Ulster County Executive Mike Hein stood in front of nearly 6,000 solar panels Monday in the Town of Ulster. He was there to announce that the county’s new solar project that sits atop a capped landfill is now fully operational.
County Executive Hein says the 1.9 megawatt array that is on the former Town of Ulster landfill is expected to generate about 20 percent of all the electricity used by Ulster County government.
“To me, the exciting part is that it shows what’s possible. There are lots of places around New York state and around United States of America that have capped landfills. And, instead of using beautiful, rolling farmland for solar projects, you can use these,” Hein says. “The engineering is there. It’s exciting and, for us, it puts us in a place where we continue to extend that lead of being the most environmentally responsible county in the state of New York.”
Hein says the project went live Thursday, when Central Hudson granted permission to operate. He says it the first utility-scale solar project on a capped landfill for Ulster County and, as far as he knows, the Hudson Valley. Hein considers the project a replicable model. Republican Vice Chairman of the Ulster County Legislature James Maloney represents the Town of Ulster. He was on hand for the announcement.
“I think it’s absolutely fabulous, okay. The only regret I have that it’s not a town project, it’s a county project,” Maloney says. “But I’m fully supportive of solar. I have solar on my roof in my home, my wife and I. We are basically carbon neutral. We generate through the panels just about everything we use.”
Hein, a Democrat, says the solar project is operating under a 20-year power purchase agreement. He says the project is a logical next step in the county’s green energy practices.
“We already get 100 percent of our electricity from renewable resources, and we’re the only county in the state of New York that does that. We’re also net carbon neutral, the only county in the state of New York,” says Hein. “So we have an opportunity here to once again show what’s possible and to move to the next level, which is actual generation.”
Democratic Ulster County Legislator Manna Jo Greene:
“It is such a beautiful model of creating a truly sustainable future and addressing climate change locally in a way that promotes resilience and actually can solve what seems like an insolvable problem,” Greene says.
Greene, who also is environmental action director for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, says she has been working on the climate crisis for two decades.
“When I see something like this and something like what Bread Alone and other local businesses are doing, we are manifesting a sustainable future, and that gives me hope,” says Greene.
Vice president of Bread Alone Bakery Nels Leader calls the array inspirational. He says Bread Alone’s rooftop solar array is a bit smaller, and powered on about three weeks ago.
“We did 196 kilowatts which, for Bread Alone Bakery, will provide about 20 percent of the energy needs at our main bakery in Kingston,” Leader says.
Leader says there’s more to come.
“And we are in the engineering phase of designing an additional 150 kilowatts on parking lot awnings in the parking lot of the bakery,” says Leader. “And we hope to bring that online in about a year.”
Hein plans to have a sign installed at the entrance to the solar array.
“So people understand not only what’s going on here but the real benefit to our environment as a direct result,” Hein says. “So we’re going to remind people how much oil’s not being used, how much coal’s not being burned and how beneficial this is.”
He says electricity that will be generated by the solar array each year is roughly equivalent to the electricity generated by burning 2 million pounds of coal or 4,000 barrels of oil.