New Scotland may soon have solar farms on two landfills

New Scotland with a solar developer

— From the United States Department of Energy

Rain, rain, stay away: An agreement signed by the town of New Scotland with a solar developer will allow the developer to install solar-energy systems on two landfills in the town.    

NEW SCOTLAND — Capitalizing on the state’s recent changes and updates to its solar incentive programs, New Scotland has entered into an agreement with a solar developer that, if fully executed, will have the town collecting a monthly check for doing little more than signing the contract — and providing the land for a solar farm.

The arrays would be built on the town’s two landfills, both on Upper Flatrock Road.

The land-lease agreement with Solomon Energy of Westport, Connecticut, places all of the development responsibility — researching the local market and preparing reports for the town, defining the project’s scope, soliciting requests for proposals, administering the submittal process, awarding and managing the winning bid, and finding customers to purchase the power that would be produced by the solar-energy system — on the company, but leaves the town with the ultimate say on the project’s fate.

At the April 10 town board meeting, Michael Hamor of Four Corners Energy spoke on behalf of Solomon Energy about why the town should enter into the land-lease agreement.

If a solar project were approved by New Scotland, Hamor explained, the generous incentives currently being offered to solar developers by New York State could soon be passed on to the town in the form of increased compensation.

In 2018, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority published a new solar guidebook to help local municipalities develop projects on underused properties like landfills and brownfields. In addition, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation adopted new rules that made it easier to install solar arrays on underused properties.

And, along with the solar guidebook, revisions were made to the financial incentives provided for developing projects in landfills and brownfields.

“That is the type of project we’re looking to do today,” Hamor said of placing solar farms on two of New Scotland’s landfills. One is 62 acres at 237 Upper Flatrock Road, the home of the town’s transfer station; the other is about 10 acres near the intersection of Upper Flatrock Road and Delaware Avenue.

What makes landfills so attractive for solar-energy systems, Hamor said, is the way construction is incentivized by NYSERDA.

Typically, it doesn’t matter if a solar-energy system has 10 panels or 10,000 panels on a parcel of land; it would still be defined as one system. But on a landfill, the rules are different, which means that there can be multiple systems on a single parcel of land. And NYSERDA provides an incentive for each system installed.

According to NYSERDA, its incentives cover about 25 to 35 percent of the costs of installing a solar-energy system.

Hamor explained that, currently, the best incentives can be earned from installing 750 kilowatt solar-energy systems. On a landfill, he said, rather than building one giant five-megawatt system, a solar developer could install six 750-kilowatt solar-energy systems. So, even if the systems provided the same amount of power, Hamor said, a developer would be making more money from the six 750-kilowatt systems because he or she would have maximized incentives offered by NYSERDA.

And, in addition to its typical incentives, NYSERDA offers “adders,” for development in underused areas. Landfill and brownfield projects receive an additional 10-cents per watt in incentives.

New Scotland’s first attempt at a solar project was undone by declining incentives.

In 2013 and 2014, New Scotland was looking to establish a net-metering program, said Michael Naughton, the town’s attorney, for which the town would build its own solar farm, then all of its energy bills “would be applied to that net meterin.,”

Net metering, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a  solar-energy industry trade group, “is a billing mechanism that credits solar-energy-system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.”

The solar project that Hamor is proposing for the town, Naughton said, “is not that at all; it’s a completely different program.”

One of the reasons the town walked away from the net-metering program, Naughton said, was because, as the process increased in time, incentives from the state decreased. ​

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