For those concerned about sustainable energy, the news recently out of East Hampton Town Hall is a nice surprise. Officials and three private companies are racing to put together a proposal to be presented to the state Public Service Electric and Gas Company, PSEG Long Island, for large-scale solar installations at town-owned sites. Taken together, the project could produce on the order of 40 megawatts of electricity, enough to power as many as 8,000 houses. By selling power to the utility, the public-private partnership would be estimated to spin off annual income for the town — as much as $800,000 — through site rentals.
For PSEG, the successor to the Long Island Power Authority, this kind of arrangement is good business sense. Solar installations stand to provide less-expensive electricity than fossil fuel, nuclear, or other sources. They also provide security through a redundancy of generating stations spread more widely across the grid.
For East Hampton Town, the plan offers a way to generate income from unexpected and unused sites, such as roofs and portions of former landfills not suitable for much else. Other municipalities, corporations, and educational institutions have entered into similar arrangements with solar power companies with favorable results. Best of all, these projects generally come with minimal, if any, costs to the property owners.
For residents, additional town income would help avoid tax increases and cuts in services. East Hampton Town has a very tight budget, and every bit of income helps. Of importance as well would be satisfaction in knowing the community was taking a giant step toward a more responsible and environmentally conscious future.
We hope this ambitious town undertaking will also help motivate homeowners and businesses to consider solar installations of their own. PSEG Long Island inherited LIPA’s renewable energy programs of rebates and incentives. With federal and state tax credits for installations, a homeowner’s out-of-pocket cost for a 5,000-kilowatt system might be under $9,000, with a payback period of as few as six years.
Solar may not work in all locations, and the up-front cost may be out of range for many people, but with the town taking such a massive endeavor, residents can be proud that their government is looking to lead the way.