Hilltown residents can now apply for Nexamp subscriptions

Enterprise File Photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer
One of the Shepard Farm arrays, seen here before construction was finished. 

HILLTOWNS — Equipped with the promise of saving residents money on energy bills from Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Nexamp has opened up its application process, marking the first step toward realizing the long-touted benefits of what have otherwise been controversial solar farms. 

All residents who receive their energy from Central Gas & Electric are eligible to subscribe and will be served on a first-come basis, Nexamp has announced. 

“The benefit of community solar is that people who don’t have a suitable roof or who rent housing can also participate,” Nexamp Communication Manager Keith Hevenor told The Enterprise.  “And because there is no upfront cost, it makes it more accessible.”

Nexamp owns the two solar farms situated on the Shepard Farm resort in Westerlo, land which is in turn owned by Rensselaerville Town Supervisor John Dolce. The arrays are expected to go live by the end of the month, Hevenor said, meaning that customers would first start seeing savings in April, though he cautioned that that is subject to change.

The Shepard Farm arrays have been called “unsightly” and even dangerous by residents, but defenders of the farms have rebutted by pointing toward the money residents are promised to save by the company on their energy bills as well as the money generated by the PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, programs the town and the Greenville Central School District have with the company.

Westerlo is home to five solar arrays in total — two owned by Clean Energy Collective and one owned by Constanza Solar, in addition to the two Nexamp arrays. All five were built in a two-year period between March 2017, when the town updated its solar laws to include regulations for commercial arrays, and August of last year, when the town enacted a solar moratorium through a unanimous vote. 

In an interview with The Enterprise in October, then-Acting Supervisor William Bichteman laid out the revenues generated by the solar farms and downplayed the impact they would have on the town. Bichteman has since been elected supervisor, having defended his seat against planning board chairwoman and Republican Dorothy Verch in an election that the town’s GOP chairwoman, Lisa DeGroff, said may have come down to their differing opinions on solar. 

“With all the farms online and making the assumption we eventually have PILOTs with the two farms remaining, the total revenue over 15 years is $1,984,206.81,” Bichteman said at the time. “The school district share is $1,448,470.97 and the town share would be $535,735.84.

“I would agree that in total over 15 years they represent a huge amount of money, but it’s misleading” Bichteman continued, “ … For 2021, the town receives $23,093 plus an estimated additional $7,560 from the uncommitted farms. This would give the town $30,653 in budget revenue. It helps, but it is a long way from substantially reducing taxes and it barely meets the anticipated inflation.”

Meanwhile, Verch has lauded those same figures and derided Bichteman for not welcoming additional revenue into the town.

“Other towns have, voluntarily, published the good news regarding the tax benefits that these projects bring to the table … Too bad a positive representation is not provided for Westerlo,” Verch wrote to The Enterprise in an email this week.

But with the projections from either side being just that, the rate at which residents subscribe to Nexamp and the impacts those residents see, whether they be big or small, will likely play an important role in the future of solar developments in Westerlo and the Hilltowns at large.

More Hilltowns News

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  • Although the coronavirus has created a lapse in funding for Westerlo’s Comprehensive Plan Committee, Supervisor William Bichteman said that budget transfers will ensure that the $5,000 lost in grant money after the state retracted its offer will get to the committee, which will begin to hold meetings with the public next month, one way or another. 

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