School district approves solar power purchase

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education on Monday approved a solar power purchase agreement with the developers of a community solar project planned at the former city landfill.

The city awarded a contract to Ameresco Inc. in August 2018 for construction of a solar project at the former landfill on East Fulton Street Extension that was previously remediated and capped. The project will utilize about 25 acres or half of the landfill for the installation of over 17,000 solar panels capable of generating 8.5 MWh.

Ameresco will own the solar equipment and will lease the landfill space from the city for $15,000 per year. The project will be connected to National Grid power poles and Ameresco will sell the generated power to the utility company.

Power subscribers with Ameresco will receive credits on their National Grid bill equal to a percentage of the cost of the power generated by the solar array at an estimated rate of $0.114 per kWh. These users then receive a bill from Ameresco for the percentage of power used at a rate of $0.07 per kWh.

As part of the agreement between the city and Ameresco, 40 percent of the energy credits available through the community solar project would be allocated to the city, applied to the cost of powering city buildings and utilities. The remaining 60 percent will be available to city residents or business owners who subscribe to the program.

In July, Mayor Vincent DeSantis approached the school board offering the district the opportunity to subscribe to 32 percent of the energy credits generated from the project, credits that should have been allocated to the city.

DeSantis explained that based on current power use and projections for a planned LED streetlight conversion project, the city would only consume about 8 percent of the available energy in order to power all municipal buildings and utilities. City officials agreed that the remaining credits available to the municipality should be offered to the school district.

Following a subsequent review of the proposal by GESD officials, attorneys and financial consultants, the Board of Education on Monday approved a 25 year power purchase agreement with Ameresco named in the contract as Gloversville Community Solar LLC.

“We’ve done our due diligence, we think the contract is solid,” GESD Superintendent David Halloran said Monday.

“The contract seems to be in our best interest and that’s why it’s on the agenda tonight,” he added citing the projected savings to the district and describing the opportunity as a chance for GESD and the city to strengthen ties. “We’re trying to build a partnership with the city. The city and the school district are two sides of the same coin.”

According to Ameresco Senior Development Manager Steve McDonough, the school district will realize an estimated $111,000 in energy savings per year or approximately $2.6 million over the course of the 25 year contract.

“This is probably a little bit on the low end, because I’ve estimated 30 percent offtake for the school district, when in reality it’s 32 percent,” McDonough said.

Under the terms of the agreement the district will not bear any responsibility for construction, equipment or property related costs. The only fee the district will be responsible for is the cost of the percentage of energy produced by the project that is consumed by the district.

The school district and the developer will have the option of extending the contract for up to two five year terms following the initial 25 year period. Developers have estimated that construction of the solar project at the former city landfill will be complete with the array in operation by May 2020.