Monroe County’s solar power play


Monroe County is preparing to put some big-time support behind a multi-site solar power project, of which it’ll be the sole customer.

County Executive Maggie Brooks has asked the County Legislature to support a set of agreements with Buffalo-based Solar Liberty, which will enable the company to build solar arrays at sites in Penfield and Greece. Combined, the arrays will have a generation capacity of 11 megawatts; in New York, 1 megawatt is enough to power 175 homes, roughly.

The county won’t actually own the system, but it plans to buy the electricity it produces for $1.2 million each year over the next 20 years. The county estimates that buying the same amount of electricity from the grid would cost it $1.6 million annually, so it expects to save approximately $366,000 through the agreement, according to legislation Brooks submitted this afternoon.

The whole arrangement has a few parts to it. The county owns the sites, which are next to a storm-sewage treatment plant in Greece and the closed Gloria Drive landfill in Penfield. It plans to lease the properties to Solar Liberty, which will install the arrays; the legislation doesn’t say how much land is involved. Legislators need to sign off on that lease agreement.

Legislators also need to approve the power purchase agreement, which provide the means for the county to offset its electricity use. The agreement would also ensure steady revenue for Solar Liberty, which is assuming the project’s financial risks.

Similar arrangements have been used or considered by other local governments. The Wayne County town of Williamson leased its closed landfill to a developer, which then installed 1.5 megawatts worth of solar panels on the site. The town, in turn, buys all of the electricity through a power purchase agreement.

And the City of Rochester is reviewing proposals from developers to build an array of up to 2 megawatts on Lexington Avenue property it owns. The site is a former landfill.