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Wayne Post
  • Solar power: New proposal may be key to town energy savings

  • A new proposal could be the final piece of the puzzle that would bring the potential long-term savings of solar power to the town Arcadia.

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  • A new proposal could be the final piece of the puzzle that would bring the potential long-term savings of solar power to the town Arcadia.
    At the Arcadia Town Board meeting Oct. 9, Supervisor Dick Colacino presented a proposal from Larsen Engineers for a solar facility that reduce the town’s electric costs while eliminating the upfront costs solar panel installation generally entails. The proposal utilizes the same NYSERDA grant brought to the board’s attention at their September meeting where Sodus resident Lee Calhoun explained the benefits of developing a solar farm at the site of the old landfill instead of the solid waste facility being proposed by Arcadia Hills LLC developer Joe Alloco.
    Calhoun has had an interest in solar energy since the concept was in its infancy and has had solar panels installed at his home. Those panels and a geo thermal heat pump that pulls heat from the earth in the winter, Calhoun estimates he has saved thousands of dollars since the solar panels were first installed within the last four years. Today, his home is 95 percent heated by the sun.
    Calhoun said Larsen’s proposal is the final key the board needs to develop a solar farm that would benefit the town for years to come.
    “This brings the financing for what I was proposing into perspective,” Calhoun said. “This could put all the pieces together.”
    Larsen Engineers’s proposal allows the town to work with Larsen as the developer to put in a bid to NYSERDA for a grant to receive electricity at a reduced rate. If the grant is approved, Larsen would become the power provider for the town under a 5 to 7-year contract during which the town would see lowered electric bills under the lowered rate specified in the contract. At the end of the agreement, the town would have the option to purchase the solar facility for $1 at which time they would take on all maintenance costs for the facility, but they would also receive the full benefits of the solar panels — their electricity costs would essentially be free. The typical life of a solar panel is 25 to 30 years.
    Sounds too good to be true, however, Calhoun said there is no real catch. The downside to solar power is the upfront costs generally associated with installation. This proposal would resolve that issue for the town, Calhoun said. Larsen Engineers would take on upfront costs and receive reimbursement for their investment through the NYSERDA grant, the sale of the electricity generated by the solar panels at the facility and through tax credits.
    “The only catch is you better jump on this quickly,” Calhoun said, adding that NYSERDA has only dedicated a certain amount of money for projects like this.
    The first deadline for the NYSERDA-PON 2589 grant application is in November, however, there is a second deadline in March. Calhoun said the sooner the town applies, the better chance they have of receiving the funding.
    Page 2 of 2 - Calhoun said if the town then opted to purchase the solar facility as part of the agreement, maintenance costs are minimal. He compared it to a homeowners electric service at home — the installation to install new electric in a home is pricey, but the long term maintenance includes changing a light bulb and perhaps replacing a circuit breaker.
    Colacino told fellow board members that the only risk he could see with the proposal was if rates happened to drop below what the town contracts for, but that was unlikely.
    The Town Board expressed interest in exploring the proposal further and will be requesting a meeting with Larsen Engineers. Town Attorney Dave Saracino suggested the board bring their own engineers, MRB, in on the proposal as consultants. If the board pursues the proposal, there is no indication at this time where the solar facility would be located.
    Calhoun also requested to meet with the board regarding the proposal and hopes to enlighten the board with his first-hand knowledge of solar power.

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