No contractor found for park's solar panels

Grant-backed project may have to be reworked to be viable

— A year after recovery act monies were secured for a battery of solar panels at Elm Avenue Park, the earth-conscious project is no closer to seeing the light of day.

The Town of Bethlehem has finished bidding the project and no contractor has come up with a quote that would put it within the amount and limitations of the federal grant. The issue, said Town Engineer Paul Penman, is that not many companies are equipped for this scale of project.

“It's not big enough for the major contractors to bid on it, but it's too big for some of the smaller guys to bid on it,” he said. “We're kind of in a gray area.”

The American Investment and Recovery Act grant of $111,500, with a town investment of $12,500 attached, was awarded in February of 2011.

The Town Board on Wednesday, Aug. 24, voted to reject the two bids received. The town will go out for new proposals.

The lowest bidder was Vanguard Energy with a bid of about $130,000. Even though that was close to the grant amount, the company would not have been eligible to receive the funds under the guidelines of the administering agency, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's guidelines.

A second bid from Gould Erectors and Riggers was about $190,000. The town would have had to kick in another $65,000 under that proposal, which would make the benefits of the solar energy much less tangible.

The panels are intended to offset energy use at the park's administrative offices by 70 percent for an annual savings of $4,000.

Penman said the town's also speaking to NYSERDA about restructuring the terms of the contract, so Bethlehem could potentially install however big a system it could get for $124,000. They're also looking a ground-based system, which could be cheaper than the roof-mounted one.

New bids will likely be due sometime in September.

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