Large-scale solar farm coming to Lansing coal plant site

Tompkins Weekly Staff

The coal power plant in Lansing is moving forward with its eye on clean energy technology – Cayuga Operating Group announced last week it will build one of New York’s largest solar farms at its existing 434-acre site.

Named Cayuga Solar, the proposed project is expected to generate 18 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 3,100 homes; the solar farm’s estimated construction cost is anticipated to be more than $25 million and create up to 150 union jobs.
“The co-location of a large-scale solar farm with an existing coal plant represents the energy transition underway in New York and across the United States,” said Jerry Goodenough, vice president of development for Cayuga. “We recognize and embrace the role renewable energy will play in the better energy future we all want for New York, and this project will help keep New York on a path to achieve its stated renewable energy goals.
“We see Cayuga Solar as an important part of Cayuga’s future commercial viability as well,” he added.

Company representatives said they will be bidding into the upcoming Request for Proposals for large-scale renewable energy purchases by New York State Energy Research & Development Authority and New York Power Authority, and will also pursue bilateral negotiations with entities interested in power purchase agreements for large-scale renewable energy output. NYSERDA and NYPA seek to enter long-term agreements in 2017 to purchase renewable energy.

Cayuga Solar’s location provides two advantages – site control and an existing interconnection – and could speed up the process of getting solar energy to the grid.
“TCAD is committed to assisting renewable energy projects of all shapes and sizes in Tompkins County,” said Heather McDaniel, Vice President of Tompkins County Area Development. “Simply stated, they are good for the environment and good for business. As we have seen recently in the news, siting smaller commercial solar farms can be difficult because of location issues and the expense associated with interconnecting a facility to the energy grid. In this case, those major obstacles have already been addressed. Cayuga owns the land and they are already interconnected.”

In fact, Cayuga Solar has already received an approved position to connect to the New York Independent System Operator energy grid and is working with the Town of Lansing on the necessary permits. The applications will be ready to present to the Town planning board in June.
“Our sources of electricity are evolving, and so is Cayuga’s business model,” said Lansing Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne. “This business plan shows vision, creativity and a willingness to evolve into a supplier of inexpensive and cleaner power to our region.”

The company said the development of the large-scale solar farm is the first phase of its multi-phase development plan for a new Cayuga, one that envisions repowering the existing coal plant with cleaner and cheaper natural gas, and ultimately creating an “energy park” on the 434-acre site to locate manufacturing and other energy-intensive commercial operations.

Tompkins County legislator Michael Sigler spoke positively about Cayuga for developing a future for the plant that includes renewables and natural gas.
“I’m a big believer in the ‘all of the above’ strategy,” he said. “If we want to get to that better, cleaner energy future, we have to be honest that this transition will take time – and it’s going to involve a mix of renewables and natural gas.”

Cayuga Solar representatives have also entered discussions with Lansing School District officials and Tompkins Cortland Community College about incorporating the construction and operation of the solar farm into their school curriculums, establishing the solar farm as an ongoing educational resource for Lansing, as well as an economic and environmental one.
“We know renewable energy will be a significant part of our students’ futures,” Lansing School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso said. “We are lucky to have the chance to be a part of such a significant project, and to have it located almost literally across the street from us.”

A number of local officials were on hand for the announcement last week, and offered their thoughts about the proposed project.
“This project will create an estimated 150 construction jobs and begin to decrease our region’s reliance on conventional sources of energy. The fact that this solar farm is being built at an existing coal plant represents a growing commitment by Cayuga to transition towards cleaner energy,” said state Sen. Pam Helming, R-54th District. “Anytime investments are made to reduce carbon emissions, it is a win for the economic viability of our region and a benefit to the environment. I want to thank and commend Cayuga Operating Company for making this project a reality.”
“We live in distressing times, when our nation’s scientists are making it very clear that the pace of global warming is accelerating, but this proposal for a new solar installation, Cayuga Solar, is cause for celebration and renewed optimism,” added Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-125th District. “It’s a sign that important breakthroughs in attitudes and polices are happening in New York State, breakthroughs that will help to secure the future for generations to come. We are seeing a new combination of government policy and a burgeoning recognition in the private sector that climate change is a serious problem and that it begs a strong response from all sectors to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Congratulations to everyone involved in this worthy effort. It’s one that I’m happy to support.”

For more information about the plans, visit CayugaSolar.com.