By Kathryn G. Menu
The East Hampton Town Board has agreed to move forward with a solar energy plan through the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSEG) that Supervisor Larry Cantwell noted is one of “the most exciting renewable energy projects in the country.”
The Clean Solar Initiative, now in its second phase, was a program originally launched by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), whose power grid is now managed by PSEG Long Island. The feed-in tariff program aims to create greater sources of solar energy through an initiative in which the owner of eligible solar photovoltaic electric systems is paid a fixed rate for every solar kilowatt hour generated over a 20 year period by the utility. Known as FIT-II, projects approved by PSEG to be a part of the program will be paid per kilowatt hour based on a price determined through a clearing house auction, with a premium of $0.07 per kilowatt hour added by the company for any project that exceeds 40 megawatts of solar power.
During Tuesday’s work session the East Hampton Town Board passed a resolution approving conditional contracts with three contractors to lease town-owned land on which the contractors will build and operate solar systems — at no cost to the town. The contractors — SunEdison, OnForce Solar and Sustainable Power Group — and the town will share the revenue from the power that is generated and sold to PSEG Long Island.
According to a press release issued by the town following the work session, sites under consideration include parts of the capped landfills in Montauk and East Hampton, unused town-owned lots and rooftops of public buildings. There are roughly 10 sites under consideration.
According to Frank Dalene, chairman of the town’s Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee — who presented during Tuesday’s meeting — passing the resolution was critical as PSEG must receive notification from contractors by January 31 showing they have executed a contract with the town to participate in the program.
A formal lease agreement between the town and the various contractors will only occur if PSEG approves the project.
Dalene said the committee reviewed 13 applications and selected the top three for town board approval.
While Dalene noted that there are several variables, including the clearing house auction price given for the sale of kilowatt hours back to PSEG, which would impact the amount of revenue the town would be able to generate through this program, he estimated it could be as much as $895,000 to $1.5 million per year, or $18 million to $30 million over the 20 year lease period.
Despite those figures being estimates, Dalene said the board could expect revenues to “fall within this range.”
“Sometimes it’s easier for government to mandate changes on the people,” said Dalene, thanking both his committee and the town board for their efforts. “Here, by taking the first step you are demonstrating leadership in our community.”
“To me this will be a day in the town’s renewable energy history,” said Gordian Raacke, the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island. “If this gets done, if these projects are constructed, it will put East Hampton from the lower tier to the very top in terms of solar renewable energy.”
Thanking Councilwoman Sylvia Overby — the board liaison to the Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee — Cantwell noted this was just a first step in the process, but was none the less an exciting moment for the town.
“And the opportunity to produce non-tax revenue, a very significant amount, not yet to be determined,” he added.
“There are a lot of details to be worked out and vetted by the town in terms of exact locations and places this can be done, and it has to be vetted with selected contractors and through PSEG,” said Cantwell.
But Cantwell added that having the opportunity to produce renewable energy, lower the town’s carbon footprint while also providing needed power sources to the South Fork of Long Island are all positives.
“Once again, I thank the committee for doing a tremendous amount of work in a relative short period of time,” he said.