Story at a glance

  • The city of Ithaca is moving to work with BlocPower, a Brooklyn-based climate tech start up, to decarbonize thousands of buildings.
  • Decarbonization is part of the city’s Green New Deal, one of the most aggressive climate change plans in the country.
  • In the U.S., about 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from residential and commercial buildings.

The city of Ithaca, N.Y. voted in favor of decarbonizing its buildings, inspired by Ithaca’s Green New Deal that is one of the most aggressive decarbonization programs in the country.

On Wednesday night, Ithaca’s common council voted to empower mayor Svante L. Myrick to negotiate a contract with BlocPower, a Brooklyn-based climate tech startup that helps cities transition aging infrastructure to eco-friendly solutions. 

"We applaud the City of Ithaca's bold vision and progressive plan to reduce fossil fuel dependency, improve the health and quality of life for its residents, embrace environmental social justice issues and fight the effects of climate change today to build a better tomorrow," said Donnel Baird, CEO and co-founder of BlockPower, in a statement.

BlocPower is proposing the installation of air source heat pumps along with other energy efficiency upgrades and building improvements to cut Ithaca’s 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide by 40 percent and create 400 new green economy construction, technology and management jobs. It will also make financing green energy upgrades affordable, providing low cost loans to building owners. 


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With a population of approximately 30,000, Ithaca has about 6,000 homes and buildings, according to The Washington Post. In the U.S. almost 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions  come from residential and commercial buildings and about 30 percent of electricity used in buildings is generated from coal-burning power plants. 

Timur Dogan, a professor at Cornell University, is consulting with the city of Ithaca on its decarbonization project. He told the Post that the project is expected to unfold in two phases, the first phase will address 1,600 buildings in the city and the second phase will tackle another 4,400. 

BlocPower’s proposal was initiated by Ithaca’s Green New Deal, which was approved in 2019. It aims to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a series of different goals. The city aims to transition government operations to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025, reduce emissions from the city’s fleet of vehicles by 50 percent from 2021 levels by 2025 and achieve a carbon neutral footprint by 2030.

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the way new buildings are being constructed, with tons of modern electronics that produce an overload of plugging things into outlets, energy is being wasted. These new developments are also not typically designed to optimize energy performance and most existing buildings haven’t been upgraded with even the most basic and affordable energy efficiency strategies. 

BlocPower hopes to transition Ithaca’s buildings to become more energy efficient and it has experience doing so for other major U.S. cities. Since 2014 the company has retrofitted more than 1,200 buildings in New York City and has projects underway in 26 additional cities, like Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Baltimore. 


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Published on Nov 04, 2021