Correction: A previous version of this story gave the wrong first name for DEC Regional Director Keith Goertz.
SCHENECTADY COUNTY — Schenectady County has been designated as a Certified Climate Smart Community, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
The certification recognizes the county's efforts to fight climate change, including its adoption of solar energy initiatives, the governor said. The county is only the 13th local government in the state to receive the Smart Community certification.
"I commend Schenectady County for their ongoing efforts to support clean energy initiatives, and I encourage all of New York's municipalities to follow the county's example; help us combat climate change and become a certified community," Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Earlier Wednesday, state Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Director Keith Goertz presented the certification to County Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski, D-Rotterdam, at a ceremony at the county Compost and Recycling Center in Glenville, where the county in 2015 opened its first photovolatic solar farm.
"It is inspiring to see local governments like Schenectady County face climate change with clear-eyed determination and innovative solutions," Goertz said.
The county, which has set the goal of being energy self-sufficient by 2020, opened its second solar farm in Niskayuna last week. It plans to open two more in Rotterdam later this year. It has also placed solar panels on several county buildings, changed many building lights to more-efficient LEDs and re-organized pre-school transportation routes -- which are managed by the county -- to make them more efficient.
Jasenski noted the county declared its intention to reduce energy use in 2008 and has been moving forward with plans since then.
"This recognition is not the end of our efforts. It is the beginning," he said.
Indeed, on Tuesday, the county Legislature voted to place an electric vehicle charging station at the main branch of the County Library on Clinton Street in Schenectady. The equipment is being provided free to the county under a program of the state Energy Research and Development Authority and Capital District Transportation Committee. The station, which at least initially will let people charge their vehicles for free, will be in place by the end of the summer.
"It perhaps encourages more individuals to believe they can purchase an electric vehicle and perhaps reduce our carbon footprint," said Majority Leader Gary Hughes, D-Schenectady.
Under the program the state launched in 2014, other Certified Climate Smart communities in the Capital Region are Albany and Watervliet. There are also 201 communities that have registered to try to achieve Certified Climate Smart status, said Dazzle Ekblad, a DEC climate policy analyst.
"We as a council could not be more pleased with the with the direction county leadship has provided," said Joe Berman, chairman of the county's Environmental Advisory Council. "It's a really comprehensive list of high-yield actions."