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East Hampton Housing Authority Properties to Go Solar

Wed, 08/02/2023 - 18:27
Affordable housing complexes in the East Hampton Housing Authority’s portfolio, including Gansett Meadow, above, will soon be outfitted with solar panels
Christopher Walsh

The East Hampton Housing Authority’s five properties will soon see the installation of solar panels that are estimated to produce a combined 927 megawatt hours annually, the Housing Authority’s executive director said on Tuesday.

In a presentation to the town board, Catherine Casey shared plans to solarize the Avallone apartments in Montauk, Gansett Meadow in Amagansett, the Accabonac and Springs-Fireplace Apartments in East Hampton, and the 50-unit complex under construction on Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA, awarded the Housing Authority an $84,100 grant for affordable solar and storage pre-development and technical assistance in 2021. This, Ms. Casey said, was for feasibility studies and the hiring of a consultant to determine the potential for solar projects on the authority’s affordable housing properties.

Once the buildings have been solarized, residents will receive at least a 15-percent reduction in their electricity costs, Ms. Casey said.

The Avallone property, the oldest and smallest in the Housing Authority’s portfolio, is “ready to go,” she said. The Housing Authority has sufficient reserves to pay half the cost of that installation, and Ms. Casey asked that the town guarantee a $100,000 loan from Innovative Prosperity Capital. The authority “can support the debt and pay it off in a relatively short period of time,” she said. The town also allocated $30,000 of community development block grant money for hard costs, she said. “The potential out at Avallone is great, because there are not mature trees close to the building. It’s Montauk, it’s very sunny.”

The Accabonac Apartments saw a complete roof replacement last year and, a few years before that, a weatherization project including new windows, storm doors, and insulation. The Accabonac and Avallone properties are anticipated to generate more electricity than they consume, Ms. Casey said.

Gansett Meadow also “has a high potential,” she said, given the clearing around its buildings. “Those roofs are brand-new.” As it was recently constructed, “that property would be very close to as high efficiency as we can get. . . . This one should go pretty quickly and easily in terms of installation.”

The authority is working with the architects and modular builder on the Three Mile Harbor project, she said. “When we do fund and start the installation of solar arrays, a lot of the infrastructure at this property is already in place, as it is at Gansett Meadow.” The Springs-Fireplace project will be “a little bit trickier” given the mature trees and siting of the buildings, she said, but rooftop solar panels will also be installed there.

In addition to determining feasibility, Ms. Casey described the NYSERDA grant’s purpose as the proliferation of solar arrays. To that end, non-Housing Authority properties — Windmill Village II and Whalebone Village in East Hampton, and the St. Michael’s housing complex in Amagansett — were invited to participate in the study. Together, they could produce an additional 710 megawatt hours annually. (Major renovations are under consideration at the Windmill I complex in East Hampton, so it is not participating in the study.)

Those potential installations would be funded separately, but “while we’re looking at the community and the feasibility of interconnectivity with multifamily properties, there’s an issue with metering,” Ms. Casey said. “All our residents have their own meter, so we have to figure out how to aggregate it. It would be community generated solar and also community distributed solar, so that all of the residents benefit equally” despite the fact that some properties are expected to produce more electricity than others depending on site conditions. “In order to do that, we have to take a look at the tariff structure with the Public Service Commission. This is still new territory for them, but we’re pushing so we can do both community generated and community distributed. Hopefully, that will further other projects in other places.”

Following the Avallone installation, which is expected to happen during the third quarter of this year, the anticipated order of installations is the Three Mile Harbor project, the Accabonac Apartments, Gansett Meadow, and the Springs-Fireplace Apartments. The Eldor Contracting Corporation of Holtsville is to perform the Avallone installation, and possibly the others, Ms. Casey said.

Preliminary site visits have been completed and solar designs proposed, Ms. Casey said. Budget estimates have been established, and the project will receive $1 per watt in rebates from the state along with direct payment of federal Investment Tax Credits. Those rebates and I.T.C.s will cut the project’s cost in half, with the net cost to the Housing Authority being just under $1.3 million.

Town board members were supportive of the initiative. “This really does align very well with the town’s efforts over the years to transition away from fossil fuels and promote renewable energy, whether it’s wind energy or solar,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said.

Ms. Casey also noted that there is “a lot of interest” in applications for apartments at the Three Mile Harbor project, which has yet to be formally named. “We hope to make them available soon,” she said, possibly by year’s end.

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