A solar farm under construction on Cornell University property will recognize the efforts of dozens of community leaders with a ceremonial groundbreaking Saturday.
“The Cascadilla Community Solar Farm at Cornell University is truly a town-gown achievement,” said Sarah Zemanick, Director of the Campus Sustainability Office. “It takes the concerted efforts of dozens of people to conceive and pull off a project of this size and we want to honor them all,” she added.
The farms, which are being built on a 125-acre property in Dryden that is owned by Cornell, will generate enough electricity to power about 3,000 homes. All NYSEG customers will receive the benefits of the renewable energy production but only members of the farms will enjoy savings from the community solar program. Solar
farms generate electricity that is allocated to homeowners and apartment renters without the need for rooftop panels.
The groundbreaking is scheduled for March 1 at 4 pm at 136 Stevenson Road, Ithaca, on the edge of the farm property. Brief remarks are expected from Rick Burgess, Cornell Vice President of Facilities and Campus Services; Beth Ahner, Senior Associate Dean of Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and a professor of biological and environmental engineering; Heather McDaniel, Administrative Director of the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency and President of the Tompkins County Area Development; and Frank Mace, Senior Project Manager for NY Sun and the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.
Elected officials and staff members from the Town of Dryden and Tompkins County will be recognized for their support for the project from the earliest planning and engineering stages to more recent construction and interconnection with NYSEG.
After the event guests are invited to attend an informal gathering sponsored by Solar Farms NY at nearby Hopshire Farm and Brewery on Dryden Road in Freeville.
Homeowners who wish to join the solar farms can bring their utility bills to the ceremony and receive help in enrolling.
“We are excited to be working with the Town of Dryden, Cornell University and Tompkins County to help achieve the state’s goal to produce 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2040,” said Jeffrey Mayer, CEO of Solar Farms New York, the company marketing the farm’s electricity to homeowners in Tompkins County. “What’s more, we will be doing it with 100% New York sunshine.”
According to Mayer, over 79,000 solar panels are being installed on the farms and will generate over 30,000 megawatts annually. Construction is expected to be completed by summer, he added, and members can expect to start receiving credits from NYSEG after that.
According to Mayer, close to 2,000 homeowners have already signed up under his company’s community solar program. The Cascadilla project is among Solar Farms NY’s 36 solar farms throughout the state which will begin to supply solar electricity to NYSEG in 2019.
“Our customers like the flexibility of joining a solar farm without installing expensive and sometimes unsightly rooftop panels,” he said. “Unlike the 20-year commitment required for solar panels, our customers can cancel any time without penalty.”
“We anticipate allocating all of our solar electricity production over the next few months, after which we will start putting customers on our Waiting List,” Mayer said. “For the Cascadilla project we plan to favor local residents of Dryden and Tompkins County although homeowners and apartment renters throughout the state will also benefit.”
In addition to the groundbreaking, Solar Farms New York will be on hand Friday morning from 8:30 to 11 am at the Dryden Community Center Café to answer questions about community solar and to help sign up new customers for the farms. Members can also sign up at the Café during a spaghetti dinner scheduled for 5 to 7 pm Thursday. The Café is located at 1 West Main Street in Dryden.
Under New York’s community solar program, the farms sell their electricity to NYSEG which will in turn put credits on customer bills. Customers will then pay Solar Farms New York for their electricity.
Solar Farms New York will bill customers 95% of the value of the credits they receive from NYSEG, resulting in a 5% savings on their solar credits. Customers who sign up now will also receive a $50 VISA gift card as a membership reward.
Mayer said that members of the company’s farms do not have to enter into long term contracts. Memberships are month-to-month and can be cancelled any time without penalty.
Community solar farms are a rapidly expanding around the country, supported by utilities which have an easier time incorporating solar electricity into their grid when it is produced at a single location and not on hundreds of rooftops. Customers benefit too by avoiding high upfront costs, maintenance, and potential roof damage.
Mayer pointed out that unlike rooftop panels, which help offset 30-50% of a household’s electricity usage, solar farms can offset up to 100% of a customer’s bill. “For homeowners that want to save money and make a material dent in fossil fuel emissions, community solar is a convenient and easy alternative,” he said.
He also stressed that community solar farms are not ESCOs, third party suppliers of electricity. “Customers can still purchase their electricity supply from third parties,” he said, “but whether or not they choose to stay with the utility or sign up with an ESCO they can receive guaranteed monthly savings from our program.”
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Solar Farms New York owns and operates 36 community solar farms in upstate New York and markets memberships in those farms to owners and renters of residential homes and apartments. Currently all of the solar production is sold to one utility, New York State Electric and Gas. Additional farms are expected to be built to meet demand from customers in Con Edison and National Grid territories. The company’s sister company, Solar Farms Massachusetts, markets memberships in solar farms to residential and commercial customers in eastern Massachusetts.
Solar Farms New York can be reached at its Albany number, 833-877-7632. Further information can be found at the company’s website, www.SolarFarmsNY.com