Thursday, December 22, 2011
Solar Power Plan Supported By Council
Greenskies is a company founded by Robert Landino, whose Centerplan Construction company is the developer and one of the tenants of the Landmark Square building, which houses the Rite Aid Pharmacy near the south end of Main Street. Landino told the Council that Greenskies has successfully put in photovoltiac panels for Walmarts, Target, and other companies in New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Public Act 11-80, it authorized municipalities to contract with for-profit companies to purchase renewable energy. By collecting all of the State and Federal subsidies for renewable energy, Greenskies is able to make a profit while charging municipalities considerably less than they currently pay.
The proposal is for Middletown to purchase 3 megawatt hours (MWh) from Greenskies. The initial installation of solar panels would be on the capped landfill in the north end. These panels would supply energy to the city-owned Remington Rand building, which uses about 1/3rd of 1 MWh.
Greenskies hopes that solar panels can be installed on or near other city buildings as well. If not, then further use of solar energy would require that the city be allowed to use "virtual metering", it would have to be able to generate electricity in one location, send that electricity into the grid, and get credit for it at another location where the electricity is actually used. For example, the city could allow Greenskies to install solar panels on city property at the edge of town and "use" that electricity at City Hall.
Landino made it clear that he was working closely with state legislators to influence legislation so that Greenskies could make money buying solar panels and selling electricity to municipalities. He was hopeful that the legislature would fix what he considered minor technical issues with the laws when it reconvenes in March.
Councilman Todd Berch elicited from Landino that he needed about 5 buildable acres to house enough solar panels for 1 MWh. Councilwoman Hope Kasper questioned City Planner Bill Warner about where the city might have 15 acres of buildable land available, for the contract of 3 MWh. Warner told the Council that the City has several options, but said that some of them would likely require the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve changes to the zoning code. He did not specify where the land might be.
Landino told the Council that he needed to have the contract signed before the end of the year, in order to take advantage of a Federal tax rebate program. He acknowledged the concerns of several members that they were being rushed into making a decision. He explained the last minute nature of the proposal by saying that the State Legislature did not act until June, and he decided to wait until after hotly contested municipal elections before approaching the City. Councilman Tom Serra reassured Landino that The Council didn't mind, "It's like studying for an all-nighter at college exams."
The Mayor said that a lawyer specializing in energy issues, Matt Ranelli, of the firm Shipman and Goodwin, had provided advice and would participate in the negotiations. Ranelli has suggested a number of safeguards for the City to include in the contract. according to Mayor Drew.
The Council approved the authorization without any dissenting votes.