Chenango County considers adding solar microgrid, long process to go

Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 12:12 AM EDT
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CITY OF NORWICH (WBNG) - When it comes to New York’s energy transition and the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, places like Chenango County are considering installing what’s known as a solar microgrid.

The vision is through a partnership consisting of the Chenango County Planning Department, Commerce Chenango, Southern Tier 8, and Acadia Energy.

“Whenever we see solar development come into Chenango County, a lot of the big criticism is that the power is not utilized here,” said Chenango County Planning Department Director Shane Butler. “It always gets sent to New York City.”

With the addition of a solar microgrid, Butler said it could be a way to keep energy local.

“This opportunity would then utilize the energy here that’s created here, so I think that’s the biggest help to us,” said Butler. “Plus, it will help our businesses save on money for energy costs, which then enhances their opportunities here to keep them here.”

Director of Public Relations Kris Betts with Acadia Energy said in general, Upstate is home to massive properties that can be used for solar energy. Betts said we should get 100% of the benefit.

“We’re partnering with communities and counties, so IDAs, EDAs, economic development councils, and that’s what we’re doing in Chenango,” said Betts.

Betts said Chenango County will benefit from a partnership they have in Cayuga County with the ‘Cayuga County Public Utility Service Agency to create and transmit the power.

“Because we have the ability to both create the power and transmit and deliver it, we can control where that renewable energy is going,” said Betts. “So instead of connecting onto a line to get onto the utility grid to be sent Downstate, we can keep that power in Upstate New York.”

If installed, the solar microgrid would look just like the traditional solar panel.

“It’s not the technology that’s new necessarily, it’s the business model,” said Betts.

The Chenango County approval process is just in the beginning stages, and so far, Butler said he hasn’t heard any negative community comments because it’s so early.

“This is just an opportunity that we’re still deciding whether or not we want to do,” said Butler. “So there’s still the opportunity that we can back out of this and not do it if there’s something we decide is just not worth it for us. So right now we’re just having them do the proposals, we’re looking at different sites that might be beneficial near commercial centers, industrial sites, all those places where the energy can actually be used.”

Butler said Acadia Energy has told his team that the county should have the solar sites within five miles to help with lowering the cost because of delivery charges.

When it comes to a timeline, Butler said Acadia Energy will do a presentation in August for the Planning Committee and the committee will decide if this is a plan they want to move forward with. It would then go to the board of supervisors in September. Community members are welcome to give their input on this potential new addition by calling 607-337-1640.