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A different kind of waste-to-energy plan

A different kind of waste-to-energy plan

Editorial: Clifton Park has the right idea, but must be careful not to give away the store

The town of Clifton Park has found what seems like a proper use for its capped 25-acre landfill — leasing it to a solar energy company that would put solar panels on it and sell the electricity to the likes of National Grid and New York State Electric & Gas. It’s a good idea because the land is just sitting there and can’t be used for much else.

The only hitch is that the company — Virginia-based HelioSage Energy — needs to make sure power companies will buy its electricity; indeed, it wants the state to force them to. And while this concept is fairly common, state lawmakers have yet to pass the necessary legislation (which has been kicking around for a couple of years). They should.

In the meantime, the town should be careful about granting HelioSage any options to lease the land that would lock it into a long-term commitment. The three-year lease option the company has proposed would provide the town with just $100 the first year and $1,500 the next two, with terms renegotiable if the state takes action. The company would then demand a (presumably) longer-term lease, offering a (presumably) larger payment, but what market rates for electricity will be then is anybody’s guess, so there are no promises at this point — which is understandable for both parties.

As long as the town can break the lease if it doesn’t like HelioSage’s offer, then its interests would seem to be protected. And though only one other company has expressed any interest in the land in recent years — another company in the solar energy business — that’s not to say there won’t be more lining up once the state acts. At that point, the town might be flooded with offers. And with that much land capable of producing 2.5 million kilowatts of electricity per year, it seems there is the potential for someone to make a real killing.

There’s nothing wrong with giving HelioSage an inside track now, provided the lease is written in such a way that the town can entertain other offers if it and the company can’t come quickly to terms on a deal later on.

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