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CNY coal plant owner to build one of New York's largest solar farms

Owners of the coal-fired Cayuga power plant near Ithaca plan to build Upstate New York's biggest solar farm next to the plant. (Finger Lakes Action Network)

The owner of a coal-fired power plant in Tompkins County plans to build Upstate New York's largest solar farm by covering roughly 75 acres next to the coal plant with photovoltaic panels.

Riesling Power, owner of the 300-megawatt Cayuga coal plant in the town of Lansing, today announced plans to build a $25 million solar power facility on site.

The solar farm would produce up to 18 megawatts, enough power for about 3,100 households, company officials said.

That would make the Cayuga solar farm the largest in Upstate New York, second only to a 32-megawatt facility on Long Island. But Cayuga probably would not hold that distinction for long.

Thanks to renewable power subsidies adopted last year by state regulators, the Cayuga solar farm is one of roughly three dozen large solar installations around the state that have sought permission to tie into the power grid.

Some of the proposed solar farms would be as much as 10 times the size of the Cayuga facility.

Officials at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority are expected to release a request of proposals soon that will determine how much of a subsidy renewable power suppliers can earn.

Under the New York's clean energy standard, state officials are committed to sourcing 50 percent of New York's power from renewable energy by 2030. Suppliers will earn subsidies paid for by utility ratepayers in addition to selling their power wholesale.

Before construction can start, the Cayuga solar farm will need permits from the town of Lansing and permission from the New York Independent System Operator to connect to the grid. Company officials hope to be operational by the spring of 2019, said Jerry Goodenough, vice president of development at the Cayuga plant.

In the future, Riesling Power hopes to convert its coal-fired generating station to burn natural gas, a cleaner and cheaper fuel, Goodenough said.

State regulators last year rejected a request by the coal plant's former owner to have utility ratepayers from New York State Electric & Gas subsidize the conversion to natural gas. But Riesling Power officials are weighing the benefits of paying the full cost to switch, Goodenough said.

For now, the Cayuga plant runs on coal.

Map shows plan for a solar farm covering 75 acres at the site of the Cayuga power plant in Lansing, Tompkins County, at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake.

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