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Niagara County plans solar power deal

LOCKPORT – Niagara County is planning a complex deal that calls for the construction of solar power arrays on three pieces of county-owned land, including atop a landfill in Lockport.

The project, to be voted upon at a special meeting of the County Legislature Tuesday, calls for a still-unidentified development company to lease the land from the county and build the arrays at the company’s expense. The county hopes to benefit with credits on its utility bills.

Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, said Wednesday that the county could save $4 million over the next 20 years on power bills for county facilities in National Grid’s service area, and $744,000 over the same period for sites in New York State Electric & Gas Corp. territory.

The sites would be atop Landfill 2 in the Refuse District complex off the Lockport Bypass; on Junction Road in Cambria, where the county owns a field that was supposed to be the site of a new Public Works headquarters; and at the county Sewer District treatment plant on Liberty Drive in Wheatfield.

Dawn M. Timm, county environmental director and chief of the Refuse Disposal District, said the county hopes to derive a revenue stream to pay for state-mandated monitoring of the three closed landfills in Lockport. However, she said details have not been worked out.

The developer, one of six that responded to a May 29 request for proposals, is to be revealed Monday, when the plan goes before two committees for action leading up to the special session at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

In the first year, Timm said, the county will purchase power from the developer for 6.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, but under terms of a state solar power initiative, the county is to come out ahead, with credits of 10.7 cents per kilowatt-hour on NYSEG bills and 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour from National Grid.

Each of the three solar arrays would have a maximum power generation capacity of nearly 2 megawatts, Timm said.

She said it’s up to the developer to obtain any needed regulatory approvals and make arrangements with the utilities. That company also would be able to cash in on state and federal tax credits, which expire at the end of 2016. That’s the reason for the special meeting, Bradt said: to save three weeks, since the next regular session is Oct. 20.

“We need to make sure we don’t miss out on a great opportunity,” Bradt said.