By Stephen J. Kotz
The East Hampton Airport could be going green in a big way.
Tonight, the town board plans to accept the recommendation of its energy sustainability committee and seek proposals for a solar farm at the airport that could produce up to 38 megawatts as part of an initiative sponsored by the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG Long Island, the company that manages the island’s electrical grid.
The solar farm would sell the power it generates to PSEG Long Island, and share the proceeds with the town through a 20-year lease.
According to Frank Dalene, the chairman of the committee, the solar farm, which he said would be one of the largest town-owned facilities in the country, could generate up to $3.5 million a year for the life of the lease.
“It’s at step one,” said Supervisor Larry Cantwell, “but it’s exciting. Besides providing a source of sustainable energy, it has the potential to bring in revenue.”
Although Mr. Cantwell said Mr. Dalene’s revenue estimate may be on the optimistic side, he was quick to point out, “Even at $1 million a year that would go a long way toward funding airport improvements.”
Because the airport revenues and expenses are segregated into a separate fund, all revenue generated from a solar farm at the airport would have to be used on site.
Mr. Dalene said the proposal is still in the early stages. “There are a lot of variables,” he said. PSEG Long Island “has to approve the contractors, the site and how it connects to the grid.”
Still, he said, in this latest phase, the company has committed to sponsoring larger renewable energy projects that could generate a total of 280 megawatts islandwide.
“They are looking for the East End to fulfill a certain amount of the need,” he said. “The transmission lines are beyond their peak, the local power stations on Buell Lane and Southampton are at capacity, so they are really going to focus on the East End.”
According to the Long Island Power Authority, the typical Long Island house uses 9,548 kilowatts of energy a year. Mr. Dalene said a 38-megwatt solar farm could generate nearly 46 million kilowatts a year, enough to provide power to approximately 4,600 houses, although he added, “It’s safe to say the typical East Hampton house consumes more electricity than a typical Long Island house.”
Last month, the town board agreed to ask three contractors to provide smaller solar arrays of no more than 2 megawatts apiece at 10 town-owned sites.
The board will also seek proposals for the energy committee’s recommendation to solicit proposals for peak power energy storage centers that would use new fuel cell battery technology to store electricity that is generated during low-volume use periods for release during peak periods. The battery plants would play a similar role to the small diesel operated power plants that are scattered across Long Island.
The town must renew the proposals it receives and make its recommendations to PSEG and LIPA by March 31.