Back in December, when the Conservation Advisory Council was trying to dissuade the City from pursuing a plan to site a solar array in the vicinity of North Bay, Michael O'Hara, who serves on the CAC and also chairs the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, reported that the County was "looking at community solar that would cover the entire county." O'Hara said then that the plan was already in the works. Now, more information is emerging about that plan.
Recently, an appeal on Facebook for community outreach specialists to help launch the project, provided a bit more information. The following is quoted from that post:
Columbia County is launching a County-Wide Community Solar Campaign. Open to NYSEG, National Grid and Central Hudson customers. . . .
Our solar projects are built on landfills, brownfields and some retired farm land. We use sheep to graze, instead of mowing, and we do not use pesticides to control pests.
Community Solar gives access to local renewable energy benefits for all and not the select few. It costs nothing to get started, no equipment to install, no changing your utility service. You will save on avg. 10% off electricity per year for up to 25 years. Community Solar is not a 3rd party energy supply arrangement. It is a state program which incentivizes participation w/ savings. There is no catch. No hidden fees, no credit requirements, and you can cancel w/ no questions asked, or penalties.
Gossips learned more about the project yesterday from O'Hara. In August 2021, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (No. 275-2021) to launch a countywide community solar campaign. On February 9, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (No. 76-2022) authorizing Matt Murell, chair of the Board of Supervisors, to enter into an agreement with Astral Power and Nexamp "to jointly promote offers to residents, businesses, and governmental and nongovernmental organizations to subscribe to offset their electric consumption with solar energy from existing and developing solar projects throughout New York State." None of the installations of these two vendors is currently in Columbia County.
The initiative is part of Solarize, a community solar program supported by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). According to O'Hara, those who enroll in the program receive a $100 sign-on bonus and a 10 percent discount on their electricity bills. The county also gets a per customer bonus and, if a certain number of subscribers are reached, becomes eligible for a cash grant from NYSERDA, as well as points in the Climate Smart Communities program. If a town or city would like to participate and get credit for their residents who subscribe, the municipality needs to present a document to NYSERDA telling how they will support the promotion of the campaign.
To learn more about the program, go to nyserda.ny.gov/solarize. There you can download the NYSERDA Solarize Guidebook.
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