Riverhead Town mulls leasing landfill for solar farm

11/04/2011 4:00 PM |

The idea of leasing land at the Riverhead Town landfill to a solar energy company has widespread support on the Town Board, whose members appear to be setting the wheels in motion to request proposals for such an arrangement.

A company called Long Island Green Energy, which is based in Sag Harbor and Manhattan, made a presentation about building a solar farm at the Youngs Avenue landfill — which was capped last year and is no longer in operation — at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

The company hopes to sign a long-term, 25-year lease with the town, said Chris Lettman, the group’s director of business development.

Councilman George Gabrielsen believes the town could get about $500,000 a year from a solar company.

Long Island Green Energy expects to generate about 10 kilowatts of electricity from the panels, and hopes to sell the power to the town at a cost the company says would be about 25 percent of what LIPA charges. But it was not immediately clear if it would be possible, since the company would be directed the energy into the LIPA power grid.

If chosen to build the solar farm — the town would first have to have an open-bidding process — the Sag Harbor and NYC group would also feature an educational component, with a kiosks about how solar energy works at Town Hall and tours of the proposed landfill solar farm.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Councilman John Dunleavy said in an interview afterwards. “We’ll get money from leasing the landfill and we’ll also get reduced electrical costs.”

“It’s a great idea,” Councilman Jim Wooten said afterwards. “When the landfill cap was being engineered about three years ago, we made sure in the design specs that we put enough of a foundation there to allow for the mounting of solar panels.

“It’s something we anticipated three years ago and I think it’s a good direction for the town to move it.”

Mr. Wooten said the potential uses for a closed landfill are limited, so this is a good way to make money from it.

Mr. Walter also called it a “great idea” and said the town would be issuing a request for proposals to see if other companies can offer a better deal.

“It’s a win-win situation on every front,” he said.

The idea of putting solar panels on the landfill has been raised before but never materialized. Mr. Walter said he believes the town was seeking too much money from LIPA when it sought locations for solar farms in 2009, and LIPA instead went to Brookhaven National Lab.

Mr. Walter was the Town Board member who questioned whether LIPA would allow energy generated by the solar panels to be specifically earmarked for Riverhead Town buildings once it goes back into the power grid.

Mr. Gabrielsen said he’s been working with Long Island Green Energy on this proposal for six months, and said the amount of energy anticipated to be generated is about the same amount of energy the town government uses each year.

Long Island Green Energy’s proposal does need approvals from LIPA and the company is negotiating with LIPA, according to Mr. Lettman.

Mr. Lettman told the Town Board that the installation of the solar panels would take six to nine months and would create 60 to 80 full-time construction jobs.

Once competed, 20 to 30 people would work full-time at the facility, he said.

Mr. Walter said the town spends $2.2 million per year on electricity, and in coming up with that figure, Long Island Green Energy may also have discovered some discrepancies in the bill that the town plans to take up with LIPA.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was not present at Thursday’s work session, but  later said she likes the idea. She added that another company is interested in mounting solar panels at various locations throughout Riverhead Town. That company has appeared before the town’s renewable energy committee.

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