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Lewis County officials embrace solar energy

U.S. Department of Agricuture
Flickr, Creative Commons
Lewis County officials plan to fill a nine-acre parcel of land with solar panels.

Lewis County is now looking to solar to help save on energy costs. County officials expect the new solar project to generate enough power to supply half the energy needed to run the municipal hospital and county offices.

Lewis County plans to fill a nine- acre parcel of land behind the Public Safety Building in Lowville with enough solar panels to produce two-megawatts of energy. Chairman Mike Tabolt, head of the Lewis County Board of Legislators, is negotiating with Greenskies Renewable Energy to develop the solar array.

“Well the county actually doesn’t put any money up front. That’s the beauty of it,” Tabolt said.

The developer will be responsible for the cost of the array. In return, the county will pay a fee to use the power.  Tabolt says state tax incentives played a big part in the decision to pursue solar. Switching to renewable energy also means the county may save as much as 6 million dollars in energy costs.

“You combine that with the monetary value of the incentives and it makes it a lucrative deal,” said Talbot.

Lewis County has become a leader in reaping the benefits of renewable energy. The Lyons Falls hydropower facility creates over 5 megawatts of power. The Maple Ridge Wind Farm spread across Lowville’s skyline is the largest in the state. Tabolt says yes, there's an obvious financial incentive associated with supporting green energy, but he says  county officials care about the environment too.

“I think we’re really taking advantage of what nature offers us between the wind and sun and we also have a project going now where we are encouraging people to recycle more,” Tabolt said.

Philip Hathway,  who leads the county legislature's Ways and Means Committee, says he thinks county residents are behind officials on green choices.

“Let me put it this way, we don’t get much negative.  Regarding the solar, one thing we did get is why aren’t we doing another wind turbine?”

Hathway says if negotiations go smoothly, the solar array will hopefully be up by fall of 2016.