In its continued effort to advance renewable energy resources and support underserved communities, Sustainable Westchester has partnered with the New York Power Authority and Westchester County to implement the Westchester Community Solar Partnership program. This first-of-its-kind program allows local governments and school districts to serve as hosts for community solar projects that provide benefits to local residents and small businesses. Sustainable Westchester will facilitate residential and small business enrollments for all resulting community solar projects.
Those who subscribe to the community solar projects at https://solarinstallationleads.net/ will see a guaranteed saving on their electricity bills. Eligible low-to-moderate income residents will be prioritized to become subscribers and receive this savings. The municipalities and school districts that serve as site hosts may also subscribe for savings, as well as receive modest lease payments for hosting the community solar project(s). Initial planning for the Westchester Community Solar Partnership began in 2020 in collaboration with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Westchester County to take advantage of the state agency’s public procurement process to provide local, renewable energy infrastructure funded by third-party solar developers. In 2021, the partnership conducted preliminary site assessments followed by a solicitation process run by NYPA to identify suitable solar developers. In 2022, participating local municipalities and school districts are now advancing community solar projects using their publicly-owned rooftops and parking lots as host sites.
“Many homeowners are ineligible to install solar on their homes for a host of reasons including that they may be renting a property, have too much shade, poor roof conditions, or because of financial restrictions. However, Community Solar is designed to be accessible for all communities and residents, bringing them financial rewards and environmental improvements. We are proud and excited to be partnering with NY-based Ecogy and once again with Sustainable Westchester on an innovative cost and energy saving initiative.” Said Westchester County Executive, George Latimer.
The first step for local municipalities and school districts interested in participating in the Westchester Community Solar Partnership is signing a non-binding memorandum with NYPA, which authorizes NYPA to assess potential sites or facilities for community solar projects. NYPA then assigns each site to a selected developer who in turn assesses the opportunity and makes a corresponding preliminary proposal to the school district or municipality. Viable sites that are approved for the utility interconnection will then become the subject of a host site agreement for a long-term lease between the developer and the municipality or school district.
Currently, preliminary site reviews have identified over 24 viable host sites for solar installations. This roster includes a mix of locations for potential parking canopies over publicly-owned parking lots and rooftops across 7 different municipalities and 5 different school districts. The list of potential host sites will continue to grow as more local governments and school districts sign a non-binding memorandum with NYPA.
Currently, Ecogy Energy (“Ecogy”), a Brooklyn-based developer, financier, and owner-operator, is securing preliminary agreements with the first municipality in a series of upcoming projects and has obtained approvals for a Con Edison interconnection and incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Westchester Power Community Solar program partners will utilize New York’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority NY-Sun Incentive Program, a state initiative offering cash incentives and/or financing for the deployment of qualified solar projects to drive growth in the solar industry, to finance the project. NYSERDA’s NY-Sun Incentive Program offers financial incentives to install solar panels for residential, non-residential, and large commercial and industrial projects. The program is helping New York State advance its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) implementation targets of 10,000 MW of distributed solar and 70% renewable energy by 2030.
“Sustainable Westchester is focused on making it easier for Westchester municipalities to participate in and benefit from the transition to clean energy. The Westchester Community Solar Partnership streamlines and simplifies the process for municipalities and school districts to host solar installations, brings financial benefits to them and their communities, supports community education and engagement, and adds renewable energy to the local grid. It’s a perfect example of our mission in action,” noted Nina Orville, Executive Director, Sustainable Westchester.
Ecogy is building upon its history of leadership in Westchester County which includes the first community solar projects in Yorktown, Croton-on-Hudson, and Ossining, and the largest solar canopy system in Westchester County with the Maryknoll Society. “Ecogy is proud to create rooftop community solar solutions for our fellow New Yorkers and open doors for traditionally underserved communities on which Ecogy has focused for the last 12 years,” said Jack Bertuzzi, Ecogy Principal, “None of this would have been possible without the leadership of the New York Power Authority and Sustainable Westchester, who have been consistently innovative, have progressively supported initiatives that promote renewable energy, and prioritized equitable and just clean energy development.”
In coordination with the vast portfolio of projects, Ecogy plans to install their energy monitoring device, the Econode, which will allow the individual sites to benchmark consumption to further drive efficiency through data-driven results and second-by-second analysis. Furthermore, the data will contribute to the wealth of knowledge used to increase building performance transparency. All projects will have their data accessible, not only to municipalities and subscribers, but also to NYPA’s energy management platform, the New York Energy Manager (“NYEM”), helping to grow the data pool being used to improve energy efficiency statewide.
“Sustainable Westchester is delighted that Ecogy has reached agreement on this first project in what we know will become a large number of successful community solar projects deployed through our partnership on municipal and school roofs and parking lots all over the county,” stated Leo Wiegman, Director of Solar Programs at Sustainable Westchester.
“NYPA, Sustainable Westchester, and Westchester County are actively pursuing innovative and inclusive renewable energy solutions for municipalities and communities that want to provide energy savings to their constituents,” said NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll. “Prioritizing the underserved is a key project element we focus on as part of our role in helping to realize the state’s bold clean energy transition. Community partnerships will serve as a blueprint for renewable energy development for years to come and we are hopeful that our best-in-class examples here in New York State will serve to inspire the rest of the nation.”
For more information on the Westchester Community Solar Partnership, please contact Leo Wiegman, Sustainable Westchester’s Solar Program Director, at Leo@sustainablewestchester.org.