GCEDC accepts two incentive applications

The Genesee County Economic Development Center has accepted applications for incentives for two projects expected to generate $9 million in capital investments.

Bright Oak Solar LLC is seeking incentives to construct a 4MW community solar farm with a capital investment of $6 million. The project would be located on Galloway Road in the town of Batavia.

J&R Fancher Property Holdings LLC plans to invest $3 million to build a 32,000-square-foot, three-story facility on two acres in the Buffalo East Technology Park in the town of Pembroke. The project will add 17 market-rate, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors, with an interior space for commercial tenants, as well as indoor parking and a fitness center.

J&R Fancher is requesting roughly $616,000 of property, sales and mortgage tax incentives. The project is estimated to produce $5.50 of economic impact for every $1 of proposed incentives.

Bright Oak Solar is looking for $979,000 in sales, mortgage and property tax exemptions. The company will make payment in lieu of taxes payments over the next 15 years, which are estimated to generate $122,610 in revenues to Genesee County and $257,845 in revenues to the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District. The total increase in PILOT payments and real property taxes for the project is estimated at $394,139 over 15 years.

“These projects continue the momentum in investments in residential housing and the renewable energy sectors,” GCEDC Board Chairman Paul Battaglia said in a statement. “In just the first few months of 2020 we have projects that will create close to 100 new residential housing units and investments of approximately $28 million in renewable energy sector that will create 26-megawatts of solar energy.”

Because both projects are seeking incentives greater than $100,000, public hearings will be conducted.

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NYSERDA and PathStone part of economic recovery project in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is getting a $4.5 million boost in its economic development arm, with a public-private project aimed at accelerating solar business on the island.

The package involves $3.8 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to train workers in solar energy, as well as energy storage and construction. Additional funds come from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, PathStone, and the Solar Foundation.

The project follows previous efforts by the state, under the leadership of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the island along with much of its power transmission system.

“This collaborative program will equip Puerto Rican businesses and workers with the innovative training and tools necessary to build a more resilient Island that is prepared to face 21st century climate challenges,” said Alicia Barton, CEO and president of NYSERDA.
PathStone, which is based in Rochester but whose economic development programs reach several states and Puerto Rico, “has managed to help hundreds of business owners and individuals in Puerto Rico to improve economic self-sufficiency and quality of life of individuals and communities through entrepreneurial training, technical assistance, financing access as well as workforce development activities,” said Alex Castro, COO of PathStone. The program will operate out of PathStone’s offices in Ponce.

NYSERDA’s $30,000 contribution will help pay for instructors from the State University of New York to train Puerto Rican businesses and workers in the solar field for a year.

Other components of the program include developing a Puerto Rican Solar Accelerator to help improve financing, create a workforce pipeline and develop two solar and storage microgrid demonstration projects.  Additionally, the program provides technical assistance to indigenous businesses so they can play a role in the redevelopment of Puerto Rico.

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Solar cell company gets $4M federal award to scale up

A local company that has been developing a solar panel that can produce more energy and be made more quickly has earned a $4 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up its technology and process.

Energy Materials Corp., a resident company in the Eastman Business Park, announced the award earlier this month. The company makes high-efficiency solar panels that use both sides to collect solar energy–direct sunlight on the topside and reflected light on the bottom. EMC also uses a roll-to-roll printing process that speeds up production.

“This is a scale-up process,” EMC President Stephan DeLuca said of the award. “We’re taking devices that have been made in the lab and scaling up for production.”

The award from the DOE’s Solar Energy Technology Office would cover three years of research and development work, DeLuca said. The project would result in about 10 additional employees; some would be at EMC’s offices in Rochester and others would be EMC employees working at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Labs in Golden, Colo.  The company also expects to double its lab space at Eastman Business Park, DeLuca said.

Though many of the specifics and timelines are still to be determined or can’t be shared right now, DeLuca said EMC eventually expects to produce 3 to 4 gigawatts of solar panels a year, representing three or four times the production promised by Tesla’s so-called gigafactory in Buffalo.

An advisor to the project, Dave Buemi, who holds the title of chief development officer for ECM but isn’t employed by the company yet, said, “For Rochester and the region, this is a completely new way to do solar module manufacturing that has significant advantages and can lead to large-scale employment. It’s a really nice turn of events for the solar industry and for the Rochester region.”

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Heritage Christian Services goes greener with solar array

Heritage Christian Services is the latest entity to build solar power capacity to change its energy footprint.

The nonprofit agency that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has added a 2.7-megawatt solar array in the western Monroe county town of Parma. The array began producing power in December.

Developed and installed by GreenSpark Solar of Ontario, Wayne County, the array provides enough power for 300 local homes and approximately 60 percent of the agency’s electrical needs.

“Our workforce not only does a tremendous job supporting people, but they also care about our environment,” said Drew Bielemeier, senior vice president of operations at Heritage. “The solar idea came from our staff and we are excited to partner with GreenSpark to achieve a more responsible carbon footprint while reducing our costs.”

GreenSpark applied for and received a grant from the state on behalf of the project, which is owned by a third party, Kendall Sustainable Infrastructure, which sells the power to Heritage. The agency is expected to save approximately $2 million in energy costs over the 25-year lifetime of the array.

Bielemeier said the agency will continue working with GreenSpark Solar this year to further address Heritage’s electric needs in the Rochester and Buffalo areas.

Kevin Schulte, CEO of GreenSpark Solar, said, “If more organizations took advantage of the financial benefits of solar energy, the entire economy of the Greater Rochester area would improve.”

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SunCommon NY becomes GreenSpark Solar

SunCommon NY, the local company that has been growing in leaps and bounds by distributing solar power to homes and businesses, has changed its name to GreenSpark Solar.

SunCommon was named No. 1 on the Rochester Chamber Top 100 list for 2017, having grown more than 600 percent over three years.

The company began as Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. in 2002 with a focus on wind energy, but soon grew to include commercial solar power and then residential solar power before partnering with Vermont-based SunCommon in 2016.

An announcement about the change said GreenSpark will  be an independent company and continue to work on solar energy in the Rochester area but also expand its selection of renewable energy. The founders of SED, Kevin Schulte, George McConochie, and Ernie Pritchard, will remain with GreenSpark as CEO, chief operations officer and director of customer service, respectively.

“We believe climate change is a global issue and GreenSpark Solar has a local solution that Rochester has embraced,” Schulte said.

GreenSpark will hold a launch party for its rebranding at the RocWorthy Earth Fest April 18 in the South Wedge near Abundance Food Coop on South Avenue.

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Solar arrays provide power, educational opportunities for Hobart students

A solar power project at Hobart and William Smith Colleges is both making power and producing educational opportunities for students, particularly in the area of sustainability.

The second of two solar arrays began operating in December; combined the two arrays employ 15,000 solar panels to produce 5 megawatts of power.  That’s half of what the Geneva institution requires.

“These solar projects are part of Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ work to reduce our carbon footprint and do what is right for the environment,” said Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Carolee White. “Along the way we hope to realize some financial savings, but our driving force has been to uphold and advance our commitment to environmental sustainability.”

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said the project supports Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s goal for the state moving to renewable power sources for half of its electricity by 2030.  The state’s NY-Sun program, administered by NYSERDA, provided funding for the project.

“I applaud Hobart and William Smith Colleges for committing to reducing their carbon footprint while taking the opportunity to use this project as an educational tool for students who are interested in clean energy careers,” said Alicia Barton, president and CEO of NYSERDA.
Hobart and William Smith student in Professor Thomas Drennen’s Natural Resources and Energy Economics Class helped evaluate solar power proposals for the project. A student also drove the colleges to become a charter member, in 2007, in what’s now known as the national Climate Leadership Network’s Carbon Commitment.

Students will continue to monitor data from the arrays and visit the arrays on field trips connected to classes in economics and technical aspects of solar power, a college spokesman said.

The solar arrays were developed and installed by Dynamic Energy Solutions LLC of Wayne, Pennsylvania. The two arrays lie within four miles of the campus. They feed power into the grid and the college is credited on its utility bill.

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City unveils solar field on a former landfill

The city of Rochester unveiled its new solar field Wednesday, Oct. 25, a project that capped a former landfill and promises to supply 2.6 megawatts of power.

Mayor Lovely Warren, other city officials and developers of the solar energy project held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at the former Emerson Street Landfill, which backs up to a playing field at Edison Technical High School.  The field contains 7,800 solar panels that “will help reduce our carbon footprint by 2,300 tons a year,” Warren said, noting that’s the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road.

The solar panels will help the city meet its climate action plan of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and by 40 percent by 2030, Warren said.

“Climate change is real. We all know that,” Warren said.

The project is expected to start generating electricity in about two weeks, when final transmission details are cleared.

New solar panel array off Emerson Street.
New solar panel array off Emerson Street.

The city is partnering with AES Distributed Energy of Colorado, which owns and will operate the solar panels and will sell all of the power they produce to the city for at least the next 25 years. The city won’t necessarily use the power, which will be fed into the power grid, but will get credit for it on its electricity bills for City Hall and a service center on Mt. Read Boulevard. The city also retains ownership of the land.

The project was developed and built by Solar Liberty of Buffalo, whose vice president, Nathan Rizzo, estimated the cost at $4 million to $4.5 million.  He said the field is one of the largest solar projects on a landfill in the state and that he hopes it will be the first of many.

Warren noted that the city saved $4 million by using iron slag from the excavation of the Port of Rochester to provide a footing underneath the 8-acre solar array.  The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority also contributed to the project.

NYSERDA’s Houtan Moaveni, assistant director of the state’s solar initiatives, said “This is a great project, so let’s do more of them.”