This past Monday, Mohonk Consultations presented a public conference on sustainable energy at Mohonk Mountain House. This very topic is near and dear to the heart of local business owner Doug Glorie, who owns Glorie Farm Winery, located at 40 Mountain Road on Mt. Zion in Marlboro. Glorie powers his home, as well as his entire business, with solar technology.”The investment is helping the planet and helping people, and will eventually pay for itself and lead to free power,” he says. The boutique winery presently offers 16 varieties, including the immensely popular Rumple Pumpkin wine, which is also served by the Gunk Haus Restaurant in Highland. Glorie Farm Winery is also participating in this year’s Shawangunk Wine Trail holiday event “Wreath Fineries at the Wineries,” happening on Nov. 17-18 and the first two weekends of December. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

In the after-wave of Hurricane Sandy, there couldn’t be a more opportune time for Mohonk Consultations to host an all-day workshop on “Alternative Energy, Local Opportunities” this past Monday.

The event was kicked off in the conference center at Mohonk Mountain House by New York State assemblyman Kevin Cahill, speaking about funding and putting into practice the Green Jobs/Green New York program that Cahill championed as the energy chair of the Assembly. “Giving consumers the ability to finance energy-saving projects through their utility bills will present huge job-creation opportunities by opening up whole new markets for employers in the building improvement business,” said Cahill.

Assemblyman Cahill has been leading efforts in the State Legislature to establish an on-bill recovery program, beginning with the passage of the Green Jobs/Green New York Act in 2009. The new law will enhance the Green Jobs/Green New York Program by directing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to coordinate with electric and gas utilities to offer energy efficiency loans to homeowners and small businesses to be paid back through their utility bills. Individuals who take advantage of this option can obtain up-front financing to make energy efficiency improvements and use the energy cost savings to pay off the loan. To learn more about getting a free home energy audit or about NYSERDA grants, loans and utility bill reductions, log on to www.nyserda.ny.gov.

After Cahill spoke, there were approximately a dozen more presenters, including James Ottaway Jr. of New Paltz, former director of Dow Jones, Inc. and chairman of Ottaway Newspapers, who continues in his retirement to serve as a volunteer for numerous charitable, civic and professional organizations, including the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and as chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee. He and his wife Mary Ottaway are also previous recipients of Mohonk Consultations’ Distinguished Environmental Award in 1997 for their citizen participation in sustainable, green movements and contributions.

In this capacity, Ottaway gave a succinct and powerful presentation on the Taylor Biomass Energy project that has a newly patented technology for tuning garbage into gas and gas into electricity in a clean, sustainable way. What separates the Taylor method from traditional garbage-to-gas technology is that there is no “combustion” in the process. Combustion allows oxygen into the formula, thus causing the release of many toxic chemicals and particles into the air. Instead, the Taylor Biomass method first separates out all recyclables, and then takes what is referred to as “biomass” — mostly paper, fiber, plastics, sheets, towels, leather, yard waste, wood and tree waste and kitchen organics — into a gasification reactor, mixed up with sand and then heated to 1,500 degrees, creating gas that is then conditioned, placed into gas turbines and converted into electricity.

“We cannot continue to waste our waste,” said Ottaway. “It has extreme value if utilized properly, but as of now is thrown into landfills and mountains of garbage, and is one of the significant contributors to our greenhouse gas problems — particularly with the release of methane gas.”

The project is currently underway in the Town of Montgomery, in Orange County, near the intersection of Routes 84 and 208. The president of the company is James Taylor, who was at the presentation along with one of his associates, Allan Page, the former president of Central Hudson Gas and Electric. The site is now one of the largest, cleanest recycling centers in Orange County.

Ottaway, an investor in the project, noted that they have had great support from senator Charles Schumer, Assemblyman Cahill and retiring congressman Maurice Hinchey, and are working to secure more loans from the US Department of Energy so that they can get this approximately $190 million project off the ground. Once it is self-sustaining and all the kinks are out, the plan is to build one in Ulster County, as well as in urban centers throughout the country and the world. “I’m putting a lot of money where my mouth is because I believe in this project,” said Ottaway. “We need other investors to come forward and take risks if we’re going to move forward and create green technologies that are sustainable, profitable, reduce greenhouse gases, lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, create green jobs and move us forward.”

The Taylor Biomass system requires a population of at least 250,000 people so that it can depend on a certain amount of waste per day, which will allow its plant to run 24/7 and be profitmaking while also reducing waste and turning it into clean electricity. The revenue would come from tipping fees and getting clean energy onto the grid, which Ottaway said the “New York State Power Authority is very anxious about, and has been a wonderful partner in this. They have a statewide mandate and goal to have 20 percent of energy from clean energy sources by 2020.”

He said that, although its officials are not “tree-huggers” like everyone else in this room, the “Department of Defense is also very interested in alternative fuel sources because they’re nervous about being able to keep their planes and ships and tanks fueled and want to have independent fuel resources. They don’t listen to Republicans or Democrats; they just want energy independence.”

To learn greater detail about the project, the technology and the status of Taylor Biomass, go to the website at www.taylorbiomassenergy.com.

Monday’s conference also featured workshops on solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficiency and financial incentives for implementation of alternative energy solutions.