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Porter OKs solar power project

The sun soon will be one of the main sources of electricity for Town of Porter municipal buildings after a more-than-$288,000, state-funded solar energy project was given the go-ahead by the Town Board on Monday night. Solar panels are expected to be in place this summer.

The Town Board had discussed installing wind turbines for several years, but after hitting several obstacles, including opposition to the plans for placing the turbines, the board decided a few months ago to move in a new direction and put the solar energy plan on the table.

The Town Board had been running out of time to take advantage of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority grant of $320,000 it received in February 2010. The grant was designated specifically "to fund an energy project to reduce the town's energy footprint."

In fact, Porter had run out of time.

Town Engineer David Britton said NYSERDA agreed to an extension of the grant, providing all work is done by Aug. 1.

"I contacted NYSERDA and explained that we were changing the wind project to solar energy, and they agreed to extend the deadline," Britton told the board Monday. "But no further timeline extensions will be allowed. Any funding for material or work done after [Aug. 1] will not be approved."

Britton told the board that he believes it can be done "well before the deadline," with materials expected to arrive by the end of the month. He said the contract allows the town to be excused from its commitment if unforeseen acts of nature or hardship hold up the project.

The board unanimously approved awarding the bid to O'Connell Electric of Buffalo, with Councilman Joseph Fleckenstein abstaining because one of his family members was bidding on the project. O'Connell gave a base bid of $186,690, allowing for a total of $288,690 if there are change orders in the project.

The state-funded energy program is designed to reduce energy costs by as much as 50 percent and allows towns to sell back any excess power that is generated.

The Town Hall solar project will consist of ground-mounted panels on the south side of the parking lot. The panels are expected to generate a total of 40.32 kilowatts per year, or 80 percent of the power used annually in the building.

Solar panels at the town highway garage will be roof-mounted and will generate enough power to cover 65 percent of the garage's annual usage.