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Solar Plant could be installed in Norfolk

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NORFOLK — The Town Council is reviewing a proposal for a solar power project that could generate enough power to reduce substantially electric bills at Hepburn Library, the municipal building and the town highway garage.

Project leader Timothy Opdyke, Northern Lights Energy owner Scott Shipley and consultant Jason A. Clark made their pitch to the Town Council last week for the installation of a solar generation park on approximately an acre and a half of property on Crabb Street near the water tower.

The project would be built to generate 50 kilowatts of electricity, Mr. Opdyke said. He estimated the cost of the project at $187,500.

Mr. Shipley already has been involved in a similar project in Russell. He and Mr. Opdyke initially discussed placing solar panels at the library, but concluded that ground installation at the Crabb Street site is a better option because the library lacks southerly roof surface.

Mr. Shipley said the plan could benefit the town.

“The panels are largely made by the manufacturers to last for 25 years,” he said. “There aren’t moving parts in solar panels; they don’t break. Technology’s been around for a long time. ... What is new is that the cost of this job has improved in the last few years. It is now cost effective to install your own solar electricity system.”

Mr. Opdyke said aid could come from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“Our friends at NYSERDA will give us $1,400 per kilowatt up to 50 kilowatts,” or $70,000, he said.

Mr. Clark said the Friends of the Norfolk Library could donate approximately $25,000 toward the project, and he would lead a fundraising effort for an additional $30,000. The project’s backers also are seeking $57,000 from the Town Council.

Mr. Clark said the annual payback during the loan would be about $6,500 for seven to 10 years. He noted that with estimates showing the project could generate $7,000 worth of electricity a year, the plan could save the town $500 in the first year.

Town Supervisor Charles A. Pernice said the proposal appeared to have merit. “The local library has been losing funding sources. They had money coming from the county. They lost that. Their state funding has been reduced. They are just looking for ways to cut costs,” Mr. Pernice said. “Essentially, with the solar plant, theoretically, if it works the way it’s supposed to work, our electric bills will be essentially nothing, hopefully.”

The next steps in the process include more research, obtaining funds from NYSERDA and taking a trip to Russell to review the recently completed solar project there.

Mr. Opdyke said he was somewhat optimistic the project could be in place for next spring.

At the next town board meeting Aug. 12, “hopefully we would have a proposal they would accept,” he said. “They would hopefully have a contract. Realistically, this will go up next spring. That’s my best guess.”

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