Lewis solar project schedule compressed, early-July start now planned

By Steve Virkler
Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Thanks to a shorter-than-expected construction plan, work on Lewis County’s solar project won’t need to kick off until early July to get it up and running by late November.

“Things will still be completed in the timeline on the schedule,” county Planning Director Frank J. Pace told members of the legislative Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

Engineers representing Greenskies Renewable Energy were on site last week and determined the project should take a little more than 100 days to complete, not 138 as previously expected, Mr. Pace said.

“It’s just an adjustment with the construction schedule,” he said.

Since National Grid does not plan to connect with the proposed 2-megawatt solar array off outer Stowe Street until November, Greenskies — which had initially proposed a late-May start-up for construction — will now wait a month before mobilizing at the site, he said.

County officials have signed a power purchase agreement with Greenskies that would offer guaranteed savings of $2.86 million over 20 years for Lewis County and its municipal hospital.

Under the deal, Greenskies is to construct the array, then sell relatively low-cost power for 20 years. The company is to charge 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour, well under the 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour the county is now paying, with a guarantee that actual production would be at least 90 percent of the company estimate each year.

The array is expected to meet about half the electricity needs of the county and Lewis County General Hospital.

Committee members on Tuesday also learned Lewis County is still on track to be one of the first — if not the first — municipality to gain Clean Energy Community designation from the New York State Energy and Development Authority.

Officials said the county has already completed the required four out of 10 “high impact actions” — including developing an energy benchmarking policy and deploying an electric vehicle — required for the designation, which would allow the county to apply for up to $100,000 in funding.

“You’re the first,” said Jamie Rogers, energy circuit rider and Clean Energy Communities coordinator at the Adirondack North Country Association, Saranac Lake.

Once the state signs off on completion of the four actions, expected to happen in the coming weeks, the county would have three months to develop a proposal on how the $100,000 would be spent, said James Yienger from Climate Action Associates, a consultant for the Clean Energy Communities program.

Mr. Pace said he would like to submit a plan by the end of June, since the new program is first-come, first-served.

County officials are tentatively looking to use the grant funding to install a new natural gas boiler at the Department of Social Services building, replacing a 30-year-old model that initially burned fuel oil, and run a natural gas line to the county highway garage at Route 812 and East Road.

Mr. Yienger said he suspected those projects could score fairly well if the energy and greenhouse-gas-emission savings of the new boiler are well documented and the line is shown to be part of a larger project resulting in savings at the highway garage, as well.

However, he suggested county officials come up with alternative ideas to present to NYSERDA officials if the initial plan isn’t approved.

“If they don’t like something, they’ll work with you to do something else,” Mr. Yienger said.

Mr. Pace said he hopes to show that the DSS boiler fits in with other efficiency projects at the outer Stowe Street campus like the solar array and environmentally friendly parking lot installed at DSS in 2015.