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Governor Paterson on LI to usher in groundbreaking Solar Project

Nearly two and a half years after visiting Long Island to denounce the proposed Broadwater natural gas terminal, New York State Governor David Paterson returned to the area, Thursday, December 2, again focused on energy.

New York State Governor David Paterson at the Suffolk Solar Carport Project groundbreaking, Thursday, December 2.

This time around Governor Paterson came in approval of an energy initiative, the largest solar carport instillation in the country, and he wasn’t alone as a handful of public and private officials were in attendance at the Brentwood train station for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Suffolk Solar Carport Project, a venture that will generate 17 Megawatts (MW) of electricity through the instillation of solar carports at an estimated seven parking lots across the county.

The project is a culmination of private and public cooperation in which enXco, a San Diego-based project development company will construct 60,000 photovoltaic solar panels above 46 acres of public parking space. Once installed, it was estimated at the groundbreaking that the carports will collectively produce enough clean energy to power 1,850 homes while displacing an estimated 14,300 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.

“This is a milestone in clean technology,” said Governor Paterson before a crowd of roughly 150 people at the groundbreaking. “The County of Suffolk, and LIPA, in collaboration with enXco, is really going to be a magnificent undertaking, not only for this region but for the economy of the state.”

Through a lease-revenue agreement, enXco will pay to build on county property, netting Suffolk $8.5 million to $9 million dollars, as estimated by LIPA CEO Micheal Hervey who spoke during the groundbreaking. According to enXco communications director Sandi Briner, the company would then contract out the construction of the carports to Baja Construction, a California-based company, and the instillation of the solar panels to Mercury Solar, a Port Chester-based company with offices in Holtsville. Once completed, which Mr. Hervey said should be some time in the fourth quarter of 2011, the power produced by the carports will be purchased by LIPA and distributed to the electric company’s customers.

“It’s a win-win-win,” County Executive Levy said. “It’s a win for the environment, a win for the county, and a win for the private entrepreneurs.”

Though the smallest of the seven proposed sites — 1 MW from 3,900 panels – Ms. Briner said the Brentwood train station was selected as the groundbreaking site due to the available access at the parking lot. She said the overall project will be completed on a cascading schedule with the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip (4MW, 14,800 panels) next, then the North County Complex in Hauppauge (2.5 MW, 8,100 panels) followed by the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge (2MW, 6,700 panels) and then the Riverhead County Complex (3MW, 10,700 panels).

When the project was originally announced in January, the Deer Park train station and the Ronkonkoma train station were expected carports that could produce 2.25 MW and 5 MW, respectively. At the groundbreaking, both location’s capacities were left as a to be determined status. Mr. Hervey said that if the 17 MW output is achieved with the first five sites that the Deer Park and Ronkonkoma train station carports might not then be needed. Considering the variables in the output of each carport, Mr. Hervey said that is something that could not be determined at this time.

Through out the ceremony several speakers expressed not only the environmental benefits of the project, but also the fact that the construction of the carports would not disrupt the local environment nor effect the availability of parking at each location. Also expressed by several speakers, the importance of Governor Paterson’s history in pursuing clean energy. Mr. Hervey called Governor Paterson and NYSERDA – the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – very involved in the project, specifically regarding federal stimulus funds that were awarded to LIPA by the State which will allow the electric company to connect the solar carports to the Long Island electric grid.

While addressing the crowd, Governor Paterson said the project is in accord with his clean energy initiative to have New York State achieve 45 percent of its energy needs by 2015 through clean sources.

“When I was Lieutenant Governor I called for 100 megawatts by 2011,” the Governor said. “We will more than surpass that.”

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Suffolk announces plans for solar parking lots

In conjunction with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) and San Diego-based energy company enXco, Suffolk County plans to construct solar power generating carports at seven major parking lots. Dubbed the Eastern Long Island Solar Project, plans for the $120 million venture were announced, Tuesday, January 19, by County Executive Steve Levy and LIPA President and CEO Kevin Law at the Legislative Auditorium in Hauppauge.
“This is a very proud day in Suffolk as we become the first county in New York to generate solar power on county property,” Mr. Levy said.
The project, which will consist of nearly 60,000 solar modules covering roughly 46 acres of surface area, will generate revenue for Suffolk County totaling $8.5 million over the next twenty years. If all seven “power lots” are utilized, they will generated as much as 17 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 1,850 homes. Sitting perched above parking spaces, the solar carports will not hinder the amount of space at each lot nor interfere with snow-removal vehicles.
“This project, along with the BP Solar project [at Brookhaven National Lab], will be the largest solar power project on the east coast,” Mr. Law said. “We should be proud of that.”
enXco, a renewable energy company with 20-years experience in the industry and one of the two firms selected through a Request for Proposals by LIPA to provide up to 50 megawatts of solar power to the grid, will fund the project privately. Under an annual lease revenue agreement, enXco will be allowed to work and operate on county property for the next twenty years, thus netting Suffolk County the estimated $8.5 million. The energy generated by the “power lots” will then be purchased by LIPA and distributed to its customers, also under a 20-year agreement.
“It is because of forward thinking individuals at LIPA, Suffolk County and enXco that we stand on the verge of one of the nation’s most innovative utility scale solar PV installations,” said Hanson Wood of enXco, the project’s senior developer.
Mr. Law said the project’s contracts should be finalized in February. It was estimated that construction could begin as early as April and last up to one year, creating 150 local jobs for that duration.
When asked about hindering parking, Mr. Wood said construction would be kept to a maximum of 100 parking spaces at any given time. He said once up and operating the solar power modules require minimal maintenance and that enXco has fully considered the yearly weather conditions of Suffolk County.
According to Mr. Law, the Eastern Long Island Solar Project and the BP Solar project at Brookhaven National Laboratory will cost LIPA approximately $400 million over 20 years, or $20 million annually. That translates to an 83-cent monthly increase for LIPA customers, or $9.96 annually.
“We need to view this as an investment,” Mr. Law said. “Europe is so far ahead of us we need to make an investment today. This is a hedge against fossil fuels.”
No right of ownership to the property has yet to be determined once the 20-year contract expires. Both Mr. Law and Mr. Wood said that enXco would be presented a renewable option at that time.
The seven parking lots, their location, and their energy producing potential are as follows: the H. Lee Dennison Building, Hauppauge (1.75 MW of solar power generated by 7,737 solar modules on 24 solar arrays); the North County Complex, Hauppauge (0.5 MW generated by 3,431 modules on 9 arrays); the Cohalan Court Complex, Central Islip (3.5 MW generated by 15,113 modules on 27 arrays); the Riverhead County Center, Riverhead (3 MW generated on 11,536 on 31 arrays); Deer Park LIRR Parking Lot (2.25 MW generated by 3,924 solar modules on 39 arrays); the south-side Ronkonkoma LIRR Parking Lot (5 MW generated by 20,110 modules on 44 arrays).

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