Town of Chester landfill and recycling attendant Lou Lashomb walks past an array of solar panels, one of two installations 150 feet long, that will soon power the town transfer station, town garage complex, and Chester recycling center. The town of Chester decided this week to double the number of arrays and the electrical output of their solar installations to both save money and become more earth-friendly. The town is now converting to solar power to provide electricity for all their facilities, including the Chester-Horicon Health Center, the town highway garage, the Chester Municipal Center, and the Dynamite Hill complex. Area energy officials say Chester is leading the way in employing such alternative energy sources.
Now enjoying a reputation for environmental awareness, the Town of Chester is now set to pursue a deeper shade of green.
With an aim of multiplying utility savings and minimizing its carbon footprint, the town of Chester will soon be nearly doubling its solar power capacity.
Tuesday June 12, the town board voted unanimously to install twice as many solar panels as now installed at three of its four municipal facilities in town.
Solar arrays at the town Municipal Center, Dynamite Hill Recreation area and the Chester-Horicon Health Center will each be doubled to produce 51.8 kilowatts instead of 25 kilowatts, and the array servicing the town highway garage, transfer station and recycling center complex will be boosted from 25 kilowatts to 29.1 kilowatts, Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe told the town board before their vote.
“The more energy we produce by solar, the lower our utility bills will be — while we help the environment,” he said.
According to figures supplied by the town’s solar engineering consultants, the extra solar panels could save town taxpayers an extra $5,000 or more per year in utility costs while generating electricity that surpasses the town facilities’ needs and will power other homes and businesses.
The existing solar arrays were installed and are maintained under an agreement with Edge Design & Consulting of Plattsburgh — and the new ones approved June 12 will follow he terms of the contract.
The equipment, representing tens of thousands of dollars, will not cost the local taxpayers anything — in fact, the town is guaranteed savings on its electricity bills.
While Edge Design is paying for the equipment and installation, the town is guaranteed savings of 10 to 25 percent on the electricity usage for the life of the contract, or 10 years. Revenue from excess energy produced and distributed over the power grid is divided between the Edge outfit and the town of Chester.
The near-doubling of output was requested by Edge Consulting officials within the last several weeks.
The request was prompted by New York State Energy Research & Development Authority doubling its maximum energy output restriction for installations, eligible for grants and credits, at non-profit entities.
That maximum capacity was doubled from 25 kilowatts to 51.8, the output Chester is now pursuing at three of their four solar installations.
The 25 kilowatt solar arrays at the Chester Municipal Center, Chester-Horicon Health Center, and Dynamite Dynamite Hill have been installed, but they are not yet online — they are to be hooked up soon, on a weekend day when power can be conveniently interrupted, Monroe said.
The 25 kilowatt solar array servicing the town garage, transfer station and recycling center complex is the only one now online.
Making the final connection of the arrays at the Chester-horicon Health Center may be delayed, however, because two of the large solar panels were recently smashed by vandals, Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe told the Chester Board members. He said the destruction was reported June 2 and police were investigating the incident.
Under the existing agreement with Edge Consulting, the firm’s investors will be shouldering the cost of replacing the destroyed equipment.
Monroe said the town’s plans to increase the number of solar panels will require Adirondack Park Agency approval. He predicted, however, that the agency will declare the issue “non-jurisdictional” — thus granting approval — as they did early this year on the original installation.
The town of Chester is the first municipality in the Adirondacks to convert to solar power.
With the additional installation, the town of Chester’s solar arrays should be producing nearly 250,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, according to figures provided by Edge Design.
In a related decision reached June 12, the town will be buying 16 new streetlamps featuring light-emitting diodes, which provide bright light with one-third the energy usage of traditional sodium-vapor lamps — 50 watts instead of 150 watts.
The decision was contingent upon board members examining the LED lamps and determining their light output was not too harsh.
in other business, the Town of Chester board:
• Approved a change in the starting time of their monthly board meetings from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and endorsed a 5-minute limit on presentations by each person during the public comment periods;
• Voted to authorize the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District officials to apply for a $324,000 grant for stormwater control, erosion abatement and Economic development at Schroon Lake; and
•Scheduled a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. July 10 to boost the town’s property tax exemption for seniors by lowering the income threshold to $24,000 for a 50 percent exemption with a graduated scale up to $32,399 for a 5 percent exemption.