Solar energy a possibility in Saratoga County

"That's something that's got to be pretty well looked at," said Frank Thompson, Milton supervisor and chairman of the committee. "We have to make sure we have the manpower, and also that it's affordable."

One way that alternative energy projects can be affordable for public entities is through grant funding. In Clifton Park, town officials are pursuing two grants that would all but pay for a photovoltaic array on top of a highway garage.

One application is in the amount of $149,500 from the U.S. Department of Energy and the other is from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority for $129,500. The town would supply up to a 5 percent match on the NYSERDA grant, or $6,475, if it is received.

Once installed, the solar panels would power town operations at the garage. Perhaps even more exciting is the prospect that additional juice could be sold back to the power grid.

Supervisor Philip Barrett said that it's unclear when the grants might be awarded or rejected, or what the town would do if it received one and not the other.

"It's about reducing our energy usage at the town, incurring cost savings to the taxpayers through the reduction of energy usage, and also reducing our emissions," said Barrett.

A private company is also eyeing Clifton Park's capped landfill as the potential site of a much larger solar array. In July, Energenics Systems formally proposed leasing the land from the town to build the facility, pending the results of a feasibility study yet to be approved.

This project would be more complicated because of its scope, however, and would likely require approval from the state. Despite the substantial engineering hurdles presented by building on top of a landfill, Barrett called the idea "an exciting opportunity" to turn unused land into a revenue stream.

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