East End towns sending LIPA solar project wish lists

A municipal power project by Sun Edison similar to the plan they're pitching for the Cutchogue landfill | Courtesy Sun Edison
A municipal power project by Sun Edison similar to the plan they’re pitching for the Cutchogue landfill | Courtesy Sun Edison

Governments all over the East End are itching to send bids in to the Long Island Power Authority for the second round of large-scale solar projects that would feed in to the LIPA grid.

Last summer, LIPA announced its first round of solar project contracts, which allowed 50 megawatts of solar-generated electricity to be sold into the grid. Though governments throughout the East End sent applications to LIPA for projects, mostly on top of capped landfills, most of the projects that received LIPA contracts were up the island.

This time around, though, East Enders believe things will be different. LIPA will be accepting another round of bids for up to 100 megawatts of solar power up until Jan. 31, 2014.

East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione said at a town board work session Dec. 17 that he’s been told LIPA plans to buy 40 megawatts of that power from sites on the East End. Each project will also be smaller than in the first round of awards, with a maximum size of 2 megawatts, allowing more sites to be chosen by LIPA for generation of solar electricity.

“There’s a portion targeted toward the five towns,” he said. “We believe that participating in this is an important action on the part of the town.”

In most cases, when solar projects of this scale are pitched to LIPA, a solar contractor would agree to lease land for 20 years from a town and then apply to LIPA t have their power hooked in to the grid. The power would be sold to LIPA and the solar contractor would either be paid directly by LIPA or share the proceeds in some fashion with the town, depending on the details of their contract with the town.

During last summer’s initial round of funding, LIPA agreed to pay 22 cents per kilowatt hour for the electric power, but this time around the applicants will bid a price that they would like to receive for the power through a clearing house auction set up by LIPA. Companies will receive 7 cents more per kilowatt/hour for power generated on the South Fork east of LIPA’s Southampton substation, due to the South Fork’s shortfall in electric production, particularly on peak hot days in the summer.

According to LIPA, “reducing the load constraint in this area will help defer, reduce or eliminate the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in building new generation, infrastructure, and transmission and distribution lines.”

Last year, the projects were awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, but this year, all applications received between Oct. 7 of 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014 are being considered by LIPA.

East Hampton is looking at a handful of parcels where they would like to install solar projects, and issued a request for proposals from contractors on Dec. 17. The bids are due in Jan. 10.

Southold Town also accepted a bid on Dec. 17 from Poughkeepsie firm Sun Edison to install a solar energy facility at the Cutchogue landfill on Cox Lane. If LIPA approves their project, Sun Edison will pay Southold $43,000 for the next 20 years for a solar array on the landfill.

Southold and Sun Edison had pitched a plan to LIPA last summer to build a 2.6 megawatt solar array at the Cutchogue landfill, but were not among the lucky municipalities chosen by LIPA.

Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen is spearheading an effort in Riverhead to build a solar array at the town’s Youngs Avenue landfill, as well as solar car ports in parking lots throughout town. The town has received several bids for the landfill project, which are currently under review.

The Shelter Island Town Board voted in late September to allow American Capital Energy of Massachusetts to lease four acres at its landfill for 20 years if they’re approved for the feed-in program.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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