Gray skies, red leaves and green energy are all on the horizon for the Town of New Paltz, with plans to install solar field in an unused landfill.
The Town of New Paltz is looking to enter a public/private partnership with a solar utility to convert the unused landfill near the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency (UCRRA) facility on Clearwater Road into a solar field. The potential five megawatt project could supply power for nearly a third of the New Paltz population.
“If we have this big, empty field, why not use it?” said Town Supervisor Neil Bettez. “It’s important to expand the growth of energy efficiency in small towns to help New York State address climate change.”
Bettez explained that the local landfill was shut down by the Department of Environmental Protection in the mid-to-late ‘80s. The decision was part of a state-wide initiative to decrease the volume of local landfills.
The area was sealed and has since evolved into a grassy field. The UCRRA has since taken over the responsibility of monitoring the area to make sure tree growth does not tear the seal. Additionally, all waste in Ulster County is delivered from the local transfer station before being sent to the UCRRA for processing.
While several different suppliers were explored to embark on this project, the bidder the Town seems most interested in at the moment is Sol Systems: a national solar firm whose website claims to have “developed and/or financed over 850 MW of solar projects valued at more than $1 billion for Fortune 100 companies, municipalities, counties, utilities, universities and schools.” Bettez said that the Town is still in the exploratory phase and no details are solidified.
Regardless of the bidder chosen, the burden for the construction will not fall on taxpayers. In fact the Town may see a spike in revenue from leasing the property to any bidder. The cost for installing and maintaining the panels would fall on the chosen company. The most costly component would come from connecting the field to the Central Hudson owned power-grid. After that, the solar company would be able to sell their electricity on the open market, often at a lower fee than non-renewable utilities.
Some concerns were raised on the environmental impact of the development. Bettez said that the landfill property is roughly 10 acres, but the Town owns almost 200 acres in the surrounding area to work with. Roughly 20 acres of trees would have to be cut to accommodate the project, however, Bettez explained that the site is already nestled near the UCRRA center and Recycling Center. Drivers won’t be able to see the panels from Route 32 and access to the property ends at 4 p.m., leading to little interaction with the public.
“The carbon not sequestered by trees versus the carbon saved by [solar] electricity pays for itself within three years,” Bettez said.
The push from this project falls in line with a pending local law to make renewable energy providers the default suppliers for New Paltz residents. Residents currently default to Central Hudson for electricity if they do not opt-out for a different company. Under the Community Choice Aggregation law, which is close to its conclusion, residents would be defaulted to Hudson Valley Community Power instead.
“When you look at the bigger picture, we as a society need to address the issue of climate change,” Bettez said. “We’ll make some revenue and also do our part for solar power.