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More Sullivan solar proposed

By Fritz Mayer
March 12, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — The buildings, vehicles and transport needs of Sullivan County results in the county releasing 8,674 metric tons of carbon equivalent into the atmosphere every year, expressed as 8,647MTCO2e.

Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD), which consults with the county on renewable energy projects, is looking at ways to reduce that number, and one way might be to enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) with private investors who would build solar arrays on county-owned or leased property and sell electricity to the county at significantly reduced prices.

Stephen Stuart and Carol Roig, co-executive directors of SASD, gave a presentation to county legislators on March 6 to go over the options.

The presentation looked at five county-owned buildings with land, such as the government center and the airport. It also considered one site not owned by the county, Lake Superior State Park, for which the county might be able to arrange a long-term lease.

The presentation showed that if solar arrays could be erected at all six locations, the carbon emissions produced by the county could be reduced by 2,954.7 MTCO2e, and the energy produced would be enough to power all of the county-owned buildings.

There was a discussion about whether it would be better for the county to bond, build and own the solar arrays, or instead sign PPAs with investor groups, who would sell electricity at reduced rates.

The second option was preferred by Roig and Stuart, in part because it would involve no upfront cost to the county, and would mean no risk for the county. Further, as a municipality, the county pays no taxes, and therefore can’t take advantage of the various tax breaks offered by the state and federal governments for solar projects. But private investors do pay taxes, and therefore could take advantage of those tax breaks. The private investors would also earn income from selling electricity, at a reduced cost, to the county.

Stuart noted that there are several PPA municipal projects already up and running in other counties in the state.

In Seneca County, an 845kW system, located on the grounds of the Seneca County Law Enforcement Center, was activated. The array was a project to provide 79% of the facility’s electricity needs, which is projected to save the county more than $1 million over the 25-year life of the PPA.