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Plan for solar array at Southold Town’s landfill moves forward

A plan to solicit proposals for a solar array at Southold Town’s landfill on Cox Lane in Cutchogue is progressing, Councilman Bob Ghosio reported during a Town Board work session Tuesday.

Five companies have expressed interest in harnessing solar power at the facility, but Mr. Ghosio said recent changes within the solar industry could delay plans.

Some issues Mr. Ghosio highlighted are that solar companies must determine how much power local substations can accept. 

“In doing so, there’s a certain amount of investment on their part, prior to giving us a plan,” he said.

Mr. Ghosio also pointed out a new LIPA policy that some stakeholders fear could discourage solar energy production.

In July, LIPA trustees voted to approve changes to their solar policy that include expanding a pricing system, known as Value of Distributed Energy Resources, to community solar programs that allow customers to purchase solar energy even if they don’t have the infrastructure in place at their homes.

Under that system, LIPA pays solar owners less for their power than it currently does, which makes the economic benefit less appealing to the operators.

“It has to be economically viable for them in order to put these projects in,” Mr. Ghosio said, adding that the new LIPA policy is the “antithesis” of Gov. Cuomo’s aggressive clean-energy pledge.

He said there are more hurdles to cross than there were when the town entered into an agreement with SunEdison nearly a decade ago.

The deal with SunEdison failed to materialize after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

“We were bound by the lease up until recently,” Supervisor Scott Russell explained.

Town engineer Michael Collins said that at least one company has requested the town enter a non-binding letter of intent so it can investigate the parameters directly with the utility company.

“I don’t even know whether we could enter into multiple nonbinding letters of intent with multiple companies. That would be a bit clunky, ” Mr. Collins said.

Instead, the town may pursue initial offers from each company, evaluate those and draft a letter of intent with the best offer.

He said that despite the challenges, the project has a “straightforward” benefit as a revenue stream for the town. 

“It’s a straight lease,” Mr. Collins said. “We’re not involved in the design, we’re not involved in the implementation, we’re not building it.”

Mr. Ghosio acknowledged that the project is moving along at a slower pace than he anticipated, but is hoping to present a more tangible proposal within the next couple of months.