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Niskayuna to mull purchase of solar panels

Niskayuna to mull purchase of solar panels

Monolith Solar has offered to sell three arrays for $42,000
Niskayuna to mull purchase of solar panels
Monolith Solar has offered to sell three solar arrays to Niskayuna for $42,000.
Photographer: Gazette file photos

NISKAYUNA — Town of Niskayuna officials may consider the purchase of three solar arrays currently in operation around town.

Town comptroller Paul Sebesta said Monolith Solar, which owns the solar arrays, has offered to sell them for $42,000.

"We do not own the solar panels," Sebesta said of arrays located at Edwin D. Reilly Jr. Niskayuna Town Hall and at the town's highway garage and wastewater treatment plant. "Monolith Solar owns them and we buy energy through them."

"The concept is to buy them, own them, and we would keep all the electricity," Sebesta added. "Now we're buying the energy at a 30 percent discount from the National Grid rate -- we're actually buying through a consortium -- but we're getting a 30 percent discount. Once we own them all we'll just receive all of the energy for free."

Seven years will be a key amount of time in the purchase plan. "To generate $42,000 of energy will take seven years," Sebesta said, of the time required to recoup the purchase price.

The panels -- there are 120 at Town Hall and the highway garage and 240 at the wastewater treatment plant -- provide a limited amount of electricity. Sebesta said the Town Hall array provides about 10 percent of the building's needs.

"That gives us about 10 percent of our energy," he said. "You'd need 10 times that to actually keep the air conditioning on and the lights. It would be ridiculous, the whole (Town Hall) green would be full of solar panels. Then you might power Town Hall."

Members of GE Solar, which designs, engineers, builds and manages solar and storage systems, will help Niskayuna officials analyze the arrays, Sebesta said. The group also will provide guidance to the town on their possible purchase.

Town officials discussed the purchase during Tuesday's meeting of the town's Finance Committee, which met before the Town Board's regularly scheduled agenda meeting.

Supervisor Yasmine Syed likes the idea, with conditions: "If it makes good fiscal sense and we can offset the cost of the purchase and then over time accrue revenue, so essentially revenue to offset the cost of our energy production so it wont be cash," she said, after the agenda meeting, "because we'll own the panels but at the same time we won't have to pay an outside company.

"We'll have to see what the analysis comes back as."

Councilman William McPartlon is also optimistic.

"I think it's going to be a good idea if it's going to save the town money," he said. "As Yasmine said, we have to see if that's the case and we're going to do the financial analysis to check that out."

Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw has been a proponent of solar in the town in the past.

"I think it would be a good investment for us in the long term if they have a longer life than what it would take us to pay them off," she said. "When we first installed them it really made us a state-of-the-art community."

Councilwoman Lisa Weber doesn't want the board to rush to a decision.

"I think we need to look into it and take our time and make the best decision possible," Weber said. "Two weeks is not a lot of time to make a decision about $42,000."

The board will next meet on Tuesday, August 27, its regular monthly session.

Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected]

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