A community solar project just south of the Overlook Ridge area is going up quickly and on schedule, according to company executives with Nexamp, the company responsible for the project.

by Dave Warner

A community solar project just south of the Overlook area is moving right ahead and on schedule, according to company executives with Nexamp, the company managing and installing the panels.

The project consists of 7,992 panels spread over 14 acres of land, and when completed in April, will generate 2.8 MegaWatts of power.  A similar project in the Town of Little Falls will have 7,290 panels on 14 acres and will generate 2.6 MegaWatts of energy.

Rock City Development LLC is leasing the land to Nexamp, and according to Neil Rosenbaum “They’re putting panels in there that will generate enough energy to power about 300 homes. Our goal was to try and make the entire residential development create more power than it consumes.”

“Some of that will come from the townhouses that we want to build up there being as close to net-zero as is possible, but we thought that even if we can’t get there, at least on the property, we’ll have this great contribution to the environmental cause,” he said.

New York State has been pushing community solar and according to their website they state:

Community solar is an array of panels installed in a sunny location. Anyone in the area can access the clean energy produced by these solar panels and get credits toward their electricity bills.

To be a part of a community solar project you just need to have an account with an electric utility, then you:

  • Find a community solar project in your area and ask about rates and subscription plans
  • Subscribe to a plan that works for you
  • Save. Your electricity provider will still deliver energy to you, and you’ll be credited for your portion of the community solar project right on your electricity bill.

Photo by Dave Warner – Construction continues on the community solar project, just south of the Overlook Ridge housing area in Little Falls.

Nexamp communications manager Keith Hevenor says, “We are on track right now, anticipating an operation date of late March or early April of next year. So what that means, at this point, is that we are currently in the process of working with folks who want to become involved in assessing their power usage and assigning them an appropriate portion of the output of the farm.”

“We’re just getting that all set up in advance of the operational date. That’s the way we do all of these community solar projects.”

The company has fifty or more projects underway in the northeast. “We fill a project with subscribers before we go live.”

Hevenor mentioned that they are working with National Grid to streamline the process for City of Little Falls and area residents. “In some cases, we’re automatically able to input some of their usage data to kind of streamline that process.”

There are quite a few community solar companies popping up, and the relationship between them and the more established electrical companies is still evolving, according to Hevenor.

“They’ve been very open to learning what it is that we need to make the program work and how we can work together so that the credits go on our customer’s utility bills,” he said.

Both companies are trying to make the customer experience as easy as they can. “I don’t think they look at us as a competitor necessarily. A lot of these smaller-scale farms are not at the level that a utility would be looking to build if and when they get into the renewables space,” stated Hevenor.

Photo by Dave Warner – Nexamp employees explain community solar to members of the Little Falls community during one of their public briefings on the project.

“We find that when we do public information meetings, there is a lot of education involved. Folks hear solar farms and the first thing they think of is panels on their roof, which community solar is not. It’s a bit of an education process to let them know they won’t have to put anything on their house, and there is often the misconception that if you subscribe to a community solar farm, you’re getting solar power delivered directly from the farm to your house,” he stated.

Hevenor wants to make sure that people understand that that is not how community solar works. “Solar generates the clean power that goes out onto the local grid and then that clean power mixes in with everything else that’s on the grid and then gets distributed out to all of the customers on the grid. It’s just that our subscribers benefit from the value of the energy that is provided.”

A common question is ‘what happens when the sun doesn’t shine?’ “We want to make sure that people understand that they’ll still be receiving their power from their current utility company, we’ll just be reducing the price of their utility bill because of the value of the energy that we’re providing, which will help offset the cost on their bill,” he said.

The benefits to City residents are:

  • No installation of any equipment on your roof or property
  • No upfront costs or long-term contracts
  • Savings of up to 10% on your annual electricity costs
  • Support of solar power and a demonstration of your commitment to renewable energy
  • If you rent an apartment, you are eligible
  • If you own a home that faces the wrong way and can’t install panels on your roof, you can participate
  • Or, if you don’t have the resources to afford panels on your own roof, you can still commit to renewable energy

Rosenbaum said, “We’re thrilled that they’re doing this. It was a long process.”

Hevenor said, “People are often surprised to find out that upstate New York has plenty of sun to generate solar power and to produce what the farm is rated at.” However, he said it is much more productive in the late spring, summer and fall time-frame.

The solar farm is expected to last 20-25 years. “Obviously, the production of the panels degrades a little bit over time, but the newer panels and technology look really good for long-term production,” he said. “The lease is certainly renewable with the landowner at the end of that period if they wish.”

All of the Nexamp projects have a de-commissioning fund that is part of the project, so the cost of removing everything from the land is set aside the day they start a project. “All of the equipment can come off the land and it will be returned to the state we found it if necessary at the end of the lease,” stated Hevenor. “It will be like we were never there.”

If you are interested in signing up for the program to become eligible for the discount, you can visit www.SolarforNY.com or call 800-945-5124.