WHITESTOWN— Solar panels are being installed at a brisk pace on land adjacent the county Department of Public Works facility, 6000 Airport Road.
The solar farm is on schedule to to be connected to the power grid by December, possibly sooner. Once the work is finished and the system is capturing energy from the sun, Oneida County is looking for an annual savings of $12,131 on energy costs.
The county is working with California-based SolarCity on this project. Under the 20-year agreement the company owns, installs, and maintains the solar panels for the county. In exchange, the county agrees to buy power generated by the solar farm from the company at a lower rate than what it would pay a conventional utility.
The 6,642 panels being attached to frames erected on the open land will produce enough energy that’s equivalent to what’s needed to power nearly 216 homes a year, according to SolarCity. About five acres of land is involved.
The Board of Legislators approved the agreement in April.
Meanwhile, SolarCity and Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo broke ground in Buffalo Tuesday on a 1.2 million square-foot solar panel factory. Under the deal, SolarCity would spend $5 billion, while New York would provide $759 million in support, a large portion of that expected to be in the firm of cheap power from Niagara Falls.
The new factory on the site of a former steel mill could be open by early 2016, with full production a year later.
The plant would be built on property owned by SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany, formerly called SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Under the deal with SolarCity, the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area.
Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it.
The project would be one of the first examples where a company would partner directly with SUNY Poly on a large-scale manufacturing site rather than just research and development.
SUNY Poly has also sought to use this same model in Marcy where it owns a site that is being developed in hopes of attracting up to three computer chip manufacturing plants.