Clarkstown Town Councilman George Hoehmann (R-Nanuet) is proposing Clarkstown investigate the installation of solar panels at the former landfill in West Nyack. He says the recent signing of the Remote Net Metering Law by the governor in June makes the construction of a solar panel array something to seriously consider. The law allows municipalities to produce excess electricity at one site and get credits for the next month for other locations.
Passage of the new law was praised by the Alliance for Clean Energy NY, which stated the law “eases interconnection regulations for on-site renewable energy systems.”
Hoehmann, who gained experience with solar power while serving as the chief operating officer at Camp Venture, thinks using the landfill as a source of renewable energy has real merit.
“It could become something if we construct a one- to three-megawatt solar field,” said Hoehmann, who is focusing on four sloped acres that face east toward Route 303 as the prime location. He says there is possibly up to 16 acres that would be suitable.
The 100-acre landfill, which officially closed in 1992, is used only as a model airplane flying field. According to Clarkstown Deputy Director of Operations Ralph Lauria, the Rockland County Radio Control Club has been using eight to 10 acres of flat land on the top of the capped landfill for more than a decade
Since 2009, Hoehmann has been speaking with officials and others about bringing renewable energy to the town. Now with the new law in effect, he is moving forward and will meet with Orange & Rockland representatives on July 12 along with Town Supervisor Alex Gromack, Town Attorney Amy Mele and members of the town’s departments of environmental control and planning.
A one-to three-megawatt solar array would meet the electricity needs of the closed landfill for pumps and pump stations with excess electricity going into the power grid. Hoehmann said the system would be directly connected to the power grid enabling the town to receive credit for the excess electricity produced which then could be used to reduce costs across Clarkstown for other town facilities and operations.
After the initial meeting with Orange & Rockland, he plans to put together a working group of engineers to evaluate the feasibility of such a project.
“It would require DEC (state Department of Environmental Conservation) approval, “ noted Hoehmann.
In addition to the new law, other factors favoring installation of a solar array are decreased equipment prices and improved panel designs that are more efficient and powerful. With an Orange & Rockland substation just several hundred yards from the landfill, connection to the grid is convenient.
The potential usable area of all16 acres could produce five megawatts of power. Hoehmann said whatever type of system is installed would have to be one that would not puncture the protective membrane covering the contents of the landfill.
According to Hoehmann, a one-megawatt solar array could produce 1.1 million megawatts of electricity annually. At a market rate of 18¢ per megawatt, that amounts to $198,000 a year.
There are a least two possible scenarios for a solar field. The town could fund the installation of the solar array and also apply for grants. It could recoup its investment within 10 years through remote net metering by sending the excess electricity to the grid.
“That additional electric would then be credited through remote net metering to the town accounts,” Hoehmann explained.
Another avenue is to sign an agreement with a private investor who would be responsible for all costs and would pay Clarkstown for usage of the landfill property.
Hoehmann says he has already heard from two private companies interested in constructing the array to get tax credits or establish a public/private partnership.
“I’ve had two outside groups contact me that they would like to be considered for an RFP (Request for Proposal),” he said.
Clarkstown would not be the first to look at the potential of solar energy. New York City is already trying to lease parts of its landfills, Florida has done so already and New Jersey and Massachusetts are moving forward.
Hoehmann brought solar power to Camp Venture, making it the first nonprofit organization in Rockland County to have that capability. Camp Venture has two group homes in Nanuet with solar power that were the first of 6,000 group homes in the state to have that feature. Camp Venture received the 2008/2009 Excellence Award from the state Department of Environmental Conservation for its program.