Because of solar, town is ‘spike-proof’ as electricity rates soar

— Graph from Capital Energy

Electricity rates, which have been stable for more than a decade, are now soaring. The spike in 2014 was due to a cold winter.

GUILDERLAND —  The town board here got a primer in electricity rates at its April 5 meeting as it unanimously approved giving Supervisor Peter Barber the power to instantly agree with the best price its consultant can find.

Michael Hamor, who with his father, John Hamor, owns Capital Energy Partners, told the board, “The market right now is pretty poor.”

He explained in documents given to the board that New York, more than most states, has a versatile fuel mix for generating electricity, which breaks down this way: 29 percent nuclear, 23 percent hydro, 35 percent dual fuel — natural gas/oil, 8 percent natural gas, 3 percent wind, 2 percent coal.

Guilderland, with rates locked in till the end of the year, is currently paying 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour. The current rate, Hamor said, is about twice that. About half of the town’s electricity goes to its water filtration plant.

The rates for electricity are now the highest they have been since 2014, Hamor said; that spike was caused by an exceptionally cold winter.

The electric market’s long stretch of stability ended within the past year, he said, because of “a lot of political issues.”

He named New York City’s change in building code so that new buildings must use electricity, not natural gas.

“Then we shut down that massive nuclear plant that powered the city,” said Hamor, referencing the Indian Point plant on the Hudson River in Westchester County, which closed a year ago.

“Now, Russia’s saying they won’t supply western Europe with liquid natural gas, so that comes from us and goes over there,” said Hamor.

He went on to name electric car chargers that will strain the grid as well as growing cannabis, which he termed a “huge energy user.” Additionally, aging infrastructure is causing capacity issues, he said.

This makes it impossible to say what a good rate would be, Hamor concluded.

But, he said, Guilderland is in a better situation than many municipalities because it bought into local solar. The town has agreed to buy solar power at a rate of roughly 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour, said Hamor. 

“How the utility values that credit is based on the supply market, meaning: The higher the supply market is, which is very high right now, the more credit you get for less money.”

In a worst-case scenario, if the value of a credit went below 12.5 cents, the town would break even.  “The best-case scenario is you guys save a ton of money when the supply market goes up,” Hamor told the board. “You’ll be getting more solar credit because the supply market went up so, to a degree, … the town is actually spike-proof.”

Guilderland has 12 years left on its solar contract, Hamor said.

Additionally, his company is working on two other solar-related initiatives, he said. One is to get a land-lease deal where a solar developer would build a facility on the town’s landfill.

“You’d have no obligation to buy the power,” said Hamor. “You’re just the landlord, getting ‘x’ amount of dollars a year …. That’s a work in progress,” he said, as there are infrastructure issues.

Secondly, Capital Energy is going through town bills to see if some uses can be removed from the current solar deal. “We can sign those up for a different community solar project that has a guaranteed 10-percent savings,” said Hamor, estimating it could save the town $8,000 to $12,000 annually.

Hamor said he gets rates at 11 a.m. and must have signed a commitment by 5 p.m. that day. Barber said that leaves no time to consult with the town board; hence the need for the resolution.

Hamor will most likely recommend a one-year term, he said.

“It’s less about savings and it’s more about protection, …” Hamor said. “It’s like, if you don’t get in a car accident this month, are you going to say you got screwed by your car insurance?”


Digital signs

All of the town board members agreed it was unwise to allow more digital signs or signs with electronic variable messages in town.

Barber said he had looked at research from the state’s Department of Transportation showing the signs caused “driver inattention.”

He said, though, that the town has limited control over schools and libraries posting such signs. Guilderland also has firehouses and churches with digital signs.

Councilwoman Laurel Bohl noted a decision by the Appellate Division, the middle level in the state's three-tiered system, that had backed a town's zoning on signs.

“We do have that power,” she said.

“Until that decision came down, it was the other way,” Barber said, indicating the current signs already in town could stay.

Councilwoman Christine Napierski said such signs raise enforcement issues as messages change. “We’re dealing with that right now,” she said, alluding to a sign at Town Center that has become controversial.

“We did voluminous research,” said Councilwoman Rosemary Centi, brandishing a sheaf of papers. 

Bohl also noted that the nearby towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland already prohibit such signs and said she was aware only of Colonie allowing them.

Barber described the process it will require to amend the law, which involves comment from the Guilderland Planning Board before it comes back to the town board.


Other business

In other business at its April 5 meeting, the Guilderland Town Board:

— Voted to fly the Ukrainian flag at Guilderland Town Hall;

— Authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to solicit bids for improvements at the Guilderland Performing Arts Center and a new bathroom at Tawasentha Park.

Barber thanked senators George Amedore and Michelle Hinchey, who replaced Amedore, for securing $700,000 in state money for the project;

— Agreed to give the Barth family an easement for a driveway from Route 146 in exchange for an easement for a town hiking trail on the Barth property.

Barber explained that the town had bought the former Inga Barth florist shop and greenhouse across from Tawasentha Park to use as the headquarters for the town’s parks department. Kenneth Barth is now planning a minor subdivision on 37 acres of land behind the old shop: four acres for a single-family house with 33 acres remaining undeveloped.

However, the Barths currently have no access to the land. At the same time, town planner Kenneth Kovalchik wrote in  memo to the board, “The Barth property will fill a large gap in the trail network at Tawasentha Park and Vosburgh Trails. The Barth property does not extend all the way to Vosburgh Road but gets close”;

— Awarded a contract for grinding and removing yard waste at the town’s transfer station to the lowest of two bidders, HGNS Inc., in the amount of $4.50 per cubic yard as recommended by David Corey, the transfer station foreman. The other bid, from SM Gallivan, was for $6.14 per cubic yard.

Barber said a check with other towns using HGNS was favorable;

— Approved a 2022 concession lease for the Tawasentha pool and Guilderland Performing Arts Center with Jennifer Venduro. The lease runs from June 18 to Aug. 28 with a rental cost for that time period of $300.

“It’s hard to find people that will do this,” said Barber, who called Venduro “diligent” and said kids really like her; and

— Heard from Barber that the town will hold a Household Hazardous Waste Disposal and Confidential Document Shredder Event on Saturday, April 16, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the highway garage and that residents on April 30, can drop off unused prescription drugs at the parking lot of the Guilderland Public Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.