ATHENS — The village has acquired the number of registrations for a community solar campaign needed to be eligible for a state grant.
The community has partnered with solar energy supplier Nexamp to provide energy to village residents who register for the program that would save them 10% on their electric bill.
If enough village residents registered for the Athens Community Solar Campaign, the village would become eligible to apply for a $5,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or NYSERDA.
“This past week we got the 10 sign-ups that we need in order to submit to NYSERDA for review,” Village Trustee Joshua Lipsman said Monday. “At this point, we have not yet received approval for the $5,000 grant.”
Lipsman is also chairman of the Athens Conservation Advisory Council, which initially made the recommendation to the village board to partner with Nexamp.
“The Conservation Advisory Council sent out letters to a number of companies we were told by the state might be interested,” Lipsman said. “We ultimately ended up with two. One dropped out — they felt they couldn’t help us — but we were very happy with the remaining company (Nexamp). We recommended the village partner with this company.”
A public hearing was held in September, when a representative from Nexamp explained the program.
“Then the board voted to officially partner with this company,” Lipsman said.
The Athens Community Solar Campaign encouraged residents to sign up for the program, which would provide power at a rate projected at 10% lower than traditional power.
The power is generated by a solar farm in the Central Hudson catchment area, Lipsman said.
“With this program, if you sign up for it, you are participating in a solar farm, which checks how much electricity they think you will use and they set aside that amount of electricity in their solar farm to sell to Central Hudson on your behalf,” Lipsman said. “In order to do this, the state has given them money to rebate customers in order to participate in the program. In return, your electricity bill becomes 10% lower than for the same amount of electricity you would have purchased from Central Hudson.”
Nexamp does not have the capacity to provide solar power to Athens users at this time, so they will be put on a waiting list, Clayton Gamble from Nexamp said at the public hearing.
“The actual savings and involvement of the solar farm will be delayed until at least next year because the company does not have the capacity to bring additional participants online right away,” Lipsman said.
No equipment such as solar panels, meters or other hardware are installed for participating customers, and electricity usage is still measured and delivered by Central Hudson, Lipsman said.
“The only way you know that you are participating is that you get two bills at the end of the month — your Central Hudson bill, which is zeroed out, and then your Nexamp bill, which is 90% of what you would have paid Central Hudson,” the village trustee said.
Solar power is expected to be available to Athens residents on the waiting list sometime next year, he added. As Nexamp customers move or switch providers, homeowners on the waiting list will get their slots.
The solar farm generating the power for use by Athens residents can be located anywhere in the Central Hudson coverage area.
“Nexamp has about a half dozen solar farms in the area,” Lipsman said. “These are smaller — 5-, 10-, 20-acre — solar farms. They can be anywhere within the Central Hudson catchment area.”
While the village has acquired the 10 sign-ups needed to be eligible to apply for the grant, officials will continue to encourage Athens residents to consider the program. There is still time to sign up.
“This is a win for residents, it’s a win for the village and it’s a win for the environment,” Lipsman said.