Croton-on-Hudson’s legacy of political and social activism forged a century ago has been more recently buttressed by its role in battling to cap a waterfront dump and repelling a gas pipeline from its shores.
It’s home to the Clearwater Festival, the oldest and largest environmental music gathering of its kind and boasts a volunteer organization whose mission is to “realize an emission-free Croton by 2040.”
“We have a long history of environmental activism: A conservationist stream — protecting the natural environment or restoring it; and a more recent incarnation has been a focus on climate protection,” said Brian Pugh, a lifelong Croton resident who’s served as mayor since 2017.
“Maybe it’s a product of the kind of natural beauty we are blessed with in the Village and a desire to protect that,” Pugh added. “We’re very lucky, we’re one of the few if not the only place in the Hudson Valley with unrestricted public access to the waterfront along basically the entire length of the Village.”
Croton’s environmental commitment is evident in its embrace of green energy. A pair of village-sponsored solar power projects already in place and two more in the pipeline are indicators of why Croton sits atop state rankings for clean energy and climate-smart thinking.
A solar installation on the Department of Public Works building rooftop, producing enough electricity to power 50 homes, is the latest step in a movement started more than a decade ago with a more modest project on the Grand Street Firehouse roof.
Those would be dwarfed by a proposal to cover the Croton-Harmon Metro-North station’s massive parking lot with canopies holding enough solar panels to power the equivalent of about 1,000 homes.
The greening of the village isn’t just about the environment. Power generated by the sun can provide homeowners, businesses, and the Village itself with credits toward discounts of 10 percent on their bills –– moreso during the summer months than a snow-covered February, said Lindsay Audin, who chairs the decade-old Croton Sustainability Committee.
“New York State is one of the most advanced states in this country on this issue,” said Audin, who also is president of a private energy consulting firm. “Westchester County is one of the most advanced counties in the state. Croton is one of the most advanced towns or villages in the county. So yes, we’re at the top, we’re almost at the pinnacle, there are a few others that are nearby but we’re pretty much it right now as far as things that are happening in small villages in Westchester.”
Besides the municipal projects, including village-owned electric vehicles and car chargers, there are also almost 200 solar rooftop installations in homes and small businesses in the Village. A private proposal for a solar farm on the Hudson National Golf Course on Prickly Pear Road could add another local option.
The Village’s energy output will be only a miniscule part of a power grid tasked with replacing the soon-to-be-shuttered Indian Point nuclear generating plant nearby, but Croton is clearly punching above its weight in the coordinated effort.
“Just imagine a team of horses and we’re all pulling in the same direction, but maybe Croton is pulling a little harder,” Pugh said.
Taking Inventory of Croton’s Solar Power Projects
- 2008:Grand Street Firehouse rooftop – producing7 kilowatts, enough to supply the equivalent of one home for a year.
- 2021:DPW building rooftop: 302 kilowatts, supplying power to 50 residential subscribers. The village gets $25,000 in yearly rent from the developer,Ecogy Energy.
- Proposed:Croton Landing Town Park – An estimated 400 kilowatts, supplying power to the equivalent of some 80 homes. Awaiting state legislation to allow canopies in the parking lot. Ecogy Energy would likely be the developer depending on timing. Croton residents would get priority but others would have the option to apply.
- Proposed:Croton-Harmon Metro-North station – 4,753 kilowatts, enough for the equivalent of some 1,000 homes. Solar panels would cover the entire town-owned 2,000-space parking lot. The village would have the right to take up to 40 percent of the power output to be allocated to municipal accounts. The draft lease agreement with Sol Customer Solutions is up for review by the village board on Feb. 17.
Robert Brum is a veteran journalist who has extensively covered the lower Hudson Valley.