Saturday, May 23, 2015

It Isn't Easy Being Green

Two years ago, in May 2013, Mayor William Hallenbeck announced, with great fanfare, that the City of Hudson was making "green history." Starting in June 2013, all of the City of Hudson's electricity usage would be supplied by locally produced wind power purchased from Viridian Energy, whose "independent associate" was Patrick Manning, the Republican who represented this district in the NYS Assembly from 1994 to 2006. At the time, Hallenbeck boasted that Hudson was "the only municipality statewide to be exclusively powered by wind energy" and claimed that the move would "reduce the City's overall electric costs while bolstering upstate jobs."

Less than a year later, in April 2014, Hallenbeck made the unilateral decision to switch the City from all wind power to a combination of wind power and solar power, both purchased from Viridian. At that time, the mayor declared that the City remained "on track to meet its savings goal of $40,000 for the year." (Two months earlier, in February 2014, he had predicted that the annual saving would be $62,472.)

Then in September 2014, it was revealed that the City's annual energy costs had increased by 33 percent, or $113,782. There are many factors influencing energy costs, among them usage and cost of delivery, but a study done by Council president Don Moore comparing the data for two years--the year before and the first year of Viridian service--provided evidence that Viridian's variable rate had increased dramatically. Since then, the mayor has negotiated a favorable and competitive rate with Viridian, and the City continues its agreement with Viridian on a month to month basis.

Herbert Ortiz
Enter Energy in the Bank, a company headquartered in the Poconos, in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, which started just a few years ago as, by its own account, a "mom and pop" energy business. Herbert Ortiz, the CEO of Energy in the Bank, accompanied by Gordon Cochrane, had a meeting with the mayor and the Common Council president earlier this week. On Tuesday, Ortiz made a presentation to the Common Council, and on Thursday, he and Cochran returned to make another presentation to the Economic Development Committee. What is being proposed is that the City of Hudson buy all of its electric energy from Energy in the Bank, which will build an array of solar panels, worth $6 million, to produce power exclusively for Hudson. The array would be constructed on land in Schoharie County, which Energy in the Bank has already purchased for the purpose.

The deal involves no upfront costs to the City of Hudson. In fact, the City would enjoy an upfront benefit. If the City enters into a 20-year agreement, which cannot be cancelled or renegotiated (although it seems the City can "buy out" of the contract after eight years), there are two options for future savings. Option 1: The City gets a half million dollars when the project "goes live" and saves $3.5 million in energy costs over the next 20 years. Option 2: The City gets no upfront money and saves $4.9 million over the next 20 years.

Ortiz told the Council that the Port Jervis has already committed to an agreement with Energy in the Bank, and Coxsackie has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). At the Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday, Moore observed, "If we were to sign an MOU and try to qualify for remote net metering [essential to realizing the promised savings, but an opportunity that will disappear at the end of June], we would need a Council resolution by the end of next week." A special meeting of the Common Council has been called by Moore for Monday, June 1, and one of the items on the agenda for that meeting, along with the plan for the police and court building due to the NYS Office of Court Administration, is "Solar Energy Contract."

One interesting bit of information about Energy in the Bank, to be found on the Internet, is that in 2012 the Stroudsburg Area School District, apparently in Energy in the Bank's own backyard, backed out of the deal with the company. The Pocono Record, in an article entitled "Stroudsburg schools' solar deal not all it's cracked up to be," reports that two years after the district had approved a project that would create "a massive 48,000-panel, 11-megawatt solar farm" for its use--touted as "one of the largest solar projects"--nothing had happened. The solar array proposed for Hudson is much smaller, producing only 2.5 megawatts.


  1. beware of anything that sounds "too good to be true"

  2. Don't we have a few solar energy companies (and some expertise) in our own backyard? It would seem somewhat sensible to run this proposal by them.

  3. Right here in Hudson - for one!!! Shop local! Thank you Peter Meyer
    Lotus Energy
    703 Warren St.
    Hudson, NY
    (518) 551-0007
    Sundog Solar

  4. let's ruin the view-shed in Schoharie County and complain about ours, and then build a powerline in Greene to get electricity here. but wait, you say it possible to ship the electricity on existing lines? but then wouldn't that mean the solar array could be anywhere? are you going to mix Hudson's clean electricity on a powerline that also has dirty electric from a gas plant? could we buy a bigger array of solar panels and build it in the Arizona desert then sell the excess to Greenport? can we just say we built something in Schoharie? who is going to bother even looking for it? those bumpkins upstate just want to stop progress, what do you mean they are suing us? they are suing us to stop construction? the lawyers are still getting paid? good idea then, do it.

  5. Many towns in MA are converting their old dump property, like we have, into solar farms. Lots of sun up there on land that can't be used for anything else. That makes sense.

  6. Thanks Ruth, we have already offered free solar installation to the City of Hudson a few years back under a similar arrangement with a guaranteed 25% savings on the electric rates, but were told that a Request for Proposal (RFP) was needed with 3 competing bids, so we are still awaiting the RFP to be released. I feel we can offer a more competitive arrangement than mentioned above, using our local Hudson manpower instead of out-of-state labor. We can also offer battery storage for emergencies which most arrangements do not offer.
    -Jeevan, Lotus Energy

  7. I am an associate with Viridian Energy and I have had no complaints from any of my customers so far. I would believe that the contract for Hudson was done using the 3 year contract with the 3DOM package through Viridian in which case the rate would be fixed for 3 years. SO if Nat Grids variable rates are cheaper than yes, Viridian would be more expensive, However, Viridan offers a rebate of up to 110% to any perons who choose the 3DOM fixed rate if we go over your former supplier. It has only been 3 years now so I want to see if Hudson got its rebate check yet.