SCHENECTADY COUNTY -- Schenectady County's solar initiative with General Electric is now focusing on 14 municipally owned sites around the county.
That list is reduced from about 20 that GE solar development experts initially examined to determine if they were feasible locations for installation of solar panels that would generate energy savings for their communities. The new installations would be in addition to solar projects the county has developed on its own land over the past several years.
"We could be the biggest solar-producing county in the state," said County Attorney Chris Gardner.
The new projects include an expansion of a solar energy facility on the county's Hetcheltown Road property in Glenville. Others include the Schenectady city landfill site in Schenectady; the Glenville landfill and on VanBuren Road in Glenville; the former Rotterdam landfill on Main Street in Rotterdam Junction and a former motel site on Rice Road in Rotterdam; at the water treatment plant on Cole Road and the former town landfill in Duanesburg; two sites owned by the village of Delanson on Knight Road; and at the Niskayuna solar farm in Niskayuna.
The County Legislature on Tuesday approved a declaration of no negative environmental impact for the sites.
County Legislator Brian McGarry, R-Rotterdam, voted in favor of the project going ahead but cautioned against society becoming over-reliant on solar energy.
"Utility managers want to make sure energy is there when we need it. Too much reliance on solar energy makes their job more difficult," McGarry said.
He said he nevertheless voted in favor of the project because of the benefits to taxpayers, since municipalities will see lower electric bills by generating some of their own power.
"The sun is free. We should be applauding that our county is going forward with solar energy," responded Legislator Rory Fluman, D-Scotia, chairman of the county's Intergovernmental Cooperation Committee.
Gardner said any of the communities involved could still pull out of the deal, but for those that go forward, work will probably start in the spring.
The county and General Electric announced in April they had signed a deal to help Schenectady County municipalities develop energy-generating solar arrays on municipally owned properties. The goal of the Schenectady County Solar Consortium is to make local government buildings and facilities in the county energy-independent by the end of 2021.
The local governments would receive credits against their utility bills for all the solar power they generate for the power grid.
The plan to develop solar farms in multiple communities grew out of the county's shared municipal services study in 2017. The county is also developing solar arrays on county-owned land, with the goal of making county operations energy-independent by 2020.