Woodstock weighs solar partnership

solar SQProceeding cautiously on a proposal to build a solar array at the site of the wastewater treatment plant, Woodstock officials have instructed a town attorney to assess the worthiness of a Kingston company, Solartech Renewables, to serve as the town’s partner in the project.

In the proposal under consideration, Woodstock would sign a 20-year contract, known as a power purchase agreement (PPA), with a private solar developer, such as Solartech. The chosen developer would, at its own expense, build and operate a 750-kilowatt array of photovoltaic panels. The company would then sell to the town, at a fixed price, the electricity required to power the adjoining wastewater, or sewer, plant. The town, whose initial investment would be negligible, would have the option of purchasing the solar equipment when the PPA expired.

The solar array would generate surplus electricity beyond the needs of the sewer plant. The town would sell the excess power to Central Hudson, in exchange for a credit. The town would apply the credit to its total electric bill from the utility company, thereby mitigating the cost of supplying power to municipal properties other than the sewer plant, such as Town Hall, the Community Center, and the Comeau Drive offices.


A January 23 meeting attended by Town Board members Cathy Magarelli and Jay Wenk, who compose an advisory subcommittee to the board on the proposed project; Solartech CEO Todd Roberts; and the town’s attorney for contracts, Ron Pordy, concluded with the subcommittee’s charge to Pordy to review Solartech’s financial records and references.

“This is a long process,” said Magarelli in a recent interview. “Before proceeding with the specifics of a proposal, the town wants to do due diligence regarding Solartech’s finances. After that we can decide whether to recommend [to the full Town Board] Solartech or someone else, or to proceed with a review of a contract.”

Said Wenk: “I feel very good about the meeting. Cathy and I, as the subcommittee, decided that it was appropriate for Ron to continue his study of Solartech’s finances. What would happen if Solartech, or any company [in partnership with the town], went out of business in five or ten years? That is why the financial basis of an agreement is very critical.”

In a January 29 interview, Roberts agreed that the recent meeting had been productive, affording the participants an opportunity to discuss the subcommittee’s ongoing feasibility analysis of the solar project and future steps in that process, including a possible contractual arrangement between the town and his company.

“A vetting process is under way in the town’s review of whether to proceed with the project,” said the Solartech executive. “It’s my understanding that someone would check our references and talk with our bankers. I just heard, secondhand, that someone from Woodstock had contacted a county official about whether Solartech would be a reliable supplier.”


Origins of proposal

The proposal to build a solar array at the site of the sewer plant, off Route 212 east of the hamlet, originated last year when Randolph Horner, a local resident and renewable energy consultant, informed the Town Board that grant funding for such a project was available from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).