The Evening Tribune
Posted Mar 21, 2019
Another community solar farm serving NYSEG customers broke ground March 15 in the heart of the Finger Lakes.
The project, to be built on land owned by Jeanette Daum in Middlesex, will produce enough electricity for about 650 average sized homes.
“We are proud to bring community solar to the Finger Lakes,” said Jeffrey Mayer, CEO of Solar Farms NY. “The Middlesex Solar Farm will provide decades of clean, renewable energy to one of the country’s most pristine regions,” he added.
Mayer said that the solar farm would be built on about 22.5 acres on Town Line Road in Yates County between Rushville and Middlesex.
As a trial program, Daum’s sheep will graze under and around the solar panels, hopefully eliminating the need for mowing and reducing maintenance costs while also contributing to the continued agricultural use and productivity of marginal land.
According to Noah Siegel, Project Manager for Solar Farms New York, over 14,700 panels will be installed in a little over 6 months. When connected to the NYSEG grid, the panels will produce some 6,500 megawatt hours of electricity per year, enough to serve 650 homes.
Mayer explained that under New York State rules, the solar electricity produced by the Middlesex farm will go directly into the NYSEG grid. “All NYSEG customers benefit from more renewable energy production,” he said, “but only our members will enjoy savings.”
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 percent of the value of the credits they receive from NYSEG, resulting in a 5 percent savings on their solar credits. The community solar project will also benefit local governmental entities in the form of payments in lieu of property taxes. Approximately $740,000 will be paid to the Town of Middlesex, Yates County and the Marcus Whitman School District over the life of the project.
Close to 2,000 homeowners have already signed up for the company’s community solar programs in upstate New York, Mayer said. The Middlesex project is among Solar Farms NY’s 40 solar farms throughout the state which will begin to supply solar electricity to NYSEG in 2019.
“Community solar is a viable alternative to rooftop solar which can be costly to build, costly to maintain, and be unsightly,” Mayer said.
“Besides, with community solar there are no 20-year commitments: Our customer contracts are month-to-month and members can cancel any time without penalty,” he added.
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.
Unlike rooftop panels, which help offset 30-50 percent of a household’s electricity usage, solar farms can offset up to 100 percent 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,” Mayer said.
Community solar farms are not retail electricity supply and Solar Farms New York is not an ESCO, Mayer explained. “Many retail supply contracts have been criticized for being a ‘bait and switch,’” he said. “With our solar farms you will never pay anything until after you have received your NYSEG credits on your monthly bill.”
In New York, solar farm members can receive savings from a solar farm and at the same time continue to purchase their electricity supply from third party ESCOs or from NYSEG, at their option.