NYSERDA signs agreements for 2 muni-owned sites for renewable energy development

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The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has announced agreements on two municipally owned sites for potential renewable energy development. Under these memorandums of understanding (MOU), NYSERDA through its Build-Ready Program will work closely with Tompkins County in the Southern Tier and Orange County in the Hudson Valley to explore the feasibility of developing renewable energy projects on otherwise underused lands.

The agreements represent progress under the state’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act and advances New York’s goal for 70% of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

“New York is ramping-up its penetration of renewable energy by cultivating a portfolio of underutilized sites that offer municipalities and the private sector opportunities to partner with us on strategic project siting and development,” said Doreen M. Harris, NYSERDA president and CEO. “These agreements with Tompkins County and Orange County will help us to better understand the viability of these landfills for potentially hosting a large-scale solar project, and we look forward to ongoing collaboration with municipalities across the state to realize clean energy projects that reflect the interests of local communities.”

The first MOU was executed by NYSERDA and Tompkins County following a resolution passed by the County Legislature in relation to a closed solid waste landfill which was nominated by the County for participation in the Build-Ready Program.

The Caswell Road Landfill was opened in 1970, taking in an average of 29,400 tons of waste per year for 15 years until its closure in 1985. The 112-acre site will potentially host a large-scale renewable solar energy project on the capped landfill and adjacent area to bring new economic growth and opportunity to the local community and will be designed and constructed in accordance with on-going New York State Department of Environmental Conservation post-closure maintenance and monitoring requirements.

This potential project would advance progress towards the County’s goal of net-zero emissions and transitioning from grid-supplied electricity generated outside Tompkins County to local renewable generation. This project also complements efforts by Empire State Development’s Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council to attract talent and investment for the development of high-tech industry clusters while ensuring healthy communities and protecting the natural beauty and resources of the region.

“The potential to generate solar energy from the Caswell Road site is huge,” said Shawna Black, chairwoman of the Tompkins County legislature. “Tompkins County has aggressive goals on being a net-zero organization, generating electricity from solar on otherwise dormant land is a great opportunity. Thank you to NYSERDA and County staff for getting us to this point and for their vision of ensuring that we’re able to make the best use of the closed landfill area in the long term.”

The second MOU was executed by NYSERDA with Orange County, and is the first step to investigating and completing necessary due diligence and community engagement.

Located on the county’s former landfill, which closed in 1992, the municipally owned site spans 420 acres and is under consideration for hosting a large-scale solar project. This potential project would complement other efforts the county has made for new clean energy projects including the existing solar array at the Emergency Operations Center, the combined heat and power renovations at the Valley View facility, geothermal design with ground source heat pumps for the proposed Medical Examiner’s building, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting installation in various county buildings, and the County’s first three electric vehicle charging stations which are expected to be installed later this year.

The project also supports efforts by Empire State Development’s Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council to imagine a future that makes the region a unique destination and place to live and do business in thriving industry sectors.

“The county is continually looking for ways to save energy and better serve the interest of the public,” said Orange County executive Stefan M. Neuhaus. “This project will help further the county’s energy efficiency initiatives.”

Entering into these MOUs will allow NYSERDA to conduct further due diligence and community engagement to evaluate the prospects of two large-scale renewable energy projects. If there is local acceptance, strong project feasibility, and agreement to move forward between NYSERDA and the counties, NYSERDA will initiate development activities including detailed engineering, interconnection and permitting.

The Build-Ready Program is currently advancing a pipeline of sites across New York State, having screened over 14,000 sites and progressing dozens of sites through more advanced assessment and development. Local community members, elected officials, private companies, environmental justice communities, or other interested parties are encouraged to nominate potential Build-Ready sites, which will be considered on a rolling basis, through the program’s Request for Information.

“Closed landfills represent an ideal opportunity to reduce our fossil fuel dependence through solar development,” said Jean Hamerman, executive director for the Center for Land Recycling.

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