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Madison County to get more power from solar

Ellen Abbott
A solar array in Madison County will supply 70 percent of the power used by county government

The sun will be the source of electricity for about 70 percent of the Madison County government complex from now on. 

Tucked between some cornfields and brush on a rural Madison County road, are more than 7,500 ground-mounted photovoltaic solar panels. The solar array will produce more than 2.8 million kilowatts of renewable energy every year, and that’s enough to keep most of the lights on at the county office building and county jail. County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Sullivan says turning to solar to provide electricity for government offices makes sense in a couple of ways.

“It’s going to get the taxpayers a break. We’re going to provide power via credits to the county office building. And this is something that reduces greenhouse gases,” said Sullivan.

The array was installed and is owned by a private partnership. In turn, the county promises to use the energy produced by the panels for 25 years. Over that time, it’s expected to result in more than $3 million in cost savings for Madison County taxpayers.

Sullivan thinks Madison County can be a model for other municipal solar energy programs.

“We're hoping this ripples throughout the state, and who knows, maybe beyond that,” said Sullivan. “To be able to inspire different governments and private entities to work together and to provide such a valuable resource.”

Chris Carrick, energy program manager of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, says other county governments in New York are also considering solar.

“Oswego county is looking to develop enough solar to power about 90 percent of their needs. This project will cover about 70 percent of Madison County. We’re working with Cayuga and Cortland counties now with our portfolio, so more and more municipalities are looking at it,” said Carrick.

He believes the next progression of solar is to create arrays with governments as anchor customers and residents and small businesses using the rest of the energy.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.