Solar project eyed for abandoned Rotterdam motel

County to begin preparation work for site
The abandoned L & M Motel in Rotterdam is to be demolished and a solar array built in its place.
The abandoned L & M Motel in Rotterdam is to be demolished and a solar array built in its place.

Schenectady County is planning a solar energy project for the site of an abandoned motel near the town of Rotterdam and city of Schenectady drinking water wells.

The county Legislature next week is scheduled to consider the Great Flats Aquifer Protection Solar Initiative, which calls for demolition of the former L & M Motel on Rice Road, and replacing it with a 600-kilowatt solar energy farm that would generate energy credits for the town of Rotterdam.

“This a great use for that property,” Rotterdam Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone said. “It protects our water, and that serves everyone.”

The L & M, in addition to containing asbestos, is graffitti-covered and unsightly, he said, even though it’s going to be some people’s initial impression of the town. It is near Erie Canal Lock 8, where the state Canal Corp. has invested in modernizing the canal-side park, and directly across the road from a small park on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.

It is also within a few hundred feet of major municipal well fields, and just a short distance from the ViaPort Rotterdam mall and the commercial development along Campbell Road, on the other side of I-890.

“From optics, it looks terrible,” Tommasone said. “It’s a priority of ours to get it cleaned up.”

The solar array would be built by a private solar energy firm, but public entities will be putting up $207,000 toward demolition of the asbestos-containing motel building. The county will pay $50,000, the Capital Region Land Bank will pay $50,000, the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority will pay $50,000 and the county Industrial Development Agency or Capital Resource Corp. will pay $57,000, according to a draft agreement.

The county currently holds title to the property because of unpaid back taxes, and the town of Rotterdam has condemned it, clearing the way for its demolition.

“The highest and best use of this property is the development of a 600 kW solar farm on the site whose energy production will be used as a power credit to support the Rotterdam water pumping system,” County Manager Kathleen Rooney wrote in a memo to the Legislature.

The agreement was approved Monday night by the Legislature’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, Renewable Energy and Parks, and will be considered by the full Legislature on Aug. 8.

The town of Rotterdam will pay the county $3,000 per year over the anticipated 20-year life of the solar farm to reimburse the county for the costs it will incur.

The array will be installed by Monolith Solar, the same company the county has worked with on solar projects in Glenville and Niskayuna, and two other pending projects in Rotterdam. The county has ambitious plans for solar energy, hoping to make county facilities energy-independent by 2021.

County officials said the former motel has been a “vacant eyesore” for approximately 20 years, and demolishing it will help protect the Great Flats Aquifer — the public drinking water supply for most county residents with public water — and the nearby area where Rotterdam has its drinking water wells.

The town government will get credit for the solar energy produced, which county officials estimate will save the town between $20,800 and $35,000 annually in electricity costs. “That’s actually a direct benefit for taxpayers,” Tommasone said.

“This is a great use for the property,” Tommasone said. “It protects our water, and that serves everyone.”

“This is a great opportunity to clean up a major eyesore in Rotterdam while protecting the Great Flats Aquifer,” said Legislator Holly Vellano, Rotterdam, chairwoman of the Environmental Conservation, Renewable Energy and Parks Committee.

The site includes 4.3 acres on which solar panels can be located.

Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said rules that protect the aquifer prevent the site’s commercial redevelopment.

“You can’t really build anything else there,” he said.

Gillen said demolition should happen by mid-August.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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