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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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