The sun will shine hot enough to freeze ice cream starting this fall at Stewart’s Shops’ manufacturing and distribution plant in Greenfield.
The Malta-based company plans to install a 600-kilowatt solar array on the roof of its shop services building in the complex on Route 9N just north of Saratoga Springs, where the company produces its ice cream, chili and soups.
Thanks to state funding and a federal tax incentive, Stewart’s will end up paying about $600,000 of the original $1.4 million cost to construct the solar field, said Nancy Trimbur, Stewart’s Shops senior vice president.
After expected completion in mid-September, the 2,405 photovoltaic panels are expected to produce 620,000 kilowatt-hours a year, about 7.5 percent of the power Stewart’s currently uses at that complex, which runs off one electric meter, Trimbur said.
Using solar will save the company about $40,000 a year.
Contractor EnterSolar will install the panels, which are expected to last about 30 years.
Installing rooftop panels required only a building permit from the town of Greenfield, unlike a ground-mounted solar array that Skidmore College is proposing for its property on Denton Road, which requires more town approvals that still haven’t all been granted. Skidmore’s larger array could produce 2.084 megawatts of power.
Trimbur said Stewart’s originally considered doing a ground-mounted solar display, but with the high value of real estate it didn’t make financial sense.
The stars aligned financially last fall for Stewart’s to make solar energy work, said Gary Dake, Stewart’s president.
The company has wanted to utilize solar energy for a while but couldn’t “make the math work” before, he said.
A new state rebate program, NY-Sun initiative, gives incentives for photovoltaic systems larger than 50 kilowatts.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority pays for part of the construction cost, then reimburses EnterSolar for some of the energy the panels produce over the first few years. The exact amounts are kept confidential because of the competitive nature of the grant, said Alan Wechsler, NYSERDA spokesman.
Thanks in part to NY-Sun, the state is a leader in solar and renewable energy production, said Francis J. Murray, NYSERDA president and CEO.
“New York state’s renewable energy capacity is comparable to the entire Northeast,” Murray said. “We’re the seventh-largest state in the country as far as solar employment in the industry.”
Harnessing the sun’s power decreases greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the type of strain on the electric grid that upstate New York saw on Wednesday, when electricity usage peaked in the middle of a heat wave, said Bill Flaherty, National Grid regional director.
“These kind of installations keep that demand down for that peak period,” he said.
On Monday, elected officials joined Stewart’s leadership to celebrate the project’s ceremonial kickoff.
“I’m happy to see such an iconic and local institution such as Stewart’s taking this step forward,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.