Most of you may know him as the guitarist and vocalist in the local music group, “The Greasy Fingers Band”, and a member of the Capital Region Blues Network. But to others, he is also a chief executive officer, President, and CEO of Latham, NY energy development company, US Light Energy.
Friday, May 31, Mark Richardson and his team of employees at US Light Energy officially broke ground on their first official community solar farm in the Capital Region. Along Sugar Hill Road in Rexford, directly across the road from Bowman Orchards, Richardson, along with local, state, and federal officials, Paul Tonko, Jim Tedisco, Stacie Dina, a representative for assemblywoman, Mary Beth Walsh, David Sandbank from NYSERDA, Richardson’s team of employees, among others held a press conference to commence the start of this build on a warm, sunny afternoon, just perfect enough for the solar panels to be placed along their planks to collect the bright sunlight.
The community solar farm is the first of its kind to be built by Richardson and his team of builders and employees in the Town of Clifton Park. The Sugar Hill solar farm, located on land owned by landowner, Tom Hicks, is seated on forty acres of farmland used over time to generate its own electricity. The 7-megawatt (MW) project will encompass close to 20,000 solar panels (modules) and when it is in full operation, it will produce up to 8.6 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean energy yearly generating electricity for up to 600 homes and businesses.
US Light Energy has teamed up with National Grid on the community solar farm. National Grid customers that wish to be included in obtaining a few solar panels to obtain their electricity, can receive solar energy through National Grid’s distribution system without the use of rooftop solar panels one would need for their home. The panel subscribers would save up to ten percent on their electricity bill. Residential and commercial properties in the Town of Clifton Park will have up to thirty days to subscribe before the solar energy farm is officially open to the general public.
Richardson and his team are very excited to build their solar community farm in the Town of Clifton Park and are looking forward to serving the needs of Clifton Park residents and businesses while making a positive impact on the environment. The farmland where the solar farm is located will further generate landowner revenue and preserve the land from residential and commercial development. The project is slated to be completed around July.
During the press conference, Richardson thanked his employees of US Light Energy, National Grid, Barry Construction, his business partner, Tim Higgins, NYSERTA, his life partner, Janet Labella, and the local, state, and federal representatives for all their support and dedication to this milestone build for his company. It is the first spot that US Energy is breaking ground in within the Capital Region. With the build of the community solar project, it’ll put the policy in place and set the standard to develop clean energy that will have a lasting impact in our future and how we continue to use and create electricity.
Paul Tonko thanked Richardson for his leadership and for making this happen. Tonko mentioned that New York State is “a state with vision,” and that is certainly true. With New York State in competition with California to become the state that is known for its green vision along the midst of a climate change battle that is currently impacting our environment, it is important for a business, like Richardson’s, to have a clear vision on how they wish to make an impact on their community while envisioning the impact on what the sun will do positively within an economical, environmental, and social environment. With the creation of the community solar farm, this build will create job growth and will battle climate change within the progressive state.
Senator, Jim Tedisco, was excited that today was a beautiful day for the conference and that soon, the solar panels would be arriving to the job site. Tedesco is excited to come from a state where all good things come from, especially in the Town of Clifton Park, NY. Tedisco thanked NYSERDA in their work that they have done on this project and deemed this project and its goal to protect the environment all around is “A win, win, win”. In thanks for his service and the build of the community solar farm, Tedisco handed Richardson a framed citation.
Stacie Dina also had a citation for Richardson from assembly woman, Mary Beth Walsh, that she later gave to Richardson at the end of her talk. Dina, Walsh, and other officials were excited to recognize Richardson and all the partners and called them an advocate.
David Sandbank from NYSERDA also gave Richardson plenty of praise on the project. The community solar farm is great to have in the community since it will allow residents and business an opportunity to build on their electricity on a per watt business while driving down barriers.
“It’s fun to be involved in these projects,” exclaimed Sandbank. Being involved in the project is fun and exciting for all parties involved in this historical build. The project had received over $1.6 million dollars in funding from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY Sun initiative that is administered by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). Its goal is to move NYS closer to becoming a sustainable, self-sustaining solar industry through their program, NY-Sun. With these projects, 12,000 people are employed in New York State as a result of these projects.
As the press conference ended, landowner, Tom Hicks, joined Stacie, Richardson, Tonko, Tedisco, and Sandbank in throwing down the first piece of ceremonial dirt with the use of a hard hat and shovel, within the tented conference area. Tonko and Richardson continued with more dirt moving after the conference; Tonko, with the assistance of a construction worker, picked up a large piece of dirt in a separate isolated pile outside the tented area up in the air with a large bulldozer and crane and gently dumped the dirt back on the ground, just after he thanked Richardson on top of the moving device. The build of the new community solar farm had officially begun.
Congratulations to Richardson and the entire team of US Light Energy for this great accomplishment for your business and the Town of Clifton Park, NY!! Continue to do great things for your company, for your community, and for the environment for generations to come.