It may still be years away, but the Town of Clifton Park is one step closer to bringing a solar array power station to the town’s capped landfill. On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the town board unanimously approved a letter of intent committing the town to enter into negotiations with Energenics Systems LLC for a long-term lease on the landfill.
The landfill has been capped for a number of years, said Supervisor Phil Barrett, and once that happens the town is very limited as to what it can do with the property. About a year-and-a-half ago, Barrett said the town began looking into the possibility of bringing a solar field to the landfill. Basically, solar panels would be placed on top of the landfill to generate energy for town operations and at some point, said Barrett, hopefully sell energy back to the grid.
Energenics, the company tapped by the town to work with it on the project, would incur all costs for the multi-million dollar project and pay the town for the right to lease the land, said Barrett.
The process started with a feasibility study that analyzed whether it was even possible, from an engineering standpoint, to construct a solar field on the landfill. The study also assessed whether the town would benefit economically by such a project and if given its location in upstate New York (an area some might not believe synonymous with excessively sunny conditions, said Barrett) will be able to attract the type of clean energy that would be necessary to make the project viable.
All those questions have been answered, so we feel very positive about the project based on that, said Barrett.
There are still a lot of steps to go through before the `groundbreaking` project can begin, though. Now that Energenics has a written letter of intent from the town, it can begin pitching to potential investors to come up with the cash to start implementing.
`It’s a show of good faith from Clifton Park that if they are able to attract investors and get necessary funding, that we will go forward with this project it gives them some credibility when they’re out there trying to sell this project to the appropriate folks,` said Barrett.
The town also has to make sure that the Department of Environmental Conservation approves of the project.
`The DEC is very sensitive to a municipality that would want to place a solar field on top of a capped landfill. It wants to make sure it won’t negatively impact that system that’s in place on the capped landfill or change the integrity of the surface,` said Barrett.
The solar field itself is something Barrett said he’s very excited about. It’s something he said he hasn’t seen anywhere else on the eastern coast of the U.S. and is a project that uses the latest energy efficiency technology.
`It’s called a thin film solar. Solar panels would lay atop the landfill and they would collect sunlight, clean energy, and it would be transformed into useable energy,` said Barrett. `It’s extremely sensitve as far as picking up light rays. People might think, ‘Solar field in upstate New York. What, are you kidding me?’ And that probably would have been true with older technology but with the newer technology this is something we can make a reality.`
Barrett said he’s looking forward to turning an essentially useless piece of property and turning it into a revenue generator, although he has no goal or estimated numbers as far as how much revenue could or will be generated.
`No pun intended, but the sky’s the limit,` said Barrett.
Besides the regulatory and logistical hurdles the town still must overcome to allow the project to begin, the trick is also to convince people.
`It’s really such a groundbreaking project that there are people that need to be convinced,` said Barrett.
While the solar field might not cover the landfill for several more years, Barrett said it’s well worth the wait and effort.
`From the beginning, we’ve known this is going to be a long process, take a lot of time and be a lot of effort on our part. But the prospect of having a first of it’s kind in this area clean energy project that’s generating revenue for residents of the town is so great that I think it’s worth every minute that we put into this project,` said Barrett.
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