Glenville solar farm celebrated as state surpasses 1 gigawatt of community solar


GLENVILLE — Local and state officials gathered at the former town landfill Tuesday to mark milestones in New York’s push to go carbon-neutral with green energy.

The solar farm erected on the site generates a peak of 7.5 megawatts and a bank of batteries can store up to 10 megawatt hours of electricity. 

Both figures are a tiny fraction of the 32,000 megawatts New York state needs at peak summer demand but they are big numbers locally.

The Glenville site and six others created by the Schenectady County Solar Energy Consortium have allowed all municipal governments to meet their power needs with locally-generated solar electricity, making it apparently the first county to achieve that status.

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Meanwhile, hundreds more solar arrays installed across the state have surpassed 1,000 megawatts — 1 gigawatt — of community solar power generating capacity. This makes New York the top community solar market in the nation, Lt. Gov. Benjamin Brian Benjamin said at the celebratory event, “a huge milestone in climate justice for all New Yorkers and their families.”

“We’re making clean energy the priority of the state,” he said. “It’s a necessity for the climate and it’s also a necessity for our state’s infrastructure.”

It’s a step toward the state’s goal of 10 gigawatts of installed solar capacity by 2030.

“Community solar” is solar that’s a community asset beyond just helping to keep the community’s lights on. People who can’t install solar panels at their homes can buy power generated by a community solar project, reaping the same savings in power costs and creating the same ecological benefit.

“More New Yorkers now have access to affordable and renewable solar power,” Benjamin said. “This enables access to those who may not have had ideal conditions to directly install solar panels on their own site.”

He added, “The work that we’re doing here today will have so much impact, particularly in communities that just need to have clean energy in their future.”

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority CEO Doreen Harris said, “This type of project is only possible with local support.

“We literally have hundreds of projects like this advancing across our state, but this particular project serves as a very strong model,” she continued, because of the public sector support, private sector engagement and local community involvement that came together in Glenville.

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The Glenville project was developed by DSD Renewables, which builds, owns and manages solar arrays on customers’ sites and sells them the electricity generated for less than they would pay to the local utility.

Its chief operating officer, Robb Jetty, said Tuesday the Schenectady County projects are special to DSD because it is based in Schenectady. 

DSD has become a major developer in the three years since it spun off from General Electric, with 170 projects totaling 74 megawatts installed statewide, including 44 megawatts of community solar. It has more than 160 megawatts of capacity under construction or in development in New York. Total investment is $400 million.

“We’re really looking forward to the next gigawatt,” Jetty said.

National Grid, which supplies electricity to 4.2 million New York households, helps make the community solar model work.

The utility’s New York president, Rudy Wynter, said, “National Grid’s worked with NYSERDA on our Solar For All program … so that low-income and moderate-income New Yorkers in National Grid’s territory can still get the benefits of solar energy.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, placed the local achievement in a larger context.

“As we look at the events in Ukraine, a clean-energy agenda becomes all the more valid, all the more important. If we look at disruptions, if we look at tyranny in this world, it’s about oil,” said Tonko, who served a short stint as CEO of NYSERDA.

“The 1 gigawatt is a great threshold, and it tells me this state is determined to hit that 10 gigawatt goal by 2030,” he said.

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