County to put up solar array at Saugerties tire dump

Newly installed County Executive Pat Ryan said this week that a proposed solar array in Saugerties and an executive order he issued calling on county government to be 100 percent dependent on renewable energy by 2030 are concrete steps in his campaign trail pledge for a “Green New Deal” for Ulster County.

Ryan, who took office on June 7 made the announcement at a ceremony Tuesday at the County Office Building in Uptown Kingston.’

“We are at this decisive moment in our country and of course in our county. On the one side we face a clearly existential climate crisis,” said Ryan, addressing representatives of local environmental groups and reporters. “On the other side we have this huge opportunity in that crisis … to lean into our green and environmental consciousness and be at epicenter of this emerging green economy that’s happening and gaining momentum.”

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In his first executive order, Ryan set of goal of making county government 100 percent reliant on renewable energy by 2030. In a more concrete step, Ryan announced the rollout of a plan to double that figure — from the 20 percent it is now to 40 percent — with the construction of a solar array at a former tire dump off of Route 32 in the Quarryville section of Saugerties.

The dump has been abandoned for a decade and designated as a brownfield. Ryan said the county had already foreclosed on the property and planned to issue a request for proposals in the next week seeking a vendor to develop the solar array. Once built, the vendor would operate and maintain the facility while county would purchase energy at a reduced rate in exchange for leasing the land. The site will also host a new solar-powered radio tower for the county’s 911 system. Ryan said the project would not require a major capital investment on the part of county taxpayers.

Amanda Lavalle, coordinator of the county Department of the Environment, said the plan, which has been in development for two years, was modeled on one used to create a solar array at a former landfill in the Town of Ulster.

“It’s a major step forward to look at these underutilized brownfield sites in the community and target them for renewable energy generation,” said Lavalle.

The proposed “Green New Deal” was a centerpiece of Ryan’s election campaign. In addition to shifting county government to renewable energy, the proposal calls for banning new fossil fuel energy projects and workforce development programs to link county residents with jobs in the green energy economy.