to install a geothermal energy system at the future cultural heritage welcome center, Jennifer Haines, the director of the city's Planning and Economic Development Office, said during the July 20 Auburn City Council meeting.

The city chose the four following action items: Undertaking a solar campaign, adopting an energy benchmarking policy, adopting a unified solar permitting process and installing electric vehicle charging stations in the Lincoln Street parking garage. 

City Manager Jeff Dygert said city officials chose the four action items because they were the most attainable, adding that some of the items the city had already been working on, such as the solar campaign and benchmarking policy. 

The city is already a partner in Solarize Cayuga, a county-wide, community led campaign that assists local residents, businesses and other organizations that wish to switch to solar energy. 

The city has also been working toward establishing an energy benchmarking policy, which requires city staff to gather and analyze data on energy use in city-owned buildings and make that information available to the public annually. Dygert said the city will be able to use the information gathered to improve the city's energy efficiency. 

"Benchmarking, it's just good practice to do, regardless of any grants associated with it," Dygert said. "It helps us get an idea of whats going on with our buildings and therefore helps us track our budget related to energy cost."

The city's benchmarking policy was adopted at the Aug. 3 city council meeting.

Additionally, the city council approved the adoption of a solar permitting process during the July 20 meeting. Any resident or business must fill out the permit, which costs $50, if they wish to install solar panels on their property. 

Cayuga County is already a NYSERDA-designated Clean Energy Community. Dygert said the city is pursuing the designation independently of the county. 

Staff writer Natalie Brophy can be reached at (315)282-2239 or natalie.brophy@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie. 

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City Reporter