tranforming our energy ecosystem

Ensuring a livable future relies on how quickly we transition toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. We already have all of the technology we need to make this future possible.


This exhibit highlights first-hand stories from local individuals working on local climate solutions. They represent the diverse array work already happening here, now.

They’re scientists studying Adirondack ecosystems, farmers committed to sustainable food and students working toward change at the local level. In other words, the portraits in this exhibit put a spotlight on the people who have devoted their lives to climate solutions.

Jesse Schwartzberg
Saranac Lake Local, Skier, Wilderness Lover
Principal, Black Mountain Architecture

Jesse is the founder of Black Mountain Architecture (BMA), a sustainable design firm that specializes in green building practices, low-carbon design, and the use of local materials. Jesse led the design team for netZero Village and Solara Luxury Apartments in Rotterdam, NY, which are the largest market rate net zero apartment complexes in the country. The BMA team also designs energy-efficient homes, boathouses, commercial spaces, and treehouses throughout the Adirondacks. Jesse promotes locally sourced, sustainable building materials and shares his expertise in green architecture with his local community and beyond.


James Ammon
Conservationist, Proud Grandpa, King of Dad Jokes
Owner, ADK Solar

James is the owner of ADK Solar, a company that installs solar panels in residential and commercial settings. His work is bringing the Adirondacks closer to 100% renewable energy by offsetting the need for fuel oil and propane with solar panels. He advocates for net-zero homes, encouraging the combination of heat pumps and solar panels. In remote, rural places like the Adirondacks, James works with people to create off grid homes.


Ken Visser
Aviation Enthusiast, Guitarist Wannabe, Craft Beer Lover
Associate Professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Clarkson University

Ken brings clean energy to rural and urban areas using wind energy technology. He patented an energy-efficient ducted wind turbine that meets the Adirondack Park building height standards. These turbines are being installed in residential areas and farms throughout the Park. He hopes this wind turbine design will improve access to electricity and provide disaster relief, supplying energy during power outages. As a professor of aerospace engineering at Clarkson University, Ken continually challenges students to consider the impact of their engineering design decisions on the sustainable use of our environment. 



Solara, a net-zero apartment complex in Rotterdam, NY.

Interior of a treehouse designed by Black Mountain Architecture and built with local, sustainable materials.

We can design climate-friendly buildings by making intentional choices at every step of the design process.

Choosing building materials that have a low impact on the planet is one part of this design process. This reduces the amount of carbon emitted during the creation, transportation, and installation of building materials.

Green design also looks for ways to store carbon in our buildings. By using products that store carbon, like wood, carbon is kept from being released into the atmosphere for the duration of its use.

To make the most of the energy powering our buildings, we can orient them to capture or avoid the Sun’s energy and install appropriate insulation, LED lighting, and energy-efficient appliances. Plugging into renewable energy sources can allow buildings to reach net-zero emissions.


    Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED lights can reduce energy use by more than 75%


    By installing a smart thermostat, you can set schedules to reduce energy use while you’re away, and you can adjust the thermostat with your smartphone wherever you are. These adjustments can also save you 10–15% on heating and cooling bills.


    Electric pumps are more efficient than oil, propane, and standard electric heat. They heat, cool, and dehumidify homes depending on the season. Heat pumps can also be powered with geothermal energy, which pulls heat from underneath the ground. Heat pumps can be up to four times more efficient than gas heat.


Insulation acts like a coat in winter, slowing the transfer of heat between your home and the outside environment. Good insulation can be a powerful energy saver while increasing comfort in your home. States sometimes offer tax incentives to add insulation to an existing building’s attics, floors, and walls.

For insulation to work properly, a building needs to be airtight. In a home with many air gaps, air leaks to the outside, bypassing the insulation. This means more
energy is needed to heat or cool the house. Ensuring a building isn’t leaky maximizes the value of your insulation, and your dollars.

Want to see if your home is leaky? Try an energy audit. Energy audits identify any leaky areas in your home, measure your insulation, and assess your home’s energy use.


R-value is a measure of how long it takes a certain amount of energy to move through one inch of a material. The higher the R-value, the better the material is at insulating your home.


    Cellulose insulation is a material with lots of stored carbon. It is made from recycled newspaper, cardboard, and other wood products and can be pressed into batts or small chunks.
    R-value: 3.2 to 3.8 per inch


    Mineral wool is made by melting down stone fibers and spinning it into a wool-like material. It can also be made by spinning slag, a waste product from the steel industry.
    R-value: 3 to 3.3 per inch


    Straw bale insulation is a natural material, made with straw packed into tight bundles. Walls in these buildings can be up to 24 inches thick, increasing the insulation value.
    R-value: 0.94 to 2.38 per inch


    Fiberglass is molten glass that has been spun into thin fibers. Fiberglass insulation is made partly of recycled glass, and once processed, the material is pressed into large panels or made into small clumps.
    R-value: 2.2 to 4.3 per inch


    Spray foam combines chemicals to create an expanding foam. When it hardens, the foam has a high insulation rating.
    R-value: 3.8 to 6.5 per inch


Land used for renewable energy sources such as solar fields and wind turbines can also be used to support healthy ecosystems. Planting pollinator-friendly plants in solar fields creates habitat for bees, butterflies, beetles, and other wildlife. Fields with wind turbines can double as habitat restoration areas, biking and hiking trails, or productive farmland. Pairing climate solutions means maximizing clean energy production while taking care of the ecosystems we call home.

How can solar power and pollinator habitats work together as a climate solution?

Brittany Christenson
Starter, Optimist, Student of Nature
Former Executive Director, AdkAction

Brittany is the former executive director of AdkAction, a North Country organization that leads the Adirondack Pollinator Project. Through this project, volunteers across the Adirondacks have taken steps to protect native habitat and create safe habitat for pollinators. The Adirondack Pollinator Project has initiated more than 30 community-scale pollinator gardens, including a project at the first community solar farm in the Adirondacks to integrate native wildflowers among the solar panels.


Wind tunnel testing of the ducted turbine at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Photo: Samuel H. Bailey

The road to renewable energy will look different depending on where you live. Some places have abundant sunlight while others have more wind. Some locations, like the Adirondack Park, might have building restrictions that limit the installation of certain technologies.

Small scale renewable energy technologies can help bring renewable energy closer to home. Solar panels can be installed over carports or on rooftops. In-stream hydropower technology harnesses the power of moving water without interrupting stream flow, and small-scale wind turbines can be installed at lower heights or on top of buildings.


Ground-mount solar panels.
Photo: ADK Solar

Getting to net-zero emissions will require us to combine multiple solutions at once. For example, pairing solar panels with heat pumps combines a renewable energy source with an efficient, electric home heating and cooling system. Combining clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower with other technologies meant to reduce energy consumption delivers the best results.

Our energy system is like an ecosystem—when individual parts of the system are healthy and efficient, the whole system benefits.