Franklin County looking to share solar wealth with towns

BOMBAY — Franklin County’s solar array at the former Malone village landfill is projected to generate more electricity than the county needs, so officials are looking into sharing the wealth with local towns.

County legislature Chairman Don Dabiew attended the Bombay town board meeting Monday as part of an ongoing effort to gauge the amount of interest towns might have in using a portion of the power being generated by the county’s solar project. Any buy-in by the towns would have to happen quickly, as adding the municipalities to the project would require changing electricity meters — something National Grid does only once a year, Dabiew said.

The changeovers are scheduled to be done in the middle of the month, Dabiew told the Bombay board.

While the decision needs to be made quickly, towns that sign onto the project may not see any benefits for some time, Dabiew said. The array is currently generating electricity, but the output is small — in large part because of current weather conditions, he said.

“It’s going to take a while to get the whole thing up and running,” he said.

As the excess power becomes available, it will be allocated to the participating towns based on a percentage of their power use, he said.

Several towns have already expressed interest in tapping into the county’s power pool, and Bombay joined that group Monday, voting 3-0 to move forward with the meter switch. The vote was conditioned on a review of the town power bills to see if they would actually save money from the effort.

Town officials noted that their current electric rates are about the same as what they would be paying after joining the county, but Dabiew noted that rates are likely to increase in the future, making the county’s offer more attractive. He also noted that the town is currently paying a high rate for its street lights — an area where the county-supplied power could be less costly.

If the change would not result in any savings for the town, officials could simply opt out of the agreement.

“You can’t get hurt by it,” Dabiew said.

The county and the village of Malone had contracted with HESP Solar in 2016 to build and maintain two solar farms — one for each entity — both of which would be located on top of the former village landfill in the town of Malone. The two construction projects, which were taken over by Helios Energy later that year — cover a total of nine acres of land, with 11,258 solar panels and 58 inverters.