By JASON SUBIK
GLOVERSVILLE — Mayor Vince DeSantis is encouraging residents of the city to take advantage of reduced electricity costs made available by the 4.98 megawatt solar farm set to come online next month at the site of the former city landfill on East Fulton Street Extension.
DeSantis posted a video of himself to Gloversville’s Facebook page on Thursday, explaining the project.
“I can remember coming to the Gloversville city dump with my dad when I was a little kid on Saturday mornings, and it’s now completely transformed,” DeSantis said, standing in front of 17,820 photovoltaic panels.
DeSantis said back in the early 1990s, the former city dump was encapsulated as part of a huge public project to seal-in all of the landfill’s toxins, so that they couldn’t get into the groundwater.
“You can’t do anything with this site,” he said. “You can’t even plant a tree here because the roots would break the barrier [of the encapsulated landfill].”
Back in 2015, the city decided to try to plant a solar farm on the 50-acre site, originally awarding a contract to SolarCity, a subsidiary of Tesla, but that project fell through. In 2018, the Common Council awarded another solar farm project to Framingham, Mass.-based Ameresco.
Over the past three years Ameresco built the solar farm on 25 acres of the landfill, operating under its subsidiary, Gloversville Community Solar.
Going forward the solar company will pay a $15,000 a year lease to the city of Gloversville to use the land, and provide the city a 10 percent reduction on its annual electricity costs.
“This solar array will generate so much electrical power that it will be able to supply all of the electrical power for the city’s streetlights, all of its buildings, as well as the [Gloversville Enlarged School District] and all of its lights an all of its buildings,” DeSantis said.
The city of Gloversville was originally going to serve as the needed “anchor client” for the solar farm, buying about 40 percent of the electricity produced by the farm, but between 2018 and 2021 the city approved a $300,000 project to replace its 1,200 street lights with more energy efficient light emitting diodes [LEDS], dropping the city’s expected electricity needs down to only 2 percent of the solar farm’s capacity. That project, which was partially paid for with a $100,000 state grant, was delayed last year because the New York State Public Service Commission had to approve the $250,000 price National Grid wanted to charge the city for purchasing the street lights. Ultimately the PSC approved the price, and the project is expected to be completed this year.
To meet Ameresco’s goal of selling at least 40 percent of the solar farms electricity to guaranteed buyers, in 2019 the city reached out to GESD to broker a deal for the school district to purchase all of its electricity from Gloversville Community Solar for 25 years.
Steve McDonough, Ameresco’s senior development manager, praised DeSantis and GESD Superintendent David Halloran for supporting the completion of the solar farm.
“It really takes people who are really engaged and want to see these projects forward to really accelerate these and really get them completed,” McDonough said. “We’re starting numerous projects with other cities that don’t have that specific leadership. This projects can oftentimes stall and not be successful.”
McDonough said New York state provided incentives to help solar developers building on former landfills. He said Gloversville Community Solar will also pay property taxes to the town of Johnstown, where the landfill is located, and to Fulton County.
Quantifying the exact electricity cost savings for the city and for its residents is difficult to do, because the electricity costs of both are moving targets.
Rochester-based Bergmann Associates, a planning and engineering firm, has estimated Gloversville Community Solar’s 17,820 photovoltaic panels could save city residents a combined $1.88 million on electricity costs over 20 years, based on at least 60 percent of the electricity generated at the farm being purchased by city residents who sign up for the solar energy credit available to them, estimated to be worth about 10 percent of typical annual electricity costs, about $100 per household that signs up.
DeSantis said Gloversville residents can sign up for the solar electricity savings by going to this website: https://ampion.net/gloversville/.
He said people from Gloversville, who live in the 12078 zip code, will receive priority in receiving the solar energy credits to reduce their bills and the credits are available to businesses and people who live in apartments.
“They usually don’t have the full 60 percent of the [solar energy products credits] sold by the time they turn it on, which they’re expecting will be in mid-April,” DeSantis said. “I want to get as many Gloversville families as possible to sign up for these, so that our own people here will get the savings. Anybody, though, can really sign up for it. Even if you lived in Colorado, you could sign up for the credit, so it’s not confined to people living in Gloversville, but I want people in Gloversville to take advantage of it.”