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Floating solar array comes to Cohoes reservoir

Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler addresses the gathering at the reservoir.
Dave Lucas
Cohoes Mayor Bill Keeler addresses a gathering at the reservoir.

The Albany County city of Cohoes is using novel technology as it works toward an energy independent future.

The Cohoes Floating Solar project has been in the planning stages for about a year. Tuesday it received a major boost with the announcement by National Grid that the utility has earmarked $750,000 to advance the model clean energy project.

National Grid Executive Director Laurie Poltynski says the money is part of its Renewable Energy and Economic Development Grant Program.

"This is the largest amount of money we were able to award through any of our economic development programs, and so it's quite significant for us as well," said Poltynski . "Our funding not only supports the innovative floating solar array in the city of Cohoes, but it provides funding to RPI, to expand an interactive map of similar reservoir locations across New York state that have the potential to host similar floating solar projects and increase the amount of renewable energy for our New York customers."

8,000 solar panels will cover two-thirds of the 10-acre city reservoir located by the Cohoes Filtration Plant, at a cost of $5.9 million. Democratic Mayor Bill Keeler says the city is pursuing additional government and foundation funding required to complete the project.

"So we're working on it," Keeler said. " Tirelessly. We're 70% of the way there. We'll get there. We're not stopping now. We've come too far."

The Spindle City was previously awarded $3 million in Federal Community Project grant funding, secured by Senator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Paul Tonko, both Democrats. Tonko says once operational, the solar array will help the city meet 100% of its energy demand for municipal facilities and street lights.

"The deployment of solar energy, of photovoltaic arrays, brings a great merit in the amount of generation that obviously feeds into the overall energy picture for this country, certainly for this state, and with the community, being able to share some of that, not only beyond having all the energy produced for their needs, but sharing it with the Cohoes Central School System, and with the housing authority is just value added to the effort," said Tonko.

Keeler says the solar panels on the reservoir will help stem evaporation and fewer chemicals will need to be added to the water, and if anything, the installation will be a plus for local wildlife.

Citing supply chain issues, Keeler did not set a date for completion of the project.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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