Southold Town has requested a new round of bids for renewable energy proposals at the town’s capped Cutchogue landfill, after the town was able to exit a 2014 contract with a California company that has since gone bankrupt.
The town had agreed in 2014 to lease 15 acres at the capped landfill to SunEdison, a company that had entered into a 20 year lease with the town, at $57,000 per year, and a 20 year power purchase agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to build a 2 megawatt solar array there. SunEdison went into bankruptcy in 2016, leaving the town with a quagmire of legal hurdles to overcome before it could seek other alternative energy uses of the property.
Democrats running for town board against the incumbent Republicans had made a campaign issue of the failed contract last fall.
Southold Town Board member Bob Ghosio has been holding informal meetings with representatives of companies interested in renewable energy projects at the landfill, and he told the Town Board on Jan. 28 that he was excited about a proposal he’d received from a Virginia-based company, Summit Ridge, which was founded by several former SunEdison employees, and whose CEO, Steve Raeder, had managed SunEdison’s East Coast commercial and industrial solar businesses.
“They came prepared with a representative lease. They are highly interested, motivated and they feel they can get the project done,” Mr. Ghosio told the Town Board, adding that the Summit Ridge team was interested in a 6 megawatt project at the landfill, using 60 acres, including the entire capped area of the landfill.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell was skeptical of the proposal, saying the developers would need approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to touch the capped landfill, and that the former SunEdison project had involved just a small section on the southwest side of the property that was not on top of the landfill cap.
Mr. Russell added that LIPA is now offering fewer incentives to tie solar power into the grid, focusing instead on offshore wind.
“I hate to be Johnny Raincloud,” he said. “I don’t want everyone to think there are going to be panels up there tomorrow and everyone is going to get savings on their tax bills. LIPA hasn’t issued RFPs (requests for proposals) for a while. They can’t just build it.”
Mr. Ghosio came back to the town board at its Feb. 11 meeting, announcing that he’d since heard from another company interested in putting a battery storage facility at the landfill.
Mr. Ghosio suggested the town issue a formal request for proposals for renewable energy projects at the landfill.
“Now we have some renewed interest, and I think we need to do what’s right for the town,” he said.
Mr. Russell said he’s heard from several companies interested in setting up battery storage sites in order to meet peak demand, instead of gas-fired “peaker plants” like one in Moores Woods in Greenport.
“This has to be about ‘how much money do we make,’” said Councilman Jim Dinizio. “In my opinion, that’s what it’s all about…. Nobody wants wind turbines on land anymore. It looks like Tesla is a big pusher of this. They know batteries now, and they’ve gotten so efficient. We’re at the point where we don’t need something with a jet engine in it like [the peaker plant] in Greenport.
“Let’s put out a broader RFP, and say ‘bring us your ideas,’” said Mr. Russell. “Then the town can make the decisions. If the interest is in battery storage, make sure the RFP is broad enough.”
The board voted unanimously to issue the Request for Proposals at its Feb. 25 meeting.