With Sun Edison bankruptcy looming, solar at Southold landfill ‘effectively dead’

Plans to install solar panels on the Southold Town landfill now appear to be on hold after the company that proposed the project is headed toward bankruptcy. 

Sun Edison may soon seen bankruptcy protection, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing made by a subsidiary of the company. According to the filing, there is a “substantial risk” the Missouri-based company goes into bankruptcy due to liquidity issues.

Sun Edison has contracts with many Long Island towns and municipalities — including East Hampton, Suffolk and Nassau Counties and Southold Town — and to build solar energy farms and projects. The company pitched adding a 1.7-acre set of solar panel arrays to the town’s landfill cap last September.

In December, the company got permission for the leasing rights at the property for the next three years, giving them exclusive rights to build a solar farm on the landfill, in exchange for $18,000.

But Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the project — which would have produced about 800 kwh of power — has “been effectively dead for some time.”

The town had expected to earn $22,000 per year from Sun Edison once the solar farm became operational, but with the plans stalled, no money has come in, he said.

Sun Edison did hire an outside firm to do land surveying work at the property, Mr. Russell said. But according to a notice of claim filed in New Jersey by that subcontractor, Whitman, Sun Edison still owes the subcontractor more than $36,000.

Southold Town was also served as part of the notice of claim because it owns the property, said Southold Town Attorney Bill Duffy, adding the town was not liable for Sun Edison’s alleged missed payments.

Mr. Duffy said the town began investigating what their options were for the property on Wednesday, a day after news broke of Sun Edison’s potential bankruptcy.

“I’ve read the articles that they’re in bankruptcy but we haven’t been notified,” he said. Sun Edison will retain the rights to build on the landfill for the next three years, and the town would have final say over any deals Sun Edison may make to sell the rights to another company during bankruptcy proceedings.

“Should that circumstance change, naturally we’d go out with another [request for proposals] and look for a new party,” Mr. Russell added.

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