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Sunshine could power all of Cayuga County's municipal buildings

Deposit Photos

A solar array large enough to power all of Cayuga County's municipal buildings could be up within the next year or so, pending power purchase agreements and other logistics.

The solar panels would likely be installed on County House Road in Sennett behind the public safety complex. The array would generate five megawatts, enough to cover all of the county government's electricity needs with plenty of power leftover for local residents to purchase at a low rate, said Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods.

The project is part of the Central New York Regional Planning & Development Board's initiative called Solarize CNY. The five-county program is helping municipalities pool their resources to bring community solar projects to their areas. Chris Carrick, program manager of the board's energy management division, said the board is considering more than 30 sites across Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Oswego and Madison counties, which combined could produce about 40 megawatts.

Cayuga County's proposal is one of the largest, Carrick said, but other proposals are in the works at Wells College in Aurora, Auburn City Landfill, the village of Union Springs and the towns of Owasco, Scipio and Brutus. The planning board is recommending all the municipalities work with Canadian company Abundant Solar, which would pay for the arrays, installation and maintenance. Municipalities and organizations would lend their land in return, in addition to purchasing electricity from Abundant Solar.

Carrick said the board is currently working on template power purchase agreements that Cayuga County and others could use. The agreements, he said, protect people from the volatility of utility costs by keeping power purchasing at a flat rate.

Besides keeping electrical costs down, Carrick said the projects bring solar jobs to the area, create private investments and upgrades to distribution lines that benefit the public and create benefits to the environment. It blends well, too, with the Cayuga County Legislature's resolution passed March 27 adopting the New York State Climate Smart Communities Pledge. That includes increasing community renewable energy use and reducing greenhouse gases.

"If we're going to meet the state's target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, we basically have to double the amount of renewable energy that we have now, and solar is going to be a big part of that," Carrick said.

In order to take advantage of a 30-percent federal tax credit, Carrick hopes all the proposed projects can be completed by the end of 2019. After that, the tax credit will decrease to 26 percent.

Cayuga County Planning and Economic Development Director Steve Lynch said Abundant Solar may be presenting more about the County House Road array at the Legislature's upcoming Planning Committee meeting. That is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 11 in the Cayuga County Office Building, 160 Genesee St., Auburn.

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