WOODSTOCK, N.Y. — Town Board members are reviewing a proposal to have residents participate in a community electric sourcing program that would provide lower prices for using solar energy.
The program was discussed during a video conference meeting Tuesday, Nov. 17. Solstice Solar Outreach Coordinator Jayne Lino said the municipality could also opt in to electric purchases if the price was lower than the town’s current bills.
In May 2018, board members approved a contract with Natural Power Group that which provides energy from hydroelectric facilities and has been estimated to save the town about 10 percent from the Central Hudson fee. Among incentives being provided to consumers and municipalities are cash rewards for participation.
“Our program … helps local communities,” Lino said, “so when people enroll through a municipality, through a town, we give them a $100 sign-on bonus. … We also have a $100 donation that goes out to the town itself and the town can do whatever they’d like with those funds.”
Lino said officials in Gallatin, in Columbia County, were able to use funds from that program to install solar lighting in a parking lot. She added that participation came from a grassroots effort to explain the benefits of solar and the reduction in electric bills.
“We can run events, we can do … direct mail campaigns, we can post things in different places, we can do emails,” Lino said. “What was successful in Gallatin was running a couple of community events and then doing some direct mail.”
Solstice works as a coordinator with solar developers to find customers who will have Central Hudson agree to purchase electric from that provider, which allows the developer to be paid for the energy it puts into the grid.
Lino also said the state Energy Research and Development Authority has been supportive of programs that allow residents who can’t install solar panels to still make purchases from new mid-sized systems.
“The renewable energy industry and community solar has changed tremendously over the past few years to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up,” she said. “There are no enrollment costs, there are no cancellation fees, people are saving … 10 percent based on their utility’s rate, so whatever Central Hudson’s rate is today (the solar rate), is 10 percent off that.”
Lino added that the town would not have any costs for promoting the program and there are no minimums on how many people participate. The amount of participation is limited by how much solar energy is available, she said.
“We should have room in our solar farms for the next six months to a year,” she said. “Whenever solar farms are full there’s not much we can do at that point.”