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Solar farms in Spencer to provide energy for 1,700 homes

By Eric Reinhardt


Solar Farms New York, an Albany–based firm that markets electricity from solar farms in upstate New York, on Dec. 1 held a groundbreaking for construction of a solar farm on the Pasto farm in Spencer in Tioga County. (PHOTO CREDIT: SOLAR FARMS NEW YORK WEBSITE)

SPENCER — Eight solar farms now under construction in Spencer in Tioga County represent the launch of “one of the largest solar projects in the Southern Tier.” 

The farms, which crews are building on three properties owned by the Pasto family, will generate enough electricity to power more than 1,700 homes. 

Members of the farms “can enjoy savings from solar electricity without having to install rooftop panels,” Albany–based Solomon Community Solar LLC said in a Nov. 27 news release. Solomon Community Solar does business as Solar Farms New York. 

“Our customers like the flexibility of joining a solar farm without installing expensive and sometimes unsightly rooftop panels,” Jeffrey Mayer, CEO of Solar Farms New York, said in the release. “Unlike the 20-year commitment required for solar panels, our customers can cancel any time without penalty.”

Officials held a Dec. 1 groundbreaking at 350 Van Etten Road, one of the properties where solar panels are under construction.

Mayer wasn’t able to provide specific construction costs for the project in an email response to a CNYBJ inquiry. But he did say that “solar farms are being built in a range of about $1.25 [million] to $2.5 million per megawatt, depending on panel prices, location, timing.”

Edison, New Jersey–based Conti Solar is the project manager with “numerous sub-contractors, many of them local upstate businesses,” per Mayer. He expects crews to finish construction this winter. 

About Solar Farms New York

Solar Farms New York is the company that is marketing the solar electricity to customers who live and work in the Southern Tier. It markets electricity from more than 30 solar farms in upstate New York. 

All of the solar production is currently sold to one utility, New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG). The firm expects the construction of additional farms to meet demand from customers in territories of National Grid (NYSE: NGG) and Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED). 

Solar Farms New York’s sister company, called Solar Farms Massachusetts, markets electricity to customers in eastern Massachusetts. 

Pursuing goal

New York State has made solar farms a priority in meeting its 50 percent renewable-energy goal by 2030. 

“We are excited to have our family farms play such an important part in meeting New York State’s goal to produce 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030,” Cris Pasto, one of the farm’s owners, said. “After generations of growing different crops, we are looking forward to harvesting New York sunshine.”

Crews are installing more than 74,000 solar panels on the Pasto farms, according to Mayer.

Area homeowners have already signed up under the community-solar program that’s sponsored by both New York State and NYSEG. 

“Over 400 NYSEG customers have signed up for the Pasto farms which are the first we are building and filling on the Southern Tier,” Mayer says.

The Pasto farms are among 32 solar farms throughout the state which will begin to supply solar electricity to NYSEG in 2019.

“We anticipate allocating all of our solar-electricity production over the next few months, after which we will start putting customers on our waiting list,” Mayer says. 

Solar program

Under New York’s community-solar program, the farms sell their electricity to NYSEG, which will in turn put credits on customer bills, Solar Farms New York said. Customers will then pay Solar Farms New York for their electricity.

The company will bill customers 95 percent of the value of the credits they receive from NYSEG, resulting in a 5 percent savings on their solar credits.

“We are not an ESCO [energy-service company] and this contract is not an electricity supply contract,” Mayer tells CNYBJ. “Many ESCO contracts have been criticized as ‘bait and switch’ contracts that offer short-term savings at best. Customers are guaranteed 5 percent savings on NYSEG credits which are based on NYSEG prices: If NYSEG prices go up, savings will increase. Moreover, customers may cancel any time without penalty.”

Community solar farms are “rapidly expanding” around the country, supported by utilities which have an “easier time” incorporating solar electricity into their grid when it is produced at a single location instead of hundreds of rooftops. Customers also benefit by avoiding high upfront costs, maintenance, and potential roof damage, Solar Farms New York contends.

Mayer points out that solar farms can offset up to 100 percent of usage, “unlike rooftop panels, which help offset 30-50 percent of a household’s electricity usage.” 

“For homeowners that want to save money and make a material dent in fossil fuel emissions, community solar is a convenient and easy alternative,” he contends.       

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