Solar Farm Coming to Champlain

Published in Press Republican

Solar Farm Coming to Champlain

Developers plan to break ground on a solar project here within the next three months.

The Champlain Town Council has approved building permit costs for the Robinson Solar Farm, which will sit on Don and Nancy Robinson’s property at 46 State Route 276, Town Supervisor Larry Barcomb said.

The farm will feed solar power into the local grid as part of a power purchase agreement between Borrego Solar and the Olympic Regional Development Authority for Whiteface Mountain Resort.

Though the solar energy will be utilized by the surrounding Champlain community, Whiteface will receive credit for the power and have about 40 percent of its electric needs generated from the agreement, Gore Mountain General Manager Mike Pratt said.

Decommissioning Bond

The Champlain Town Council had already approved the solar farm’s decommissioning bond — which will cover the costs to remove the installed solar equipment should Borrego Solar ever abandon the project — at its February regular meeting, following its approval by the Town Zoning Board.

Borrego Solar will lease the land from the Robinsons, and own, operate and maintain the farm.

“The cost of the decommissioning bond was discussed at $101,925.06 the first year and at the 20-year mark it would be $167,016.08, which is a 2.5 percent increase per year for 20 years,” Rob Garrity, a director for project development at Borrego Solar, said at the meeting, according to the minutes.

The bond needed to be approved before building permits could be issued.

Borrego Solar will bid the project out to local businesses, Garrity said, and pay special district taxes, county property taxes and sales tax.

Gore Mountain

The project is part of an environmental initiative undertaken by New York state and the ORDA — which also oversees the Gore and Belleayre mountain resorts — to run “(their) business units with increased sustainability and efficiency,” according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Pratt explained that the relationship with Borrego Solar first started with Gore.

“ORDA, through Gore Mountain, developed an RFQ (request for quotation) that resulted in PPA (power purchase agreement) #1 for Gore,” Pratt said.

“Borrego was chosen at this time, for that project. ORDA then released another RFP (request for proposals) for the efforts at Whiteface, Gore and Belleayre. Borrego was again chosen.”

Strategic Zone

Mr. Robinson said Borrego Solar approached him about the project in the spring of 2015.

The Robinsons’ property, Garrity said, was chosen due to its location near a New York State Electric and Gas substation.

Additionally, most of Clinton County was deemed a strategic zone by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“NYSEG said, ‘We want this region to have more solar development (than other regions) because of its infrastructure. It’s a place where solar is going to help the grid,” Garrity said.

As a result, he added, the Robinson Solar Farm was eligible for more NYSERDA funding than locations in other regions, such as Essex County where Whiteface is located.

9,032 Arrays

The first array Borrego Solar plans to install, rated at 2.8 megawatts, will take up about 12 acres and comprise 9,032 solar panels, Garrity said.

The company permitted for 28 acres, he added, should it go forward with installing a second 2.8 megawatt system.

“The solar farm will be down on the back end of the farm — it’s not going to bother anybody,” Mr. Robinson said

“It works out over a 30-year lease,” and after 20 years, Borrego Solar can extend the lease for another decade.

Mr. Robinson plans to continue making hay there in addition to the income earned from Borrego Solar.

Billing Mechanism

Though energy from the solar array will never actually make it to Whiteface, energy that flows into the local grid shows up on the resort’s bill as credits through a billing mechanism called remote net metering, Garrity said.

With this method, Borrego installs a solar electrical system, connects it to the NYSEG grid and puts a meter in Whiteface’s name on the array.

The resort is purchasing energy from Borrego Solar instead of owning its own photovoltaic system because a huge portion of the total project cost comes back in tax credits, Garrity explained.

Since ORDA is a public entity, it cannot monetize those tax credits as a private entity like Borrego Solar can.

“It’s a different financial outlook for somebody who doesn’t have tax credits.”

Ready this Year 

The first system at the Robinson Solar Farm should be up and running by the end of this year, Garrity said.

According to a chart Pratt provided, Whiteface’s system there is projected to produce 3,416,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy in its first year of operation.

Over a 25-year period, that will offset 58,888 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 12,397 cars off the road, it says.

Pratt said 85 percent of Gore’s power needs will be derived from its own solar power purchase agreement, while Belleayre will draw about 90 percent.

“Gore’s site is in Washington County and is scheduled to come on line this summer. Belleayre’s site is still being finalized and is in the permitting stage.”

He confirmed that ORDA is looking into other renewable energy initiatives for these resorts.

“ORDA is actively trying to expand our renewable portfolios as well as continue to improve the efficiencies of our operations.”

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