Tuesday, September 10, 2019

On the Subject of Community Solar

Gossips has been reporting on the solar array to be constructed by East Light Partners on Route 9, just beyond the city limits of Hudson in Greenport, since March 2018, when principals Wendy De Wolf and Jamie Fordyce first made a presentation at an informal meeting of the Common Council. Since then, De Wolf and Fordyce had consulted with Historic Hudson, The Olana Partnership, and the State Historic Preservation Office to ensure that the array would not be visible from the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and Olana, worked with Scenic Hudson to make certain their plans followed Scenic Hudson's guidelines for siting solar arrays, and, beginning in July 2018, appeared before the Greenport Planning Board every month over the course of six months while the Planning Board conducted its site plan review. Site plan approval was granted in December 2018.

In February 2019, the Common Council Economic Development Committee agreed to move forward on entering into a contract with East Light Partners to buy electricity to power municipal buildings and street lighting from the new community solar project, a move that would result in a 10 percent saving ($30,000 to $40,000 a year) on the City's electricity bill. To that end, the proposed contract was forwarded to the Legal Committee and the Finance Committee. Six months later, in August 2019, the contract came before the full Council for approval. It was only then was the question was raised if an RFP was needed, and Alderman John Rosenthal (Fourth Ward) began talking about due diligence.

City attorney Andy Howard offered the opinion that, because there were no other solar farms providing community solar utility service, an RFP was not required; this was a sole source. At last night's Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting, Rosenthal reported that his due diligence had produced two companies--WMR Services LLC, with offices in Buffalo and New Hartford, NY; and SunCommon, headquartered in Rhinebeck--that have built community solar projects in communities such as Utica and Amsterdam (WMR) and Red Hook (SunCommon). The possibility that Rosenthal seemed to be suggesting was that one of these companies might construct a solar array on City-owned land, in which case, the City would not only benefit from the 10 percent decrease in its electricity bill but also would collect revenue from leasing the land. The City-owned land that Rosenthal had in mind was land at the Churchtown Reservoir, Hudson's water source.

Reacting to the idea of siting a solar farm at the Churchtown Reservoir, Hilary Hillman, who serves on the Conservation Advisory Council, asked if such a plan would not require clear cutting and might that not put the City's water supply in jeopardy. Rosenthal told her, "We are just seeing if it is feasible."

Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) suggested that the City could enter into a contract with East Light Partners and start realizing a saving on electricity while exploring building a solar array on its own land. The proposed contract with East Light would not be exclusive.

It was decided there would be a special meeting to hear presentations from WMR and SunCommon. That meeting was tentatively scheduled for Thursday, October 3, at 6 p.m., but that is the same time that the Zoning and Planning Task Force is supposed to have its second meeting, so the meeting schedule may change.


  1. Think about this! How "Green" is this? Possibly clear cutting trees to build a solar farm? And next to the City's water supply? Not well thought out.
    I agree with Alderman Halloran, go with East Light Partners now and start saving while the City looks into building a solar farm on its land in the future. Especially if the contract is not exclusive.
    Again, after all this time of working on a proposal, alternatives are brought up on the night of a vote. Is it getting close to the election?

  2. Other cities have used old dump/landfill sites for solar farms. We sure do have a large sunny landfill. Why do these plans always involve a private company profiting as middleman? Why can't the city build its own solar and/or wind farm and sell or use 100% of the electricity produced? 10% reduction in the city's power bill seems like chump change for use of public watershed land.

  3. Thank you John Rosenthal for making sure the City of Hudson makes the best decision. You always have to question a deal where there is only one provider. Especially for something as pervasive as solar.

    1. Alderman John Rosenthal is a member of the Economic Development Committee that agreed to move forward on entering into a contract with East Light Partners and forward to the Legal and Finance Committees.

  4. And then he did the right thing in seeing if there were other options. Certainly better than ramming it through to tick off a box and claim credit.

    1. It's hardly "ramming it through" when this has been discussed since March 2018. Alderman John Rosenthal could have done his "due diligence" much earlier on in meetings of the committee that he is a member.
      Regardless of that, let's see what the other two companies have to offer.