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Pitch for More Solar Farms

Wed, 08/02/2023 - 18:11
The Accabonac Solar plant, comprising 3,456 individual 320-watt solar panels across two acres, was developed at the site of a former brush dump in Springs that is owned by the town.
Town of East Hampton

A representative from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Build Ready program pitched a study to the East Hampton Town Board on Tuesday that would identify potential sites for solar farms and battery storage systems on town-owned properties.

NYSERDA partners with municipalities throughout the state to identify and advance underutilized land for renewable energy projects, Kim Shaw, director of the town’s Natural Resources Department, told the board. “They take difficult sites and make them build-ready for private renewable energy developers” to construct solar arrays on them, she said.

The Build Ready program transforms brownfields, landfills, and other underutilized, abandoned, or vacant areas into renewable energy assets. Gillian Black, the program’s director, defined such lands as “sites that the private sector was not developing, essentially sites that are too expensive to put renewable energy on but are perfect for renewable energy.”

The program advances the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which set goals of 100-percent zero-emission electricity by 2040 and an 85-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. New York is to derive 70 percent of its energy needs through renewable sources

by 2030, with 10,000 megawatts of solar electricity by 2025.

“Part of our program is focused on creating community benefits along with these revenue-generating projects,” Mr. Black said, “so that we’re putting back into the host community some of the benefits of the project.”

NYSERDA works with municipalities to package permitted projects for competitive bids. A lease option agreement would be executed between the town and the agency, “and then it would transfer over with each parcel or parcels to the successful proposer of the auction,” Mr. Black said. “They would exercise the lease.” Winning bidders would complete the final engineering design and any other permitting requirements, he said, and then construct, own, and operate the systems. “They would then be the party to the lease. They would then assume all the responsibilities for host community benefit payments, etc.”

The town at present hosts the Accabonac Solar plant, developed by AES Distributed Energy on a decommissioned, town-owned brush dump, and a solar-plus-battery-storage installation at the Parks and Building Maintenance Department building, developed by Solar Liberty and its financing partner, Inclusive Prosperity Capital.

Town officials have identified 12 properties as potential additional solar sites, totaling around 105 acres of potential buildable area. They include the town recycling center on Springs-Fireplace Road; the Montauk transfer station, the Montauk Playhouse, and that hamlet’s firehouse; around 10 acres at East Hampton Town Airport, the Police Department and fire training facility, and the former Child Development Center of the Hamptons in Wainscott, and Fresh Pond and the recreation park on Abraham’s Path in Amagansett.

All are seen as potential sites for solar arrays and battery energy storage systems, and some could also include electric vehicle charging stations. Some sites would see ground-mounted solar arrays, while others might see solar panels mounted on parking canopies or roofs.

“The next step would be for us to refine all these sites” in consultation with the town, Mr. Black said. “We’d go deeper into preliminary design for these sites once we determine where the actual buildable areas are.”

Before going any further, however, a draft memorandum of understanding must be finalized, he said, after which the list of potential sites would be narrowed, environmental analysis conducted, and permitting and grant applications determined.

He encouraged the board to look at the identified potential sites and determine which they would like NYSERDA to explore for development. “We’re happy to work with you on that or take delivery of your list of sites,” he said. “Then we can decide whether it’s a viable opportunity.”

 

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