Glens Falls to seek funding to develop solar energy on undeveloped land – Glens Falls Post

June 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

GLENS FALLS — Glens Falls will seek New York Energy and Research Development funding to put a solar farm on city-owned property on Upper Sherman Avenue in Queensbury.

The city would save an estimated $4.3 million on utility costs over 20 years, about a 25 percent overall savings, if the city handles mowing grass and pulling weeds, or $4.13 million if Solar City, a private company partnering with the city, does the mowing, Jennifer Jachym, senior project development manager for SolarCity, said in a presentation to the city Common Council on Tuesday.

There would be no cost to the city to construct or operate the project, which would lock in electrical rates for the next 20 years.

At the end of 20 years, the city could renew the agreement, purchase the solar panels or instruct SolarCity to remove them at no cost to the city.

The solar farm would be built adjacent to a former city leaf dump.

Woods would be cleared to construct the solar farm, but a row of trees would be left surrounding the solar panels as a “substantial wooded buffer,” said EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew.

Queensbury Supervisor John Strough, contacted Wednesday, said a solar farm would be an appropriate use for the property.

“That would be a great location for a solar farm,” he said.

The Common Council authorized applying for the NYSERDA funding, which will be awarded on a reverse auction basis.

National Grid must also approve the site as being feasible.

Qualifying for the funding does not obligate the city to move forward with the project, Jachym said.

The NYSERDA funding would subsidize the cost for SolarCity to construct the solar panels on city-owned property at 721-737 Upper Sherman Ave. in Queensbury, which the city has owned since 1959.

There would be no up-front or maintenance cost to the city, other than mowing, Jachym said.

The city would receives credits for the energy produces, which could be used to reduce National Grid bills at the Glens Falls Civic Center, City Hall, wastewater treatment plant, water treatment plant and street lighting.

“Solar is a low-risk, low-return investment. … We’re just looking for the sun to come out and the panels to do their job,” Jachym said.

In 2011, the city offered the Sherman Avenue property for sale for $750,000, but did not get any interest in the property.

At this point, city officials are focused on the solar farm, but might consider in the future subdividing the property and selling the portion not being used for the solar farm, said Mayor John “Jack” Diamond.

The solar farm would occupy about 10 to 15 acres of the 49-acre parcel, Bartholomew said.

SolarCity also is submitting an application for funding for a solar farm at Tech Meadows business park, in case National Grid determines the Sherman Avenue property is not feasible, Jachym said.

City officials would prefer to keep all of the land at Tech Meadows available for economic development, Diamond said.

Glens Falls is the latest of several area municipalities with solar projects.

The town of Chester worked with a private company in 2011 to install solar panels on the roofs of town buildings.

Queensbury worked with Monolith, a private company, to install solar panels on the roofs of six town buildings in late 2013.

The buildings are Town Hall, Queensbury Center, the town court building, highway garage, water department offices and a storage barn.

It’s too soon to have a dependable report of the actual savings so far, Strough said.

Town officials are exploring developing a larger free-standing solar farm on the former Ciba-Geigy property on Lower Warren Street.

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