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Solar farm planned by Albany firm in Newfane

NEWFANE – An Albany-area developer is poised to create a $900,000 solar farm on 19 acres of industrial-zoned land in Newfane, town officials have announced.

Monolith Solar Associates, of Rensselaer County, has set a groundbreaking for Nov. 2 on its planned 600-kilowatt project at 1919 Transit Road.

The company plans to install 1,944 solar panels, each nine to 10 feet high, said Andres Rivera Jr., public affairs director for Monolith.

“We’re clearing the land now,” Rivera said of the old apple orchards on the property. “We can get a system up in 45 to 60 days, so it will be in before Christmas.”

The company has secured its building permit and did not require any other town approvals, as the property was already zoned for industrial use, Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg said. The town’s building inspector and attorney reviewed and approved the plans, he said.

“I like everything about this project,” Horanburg said. “It doesn’t infringe on anyone or anything else. It has such a small footprint, compared to other things, but it has a taxable value.

“This all happened fairly quickly. The company came in looking for property, they bought it, closed on it and got their building permit.”

The company has more than 100 solar projects either completed or in the planning stages throughout the state, said Timothy Carr, Monolith’s key accounts manager.

“Between now and the end of the year, we are installing 10 megawatts – that’s 30,000 solar panels,” Carr said. “We have school districts, municipalities and commercial businesses of various sizes as customers. We particularly look forward to this project in Newfane, and we have a couple of other projects planned right behind it (in Western New York). People are excited, and we’re pretty pumped.”

Carr explained that his solar company produces the electricity, which is then turned back to National Grid in this area for monetary credits.

“We’re like a mini power plant,” Carr said. “Every kilowatt we produce goes back into National Grid.

“Up until very recently, the idea of ‘remote net metering,’ whereby a customer could live 20 miles from a solar farm but still significantly reduce its bill, was only available to nonresidential customers,” he said. “But ‘community solar’ is coming to New York, which takes it a step further.

“Community solar means a residential customer would have the opportunity to own 20 panels in our new Newfane solar farm, for example. If you’re a customer, you would just call us, say, ‘Sign me up,’ and know you’re getting your power from solar from a New York State company. Other states have implemented this and have had great success.”

At this time, the Newfane does not plan on being a customer of this new solar farm, Horanburg said, but the town is no stranger to the technology. A total of 144 solar panels were installed when the new Town Hall was built in 2010.

“With the incentives, we ended up paying about $18,000 and it has already paid for itself,” Horanburg said, adding that the town is currently considering adding solar panels to its public works garage.