East Hampton Gets Serious About Solar Power

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, one of East Hampton’s three selected contractors | Courtesy Sun Edison

No town on the East End is more anxious to show off its solar proposals to our new electric utility, PSEG, than East Hampton.

While towns throughout the East End are sending their solar wish lists to PSEG for consideration for a second round of renewable energy feed-ins to the Long Island electric grid, East Hampton is in the unique position of being located in an energy-starved corner of the island where PSEG is willing to pay a premium of seven cents per kilowatt hour of electricity more than anywhere else.

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.”

The East Hampton Town Board voted Tuesday to send PSEG proposals for solar arrays at ten town-owned sites ranging from the landfills in Springs and Montauk, to the rooftops of town-owned buildings and vacant parcels of land throughout town.

Frank Dalene, chairman of the town’s energy sustainability advisory committee, told the town board on Tuesday that, if PSEG approves of the projects, solar contractors could pay the town between $18 million and $30 million over the next 20 years to lease the land.

Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, called Tuesday a great day in East Hampton Town’s renewable energy history.

“If it’s done, it will put East Hampton from the lower tier to the very top nationwide as far as solar energy,” he told the board.

There are still a lot of ifs in the offing. East Hampton is proposing 40 megawatts of solar energy generation, when LIPA is seeking to bring just 100 megawatts into the system island-wide. Southold, Shelter Island and Riverhead have also proposed solar arrays on their landfills. PSEG needs to receive all proposals by Jan. 31 and will then evaluate and pick their top choices.

But folks in East Hampton are confident about their proposal.

“This may be one of most exciting renewable energy proposals and projects in the country in many ways,” said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell at Tuesday’s work session. “We have an opportunity here to produce non-tax revenue of very significant amounts….”

“There are a lot of details to work out,” he added. “I’m very excited to take this first step.”

The town board selected three solar contractors: SunEdison, OnForce Solar and Sustainable Power Group.

Also at Tuesday’s work session, the board agreed to $622,000 worth of outside contractor work at the East Hampton Airport, all of which is in the 2014 budget. Airport manager Jim Brundige went over the plan in depth with the board, in contrast to last summer when the airport authorized nearly $300,000 worth of work to an outside contractor preparing an environmental impact statement on the airport’s noise abatement system without letting the town board know.

“We need to be more careful in terms of using these services,” said Mr. Cantwell. “Unless on emergency basis, it should be cleared through the board. It certainly shouldn’t exceed the maximums put in place as an internal control.”

The board also agreed to refund bonds for the Poxabogue Golf Course at a lower rate, which budget officer Len Bernard said would save the town about $3 million over the next several years.

Land acquisition department director Scott Wilson also told the board that, at the public’s suggestion, he’s planning to add three projects to the Community Preservation Fund management plan for this year, including $9,000 for invasive species removal at Babe’s Lane, $141,000 for restoration of the Lester-Labrozzi barn and $150,000 to restore Duck Creek Farm. All three projects are in Springs.

 

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

2 thoughts on “East Hampton Gets Serious About Solar Power

  • January 23, 2014 at 11:20 am
    Permalink

    OnForce Solar is in the Bronx, Sustainable Power Group is based in Utah, and SunEdison is headquartered in Belmont, California. Why no local solar contractors?

    Reply
    • January 23, 2014 at 3:39 pm
      Permalink

      Hi, Jeff, the town was looking for contractors with experience in large-scale municipal projects and they decided these best fit the bill. I know there were 13 bids on the project in total; I’m checking to see if any were from local contractors. —Beth

      Reply

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