Schenectady County

Schenectady County to buy solar energy

Panel fields will sit on 2 Galesi properties
An aerial view of a solar farm on Burdeck Street in Rotterdam.
An aerial view of a solar farm on Burdeck Street in Rotterdam.

Schenectady County has made a new deal to buy solar energy, this time from solar arrays on two properties owned by the Galesi Group.

The agreement approved by the County Legislature on Tuesday would bring the county’s total solar power purchases to nearly 4.3 megawatts as it pushes to be “energy independent” by the end of 2020. The power will be purchased from Monolith Solar Associates of Rensselaer, the same firm that has installed solar panel fields on three county-owned properties.

The county purchases the electricity from Monolith at roughly a 25 percent discount from commercial electric rates, which means the contract would save them between $50,000 and $80,000 per year. Monolith pays the cost of installing the solar farm, and gets federal and state tax credits for doing so, while the county gets to purchase power at a discounted rate.

“Our deal with Monolith is exactly the same,” County Attorney Christopher Gardner said. “It’s just that instead of being on county property, they’re on private property.”

The new panel fields are expected to be installed by the end of January, Gardner said. One set will be at the Rotterdam Industrial Park, and the other will be on a Galesi-owned property on Van Buren Boulevard in Guilderland Center. Between them, they will produce 1.4 megawatts of power that the county will buy.

“We’re well on our way to our target of energy independence by 2020,” said Legislator Holly Vellano, C-Rotterdam, chairwoman of the environmental conservation, renewable energy and parks committee.

Schenectady County, between all of the buildings it owns, including libraries and the county jail, uses about 11 megawatts of power every year. Gardner said part of the effort to become energy independent includes replacing current lighting with LEDs and other measures to reduce the county’s consumption. To achieve independence, the county’s goal is to lower consumption to 7 megawatts and add additional solar arrays. If the county were energy self-sufficient, savings are estimated to exceed $300,000 per year.

Planning is underway for another solar farm at the former L & M Motel site in Rotterdam. Gardner said the county is also in the process of seeking proposals for development of more solar farms on behalf of the county’s towns, as part of government consolidation and shared services efforts.

County Legislator Brian McGarry, R-Rotterdam, voted in favor of the Monolith contract because he said it would be good for county residents. But he expressed concerns about over-reliance on solar energy in supplying the larger utility grid. “In the long run, over-reliance on intermittent sources like solar could lead to grid instability,” he said.

Galesi President and CEO David Buicko said the company, which owns a number of large commercial buildings across the Capital Region, has an agreement with Monolith to allow solar panels on the roofs of eight of its buildings in Glenville, Rotterdam and Guilderland.

“From our standpoint, they’re using our roofs and Monolith is selling the energy,” Buicko said. “I’m happy for Schenectady County. It’s a good collaborative effort. In the end everybody is benefitting, because the environment wins.”

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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