What’s big, bright and never turns off? The answer, of course, is the sun, and for some areas in Saratoga County our nuclear neighbor may also be the future answer to high energy prices.
Recent weeks have seen the development of proposals for the placement of photovoltaic panels (which turn sunlight into electricity) in the Town of Clifton Park and at a county-owned building in Ballston Spa that is home to the Board of Elections and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
In actuality, the county’s building at 50 West High St. already has a solar installation that never quite came to fruition. In the late 1970s, the county installed solar panels on the roof with grant money left over from the building’s construction. It was to use sunlight to heat water, in turn heating the building.
The county was very forward thinking in building a solar installation back in the late 70s, said Saratoga Springs Supervisor and county Green Committee Chairman Matthew Veitch. `Unfortunately there were a lot of problems from the start.`
The company went out of business after starting the work, and the project languished for years. But now the county is examining the possibility of placing a photovoltaic array on the roof.
Veitch said that the Green Committee is putting together a year-end report that will identify a number of energy efficient and ecologically sustaining practices the county can engage in. One of those suggestions might be examining rooftops at other county offices for solar panel placement.
A survey of 50 West High St. by The Solar Energy Consortium`a not-for-profit that works to expand solar energy usage across the state`is being compiled, but they have already advised the county Building and Grounds Committee of the possibilities. Even though the field has changed since the failed project, there is a sense at the county that any initiative must be properly vetted.
`That’s something that’s got to be pretty well looked at,` said Frank Thompson, Milton supervisor and chairman of the committee. `We have to make sure we have the manpower, and also that it’s affordable.`
One way that alternative energy projects can be affordable for public entities is through grant funding. In Clifton Park, town officials are pursuing two grants that would all but pay for a photovoltaic array on top of a highway garage.
One application is in the amount of $149,500 from the U.S. Department of Energy and the other is from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for $129,500. The town would supply up to a 5 percent match on the NYSERDA grant, or $6,475, if it is received.
Once installed, the solar panels would power town operations at the garage. Perhaps even more exciting is the prospect that additional juice could be sold back to the power grid.
Supervisor Philip Barrett said that it’s unclear when the grants might be awarded or rejected, or what the town would do if it received one and not the other.
`It’s about reducing our energy usage at the town, incurring cost savings to the taxpayers through the reduction of energy usage, and also reducing our emissions,` said Barrett.
A private company is also eyeing Clifton Park’s capped landfill as the potential site of a much larger solar array. In July, Energenics Systems formally proposed leasing the land from the town to build the facility, pending the results of a feasibility study yet to be approved.
This project would be more complicated because of its scope, however, and would likely require approval from the state. Despite the substantial engineering hurdles presented by building on top of a landfill, Barrett called the idea `an exciting opportunity` to turn unused land into a revenue stream.
Officials in the Town of Colonie say they will be working with NYSERDA to attract more private green building initiatives, as well. By attracting LEED-certified structures through IDA dollars, the area could benefit indirectly from sustainable building practices, though the town has yet to announce specifics of the campaign.
The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program is operated by the U.S. Green Building Council and certifies buildings that use recycled materials and energy saving techniques. Many communities offer tax breaks or other incentives for LEED-certified buildings, and it is expected that Colonie officials will announce a similar campaign in the near future.“