Stan Dobert of Apex Solar Power of Queensbury explains to Lake George Town Board members March 10 the conditions and consequences involved in a pending 20-year agreement to provide solar power for both the village and town of Lake George. The proposed arrangement is estimated to cut the village’s electricity costs by $37,000 annually in the first year of the contract and the town’s electricity costs over the initial year by $20,000. The savings are predicted to increase in the following years.
With an intent of boosting the environment while saving taxpayers thousands of dollars, the town and village of Lake George are now taking collaborative steps towards converting to solar energy.
The two municipalities are poised to sign 20-year contracts that call for an array of solar panels to be constructed by a solar engineering firm and bankrolled by private investors on behlaf of the village. These panels are to supply the amount of electricity to the state’s power grid that offsets the aggregate amount the town and village normally use.
The town and village taxpayers won’t be bearing the up-front construction costs of the solar arrays, but they will instead be benefiting financially from the installation, according to a presentation Monday March 10 to town board members by Stan Dobert of Apex Solar Power Corp. based in Queensbury.
The town and village are to be paying less to this joint enterprise for electricity, month-by-month than they would routinely pay to the local utility provider National Grid, Dobert said.
The savings to the town is accomplished through the private investors reaping generous tax credits of up to 30 percent and other incentives offered by the state and government, according to Mike Doud of Overseas Lease Group, which is collaborating with Apex on the proposed project.
Dobert and town board member Marisa Muratori both said the joint enterprise needed an initial agreement signed by April 1 by the board — a memo of understanding outlining contract terms and barring the town from seeking competitive bids on the project — in order to obtain maximum tax credits and to reap the most savings.
After hearing the presentation from Dobert and Doud, the town board voted unanimously to authorize town supervisor Dennis Dickinson to sign the initial agreement before April 1, subject to approval of the town attorney. Dobert said the preliminary agreement didn’t fully commit the town to executing the solar-power contract, but it set the stage for the pending deal while locking in maximum utility savings and tax credits.
Figures presented to the town and village cite a savings, during the first year of the contract, of $37,070 for the village on their $247,132 estimated annual electricity costs, and about $20,000 for the town, which uses less electricity. According to figures Apex provided to the village, their annual savings would grow to $415,652 by the end of the 20-year contract, based on an assumption that prevailing costs of power would double over that time.
The proposal calls for the large array of solar panels to be constructed and situated on a field in Washington County, where the electricity would be fed into the state power grid and monitored by remote meters.
Dobert said his firm had considered installing the solar arrays on top of the town landfill, but to do so would require permits from state environmental authorities and also might incur potential liabilities for investors, so it wasn’t practical.
Muratori said she supported the project, and she called for quick action so the savings would be maximized — because the tax credits are to scheduled to diminish in stages, through this year and next, beginning April 1.
Hours before the presentation to the town board, Lake George Village Public Works Superintendent Dave Harrington described the proposed deal to the village trustees. He said the village uses about 1.5 megawatts of electricity per year, while the town uses 0.6 megawatts annually.
“In this contract, here’s no cost to the village, only savings,” Harrington said. “The only scary thing, is that it’s a 20-year contract.”
Total utility savings for the village over the 20 years are forecast by Apex at $3.8 million, which Harrington said could be an “overly optimistic” projection. He said he supported the project if the savings were merely $10,000 rather than the projected $37,070. He said the proposed contract gives the village the option, at the end of the first five years of the contract, to buy the installation outright from the investors.
Harrington noted that the town and Village of Fort Edward were collaborating on a similar project with Apex Solar, and the town of Bolton was also exploring the concept. Also, Apex Solar Power has installed a $32,000 solar thermal system that heats water for the Glens Falls Hospital’s dialysis center, and saves half the cost of the fuel bill for heating the 200 gallons per hour of warm water the facility uses daily in their dialysis treatments.
The town of Chester decided in 2011 to install a large array of solar panels, and they doubled their solar generation capacity to 51.8 kilowatts in June 2012 to multiply their projected savings at three of their four solar installations. Their contract, which lasts for 10 years, is with Edge Consulting of Plattsburgh.
The Lake George Village board endorsed the idea Monday of the proposed solar installation — but unlike the town, they deferred approval on the initial agreement on contract terms until village Mayor Robert Blais was present to join in the decision. Board members proposed holding a special meeting on or before March 17 to reach a decision on the initial agreement.