ROTTERDAM — The sun is now producing about half the electricity used by the Schenectady County government each year, following the dedication Thursday of a third large solar array.
The latest 792,000-kilowatt solar farm is on Burdeck Street, on county-owned land that was once home to the Schenectady Homing Pigeon Club, adjacent to the Rotterdam Fire Training Center.
The Burdeck Street site joins similar-sized, county-owned arrays on Hetcheltown Road in Glenville and off Hillside Avenue in Niskayuna, all on county-owned land and all of which generate power that is used to offset energy bills for county government buildings. The Glenville site opened in 2015, and the Niskayuna site opened over the summer.
"We will be saving taxpayers thousands of dollars while reducing our carbon emissions," said County Legislator Holly Vellano, C-Rotterdam, chairwoman of the county's Environmental Conservation, Renewable Energy and Parks Committee.
With another array expected to open by the end of the year, County Attorney Chris Gardner said the county should start saving about $200,000 annually on its electric bill. The county's total annual electric bill is about $1.3 million.
The county's aggressive adoption of solar electric technology over the past two years is part of an initiative to offset its entire electricity bill through solar energy by the end of 2020.
Under a five-year agreement between the county and Monolith Solar Associates of Rensselaer, the private energy developer installs the arrays on county-owned sites at no cost to the county. Monolith then sells the electricity into the regional power grid. The county, in turn, buys its electricity through Monolith at a discounted rate.
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, who is on the state Assembly Energy Committee, said the projects are possible because of incentives available to Monolith under the state's $1 billion NY-SUN program and state law that allows remote net metering. Remote net metering means governments can get credit on their energy bills for solar energy produced at off-site locations.
Within the 111th Assembly District, Santabarbara said the city of Amsterdam also has a remote solar array, and the Fort Plain Central School District generates electricity from a solar array located in the town of Nelliston.
"It's becoming more affordable, and the technology has really improved," Santabarbara said. "As we celebrate this project, we know that there's more to do."
Gardner noted that the county's shared services plan calls for encouraging local governments in the county to develop solar fields and share in any savings. He also said the county is aggressively moving to replace its current lighting systems with more-efficient LEDs, with the goal of reducing the county's energy use by half.
The 1,872 solar modules in the array that was dedicated on Thursday cover about 3 acres of a 7-acre site. Gardner said the county acquired the land at least 15 years ago and, at one point, considered building recreation fields on the site. Nothing came of those plans.
A small building on the property is marked as the home of the Schenectady Homing Pigeon Club, est. 1958.
In addition to the three large arrays, the county has solar panels on top of many of its government buildings, including two library branches. A fourth county solar array, on Wedgewood Heights in Rotterdam, is expected to open before the end of the year.