Officials Activate Montgomery County Solar Garden

Apr 21, 2016

This week, officials flipped the switch on a 200-kilowatt solar garden in Montgomery County. The array is expected to save a local district $10,000 in its first year.

According to officials, the project represents phase one of a larger solar investment, and was installed at no cost to the Fort Plain Central School District through a 20-year power purchase agreement with Monolith Solar. When installations are complete, 450-kilowatts worth of solar panels will save the district a projected $850,000 over 20 years.

Funding came through the NY-Sun initiative, which is committed to adding more than 3 gigawatts of installed solar capacity by 2023.  NY-Sun offers incentive programs that support solar projects for commercial and industrial companies, homes, apartments, small commercial, not-for-profit and municipal buildings.   "In my district, we've seen one in Schenectady County, we've seen one in the city of Amsterdam, now this is a third one, we're seeing here in Nelliston, all within a year."  111th District Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara says he foresees a bright future for solar energy projects across the entire state.

“This project takes advantage of our state’s historic commitment of nearly $1 billion dollars for the NY-SUN program, to significantly expand deployment of solar capacity throughout New York and transform our solar industry,” said  Santabarbara, who serves on the state Assembly’s Committee on Energy. “The fact is, New York’s climate works for solar energy, and this project is another example of how successful we can be when the state works to promote and support the use of solar technology in our communities.”
 
He added, “As an engineer, I know firsthand how the latest clean-energy technology like this can benefit our communities in so many ways. Not only is this project reducing our community’s carbon footprint, it is saving the Fort Plain School District money that can be invested in our children’s future.”
Santabarbara joined other government and business officials Tuesday to power up a 650-panel solar array located in the village of Nelliston.   Fort Plain Superintendent David Ziskin:   "As of now, we are live and connected to the grid and accumulating credits."

Monolith's Tim Carr:    "What we've done for the school district is implemented a remote, net-metered solar garden. We purchased vacant property within the school district of Fort Plain, and we've built the first phase of a solar contract that we have with the school district. So it takes advantage of New York state's remote net metering policy, which is a really important policy, which is a really important mechanism that allows us to generate electricity using remotely sited ground-mount solar arrays, and all the electricity produced by these panels out on the land, actually goes into the electricity grid and then it creates credits, and the credits are then seen on the schools' electricity bills remotely. So even though the panels are five or six miles away from the actual school building, they'll be able to provide credits to offset the school's high school account, the elementary school as well as the bus garage." 

Phase one offsets power to the high school. Carr says the panels are particularly effective during hot, sunny afternoons when the electric grid is most stressed and the panels are generating at their highest capacity.   "And the cool part about it is, through the policies and programs that we have in New York state to promote solar, Monolith was able to install the system at no cost whatsoever to the district or the district's taxpayers. Monolith bought the property to site the system, we bought all the equipment for the installation, and we did all the engineering and all of the actual installation work."

Monolith in return sells electricity back to the school district lower than the National Grid rate. When the 20-year agreement expires, the school has the option to renew it.

Fort Plain joins several schools and districts throughout the Northeast that have earned the "green" moniker by installing solar energy systems. Across the state line, Camels Hump Middle School is an example. Hailed as one of the greenest public schools in Vermont, its 507 solar panels generate electricity that provides a quarter of the school’s annual energy usage, saving around $25,000 annually. There are hundreds of schools in New York State that have either completed or are in process of completing solar projects.