By BRIAN MOLONGOSKI
Empire Farm & Dairy magazine
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the amount of solar power in New York state increased by roughly 800 percent between 2011 and 2016.
Between those years, 64,926 solar projects were built, with a nearly 744-megawatt output combined.
The north country has seen 1,063 new solar projects developed within that time period, totaling a little over 13 megawatts. Regionally, Long Island saw the highest solar energy development with 24,428 installations.
Spurring development of those projects in the last few years, said Cuomo, is his Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and the Clean Energy Standard, which aims to power half of New York state with renewables by 2030.
Solar energy developers also are able to leverage state funding through the $1 billion NY-Sun Megawatt Block Incentive program, which will help fund projects until 2023 with a goal of producing a combined 3 gigawatts of solar power across the state.
Solar projects have produced 8,000 jobs across the state, according to the governor’s office.
Some of the north country’s most notable solar projects of recent years include Davidson Automotive Group’s array off outer Washington Street in Watertown.
The company installed a ground-mounted solar array roughly the size of two football fields in 2014, and a roughly 2,000-panel expansion to the array was built last year, bringing the total to around 5,500 panels - one of the largest arrays in the region. The new array will provide clean, renewable energy to the car dealership and save an estimated $1 million in expenses over the next 20 years.
The project, completed by High Peaks Solar, received $225,000 from the NY-Sun initiative’s $1 billion funding pool.
In Cape Vincent, National Grid connected the 140-kilowatt municipal solar array to the grid back in November after re-evaluating its infrastructure.
Last year, Clayton-based Fourth Coast Inc. oversaw construction of the $267,000 array, which lies next to the village’s sewer treatment plant. The village received about $46,000 in rebates to help fund the project.
Indian River Central School District recently brought its 2,112-panel, 0.68-megawatt array late last year, following a long review process by National Grid, which was pushed back multiple times and cost the district thousands of dollars.
The array was installed at Indian River Intermediate School, which will now be completely powered by solar energy. The project cost roughly $1.3 million, with panel installation beginning in 2010 through 2015.
In the city of Ogdensburg, a solar array on Champlain Street has been brought online in pieces over the last few months.
The array is currently operating at 80 percent capacity, and it won’t be fully energized until the technology that connects the array to its power substation moves out of its beta testing phase.
The 1.1-megawatt photovoltaic system at the city’s former landfill site is projected to generate as much as a third of the electricity needed to power city government buildings.
The Ogdensburg array covers about eight acres of land and is expected to save the city more than $2 million on its municipal power bill over the 25-year life of the project. At the end of the 25 years, the city can take over the array, enter into a new contract with the operator, or choose to have it removed at no expense.
The project’s construction was funded with NY-Sun money.
Farther south in Lewis County, a solar project in Lowville is expected to be completed in 2017.
Greenskies Renewable Energy is to construct a 2-megawatt solar array on about 19 acres behind the county Public Safety Building on outer Stowe Street, then sell relatively low-cost power. The energy will be enough to cover roughly half the needs of the county and hospital for 20 years.