Letter: No such thing as free money when it comes to solar power array

Editor, The Spotlight:

In the Feb. 9 edition there was an interesting article on the solar system recently installed at the Niskayuna Town Hall. Supervisor Landry and Councilwoman Murphy McGraw were enthusiastic about the project claiming “no cost to the town” and other attributes. That is commendable but very misleading on the cost issue. There may be no expenditure in the town budget for the installed system but the town, state and nation’s taxpayers are paying plenty.

Consider just this installation with its advertised 25 KW direct current rating. That is the peak power DC rating but the actual average annual alternating current power generation rate is at most 3.5KW because of the low efficiency of silicon crystalline photovoltaic solar cells, 15%; and the location at 42 degrees N Latitude. Thus it should generate 30,600 KW hours AC per year and, at present National Grid prices, the town will get $1,200 in “free” electricity and the installer/owner, Monolith, will be paid $2,800 for their 70% share of the power.

The cost of the 25 KW DC solar system is $125,000 with NYSERDA (the NY taxpayers) paying $43,750, a 30% Federal tax credit or outright payment from the US Treasury worth $37,500 (the nation’s taxpayers) and a $43,750 investment by Monolith who will own the system and derive other financial benefits. Thus taxpayers will have $81,250 invested so that Niskayuna can get $1,200 of “free” power; a return on investment of 1.5%.

In addition in this state, the system’s owner and their investors will be allowed to use accelerated 5 year depreciation; can collect on the RGGI carbon offset credits; and, if the NYS Legislature passes the Solar Renewable Energy Credits bill, could collect more than $22,000 per year for 17 years with this contract. That alone is 10 times their initial investment. Guess who really pays the carbon offset credits and SREC via their utility bills and income and other taxes?

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