North East enters solar option agreement with AC Power

North East Town Hall

Maud Doyle

North East enters solar option agreement with AC Power

MILLERTON — On Thursday, Dec. 14, North East Town Board voted unanimously to enter an option agreement with solar developer AC Power, giving both parties two years to collect information and data needed to decide whether or not to pursue a small community solar array on the Town’s closed landfill.

The agreement stipulates that for 24 months, AC Power, based in New York City, will pay the town $1,250 per quarter — $5,000 a year — to conduct investigations and surveys, get input from Central Hudson and the Department of Conservation (DEC), and draw up plans for a potential community solar project on the empty land to present to the Town at the end of the option period.

At a prior town board meeting held on Nov. 20, North East Town Supervisor Chris Kennan and, from AC Power, director of business development Brent McDevitt and CEO and founder Annika Colston presented the option agreement and the lease agreement that might follow.

“I see the potential of this project as doing something good using land which is essentially useless,” said Kennan. “You can’t sell anything that grows on it. You can’t recreate on it. All you can do is mow.”

The landfill constitutes 15 acres of Town land. Studies of the landfill, which has been closed for 29 years, show that it is no longer even producing enough methane to warrant any kind of methane capture, flaring, or other methane reduction method. But the proposed array, said Kennan, could turn that land into “a public benefit.” 

“If both the Town and community can derive an economic benefit” from an array, he said, “then I think it really is something that we would be irresponsible not to look at.”

The option agreement entered by the Town opens the door to a lease agreement between North East and AC Power down the road, according to the terms of which AC Power would lease the land from the town for 25 years, with two five-year option renewals, at a rate of $8,000 per megawatt installed.

Assuming a five megawatt array, this would net the town an estimated $40,000 in the first year, and approximately $2 million over the course of the lease.

Solar farms do not make noise, light up, smell, or cause any pollution besides that of their unsightliness, which towns in the state are making progress on mitigating with screening and sighting strategies.

AC Power currently estimates that the farm will contain about approximately five megawatts of solar panels, or enough to power some 1,000 homes. The array would “plug in” to the grid at the high-capacity power lines along Route 22, and provide power which would be made available to area residents at a discounted rate through a subscription.

A lease agreement will not be entered until the results of the two agreed-upon years of research and planning are in hand and a public hearing has been conducted, said Kennan.

Colston, responding to concerns, assured the town board members that the surveys and research conducted over the course of the two-year option agreement will not require construction or disturbance of the land of any kind. 

Now that the option agreement is in place, AC Power hopes to submit preliminary information to Central Hudson in four to six weeks. About four months after that, Central Hudson is expected to respond with a CESIR Study (pronounced like the Roman or the salad), which will offer feedback, and make clear whether or not the project is feasible. This process will also reserve the needed capacity in the grid, effectively getting the Millerton proposal “in line” for interconnection.

“So within the first six months, you know what you can actually interconnect” with the grid, at how many megawatts, and at what cost, explained Colston.

Throughout the process, all of the information collected by AC Power will be shared with the town at no cost.

 

The right time

Kennan noted that more than ten years have elapsed since the town first began considering a solar installation on the landfill; in fact, he said, former Town Supervisor Merwin first considered putting a solar array on the landfill in 2012.

Kennan and AC Power have been working on a concept since 2021.

Last December, Kennan met with a group of about 20 neighbors of the site.

“One of the things which I promised them was that the town was not going to rush into anything in terms of solar and wind. We were going to do our homework,” said Kennan. “The one thing that is indisputably true is that we have not rushed into anything — as our friends from AC Power are very well aware.”

On Thursday, the board apparently decided that the time was finally right to gather more information.

AC Power is set to begin its work with the DEC.

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