One Big Solar Embrace

Plan calls for photovoltaics at 10 town sites

       Applause broke out at Town Hall on Tuesday morning when the East Hampton Town Board took a step toward solar power by endorsing proposals for photovoltaic installations at 10 town-owned sites by three private contractors.

       The sites could generate up to 40 megawatts of alternative energy to be sold to PSEG Long Island and fed into the power grid. The project, which requires PSEG approval, could also generate more than $800,000 a year in income for the town.

       The proposals, developed for PSEG’s Clean Solar Initiative, must be submitted by Friday, Jan. 31, for technical review and possible approval.

       Sites under consideration, according to a press release issued by Larry Cantwell, the East Hampton Town supervisor, include “parts of the capped landfills in Montauk and East Hampton, unused town-owned lots, and rooftops on public buildings.”

       “I’m very excited to take this first step,” Mr. Cantwell said at a town board meeting on Tuesday. “I think this may be one of the most exciting renewable energy projects . . . in the country, really.” Not only would the project provide “the opportunity to generate renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint, and provide the power that we need on the South Fork,” but, he said, it would also “increase non-tax revenue in a very significant way.”

       Gordian Raacke, a member of the town’s Energy Sustainability Committee and the executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, said Tuesday that the project has the potential to make the town a leader in sustainable energy generation. “If these get built,” he said, “it will take East Hampton from the lower tier to the very top nationwide in terms of solar and renewable energy.”

       Thirteen proposals submitted to the town were vetted by members of the energy committee, which presented its recommendations at the Tuesday work session. They used 16 criteria to score each one, said Frank Dalene, the chairman of the committee. The top three proposals, he said, all scored “about the same on expertise, financial viability, and references.”

       Mr. Dalene commended the town board for pursuing the solar energy initiative — for “leading by example,” he said. Mr. Cantwell in turn thanked Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who has been working with the energy committee, and Ms. Overby thanked Kim Shaw and Marguerite Wolffsohn, the heads of the Natural Resources and Planning Departments, and their staffs.

       The contractors, SunEdison, OnForce Solar, and Sustainable Power Group, would design, install, and maintain the solar panels for a 20-year period, after which they would be responsi ble for dismantling them. Under the PSEG program, however, the system could be kept in operation at that point under the current terms of its energy programs.

       In addition to rent on the installation sites, the town would receive a portion of the revenue from sale of the solar-generated power to PSEG.

       “We are excited about the potential to generate solar electric from underutilized town land, produce revenue for the town, and help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and our carbon footprint,” Ms. Overby said in the release.