Rooftop solar contract broken so work can begin at Amsterdam Public Safety Building

Solar panels on the roof of the Amsterdam Public Safety Building are shown Thursday, Aug. 3.

Solar panels on the roof of the Amsterdam Public Safety Building are shown Thursday, Aug. 3.

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AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam will pay a solar company $20,000 to break a decade-old contract and remove an array from atop the Amsterdam Public Safety Building ahead of a needed roof replacement.

The Common Council on Tuesday approved a resolution authorizing the cancellation of the solar contract under terms negotiated by Corporation Counsel Anthony Casale and City Controller Louise Biron.

“The city is undergoing a replacement project there and we really don’t want the solar panels there anymore, so we had to negotiate a buyout and termination of the contract,” Casale said.

A $20,000 fee will be paid by the city to SL Empire Solar LLC based on lost revenues from the early termination of the 20-year contract. The company is required to permanently remove the solar panels by the end of the month.

Removing and reinstalling the solar panels to allow the roof replacement project to proceed would have cost the city thousands of dollars more than the negotiated termination fee, according to Mayor Michael Cinquanti.

“It’s the best we could do,” Cinquanti said. “We cut the cost of removing them, of breaking the agreement, in more than half and we’re going to fix the roof that needs to be fixed.”

Amsterdam originally entered a contract with Monolith Solar to install rooftop solar panels on municipal buildings in September 2013. There was no upfront cost for installation and the city was to receive a 25% discount on generated electricity. SL Empire took over the contract after Monolith went bankrupt in recent years.

Two 50-kilowatt solar systems were installed on the Public Safety Building and the city’s bus garage in 2014. Generated power is supplied directly to the buildings and billed to the city.

Instead of installing other rooftop systems, Monolith installed a roughly 600-kilowatt ground mounted array on the city’s decommissioned reservoir on Brookside Avenue in 2015.

Panels on the Public Safety Building produce about 10% of the consumed power and have resulted in “negligible” savings, according to Biron. The city pays the normal rate for its remaining electricity supplied by National Grid.

In the last two years, the city saved about $1,141 or roughly $47 per month for power produced at the Public Safety Building. The cumulative savings will effectively be canceled out by the cost to the city for ending the contract.

“It was really a bad deal,” Cinquanti said of the original contract. “We’ve learned.”

SL Empire has already disconnected the rooftop solar panels and is in the process of removing the equipment, according to Lt. Joseph Spencer, public information officer for city police.

Replacement of the leaking roof on the northern side of the Public Safety Building is expected to get underway later this month. In January, the Common Council authorized the city to issue a bond of up to $586,500 to cover the anticipated cost.

“There have been in the past many partial fixes to get by,” Spencer said. “But earlier in the year when it was evaluated and we had some more problems, it was time to take that step to get a replacement on our building.”

Heavy machinery will temporarily disrupt staff parking on-site, but building access for fire crews will be maintained throughout work. Public traffic is not expected to be impacted.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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