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CNY town wants to turn old landfill into solar farm

This is part of a solar farm with more than 9,400 solar panels in a secluded field next to Onondaga County's Oak Orchard Waste Water Treatment Plant in Clay. SolarCity owns the solar farm, one of four it will build under a 20-year contract to provide electricity to Onondaga County. DeWitt also is proposing to put a smaller solar farm on its old landfill. (Tim Knauss)

The town of DeWitt is taking steps to convert its old landfill into a solar farm.

The 2 megawatt solar farm would be located on 57 acres of the closed landfill, which is across between Fisher Road and Cedar Bay Park in DeWitt. Part of the landfill runs along the state Old Erie Canal State Park.

The landfill's closure was completed in 1994, and it was delisted in 2009, according to DeWitt town officials. Delisting means the site is no longer considered hazardous.

DeWitt will need to spend $25,000 for National Grid to complete an evaluation of the site to be sure it could connect into the grid system, said DeWitt Supervisor Ed Michalenko. Once the survey is done, the town plans to ask for bids from private companies.

A private company would own the solar farm at first, and the town would sign a power purchase agreement, receiving lower-cost power, the supervisor said. After about a five-year period, the town would purchase the solar farm and own and operate it.

All the bidders would be asked to put together an estimate of what it would cost the town to purchase the solar farm.

The town would then save on electricity costs for its municipal buildings, including town hall and the highway garage. It also would pay less for street lighting.

Although the proposal is still in the early stages, the town estimates it would save 10 to 20 percent on its electricity bill. That savings could be used by the town to offset increases in other areas such as labor and insurance, helping to keep any property tax increase within the allowed tax cap, Michalenko said.

Solar panels absorb energy from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation, which then creates electricity. The electricity produced by the solar modules is direct current, or DC, and an inverter converts this electricity to alternating current, or AC. Most electrical devices run on AC electricity.

More municipalities and institutions are turning to arrangements like this to lower energy costs. In Onondaga County, a solar project in Jamesville is being developed and one of four large solar farms being developed under contract for Onondaga County. The solar power in these farms could supply about 10 percent of Onondaga County's total electricity.

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