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Monroe County Water Authority’s solar array goes online

Monroe County Water Authority’s solar array goes online

A 5-megawatt solar array will slice 15 percent off the Monroe County Water Authority’s annual electric bill, and the vegetation beneath the panels is meant to enhance bee and insect sustainability (photo by Kevin Oklobzija).

The Monroe County Water Authority has turned to the sun to cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A newly activated 5-megawatt solar array on previously unused rural land just off Route 441 in Penfield will cover a little more than 15 percent of the Water Authority’s annual electricity costs for the pumping and treatment of water.

“This project is the first step in our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and foster sustainability,” Nick Noce, executive director of the MCWA, said at a Thursday morning news conference.

The solar array was built on 29 acres of a 140-acre plot that is owned by the MCWA. Part of the remaining acreage eventually will be home to a new reservoir, when the need arises.

The MCWA partnered with Sol Systems, a renewable energy company based in Washington, D.C., and the New York Power Authority on the project. Energy from the array is fed into the Rochester Gas & Electric grid, and the MCWA then receives a credit on its bill.

“Not only are costs reduced, but it provides steady, predictable costs,” said Mark Cooper, associate vice president of operations for Sol Systems, referring to the ever-fluctuating cost of other energy sources.

The array was built with bifacial panels, meaning light will be captured by both sides (especially on snow-covered ground in the winter, when sunlight reflects upward). The panels also use a single-access tracking system, so panels adjust as the sun moves.

And to be even more environmental friendly, a carefully selected cluster of vegetation was selected for planting within the solar array to enhance bee and insect sustainability.

“It’s really, truly green and is helping the environment,” Noce said.

Productivity and results will be analyzed to determine whether the MCWA, a not-for-profit public benefit corporation, considers more solar projects in the future.

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