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Rooftop solar panels in Poughkeepsie, NY. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_New_York#mediaviewer/File:Rooftop_Photovoltaic_Array.jpg">Lucas Braun</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Rooftop solar panels in Poughkeepsie, NY. Photo: Lucas Braun, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

California solar company eyes land at Plattsburgh Airport

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Solar energy is on the rise in New York State, thanks in part to a company from California, and state incentives that make it more attractive to do business here. SolarCity already has plans for developing solar farms in Glens Falls, Queensbury, and Schenectady. The Plattsburgh International Airport may be next.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

When Governor Andrew Cuomo first announced his solar incentive program for New York back in 2012, Jennifer Jachym was living in California.

"And when this initiative was announced, I said, 'I've got to go back to New York.'" 

In April of this year, Governor Cuomo announced a 1-billion-dollar boost to the incentive program. Jachym says the market is hot.

"I mean, you don't really think of New York state as a solar market. Doesn't get nearly as much sunshine as California or some of the other markets that are out there. But with a billion dollars behind it, it's – you're going to be seeing solar happen in New York."

Jachym is a senior project development manager for SolarCity, one of the leading developers of utility-scale solar arrays in the country. She says the rural landscape is ideal, because of all the open space.

Specifically, SolarCity has its sights set on the Plattsburgh International Airport. It has 10 acres of unused land, which used to be shooting range for the air force.

"Why not get clean energy from the sun, take off some of your reliance from the grid, and save money while you're doing it?" Jachym says.

Here's how this would work: SolarCity would be allowed to set up the panels at the airport, using the company's own investment money and state incentives. Then, Clinton County would get the electricity the panels generate at a below-market price for twenty years.

Michael Zurlo, Clinton County administrator, says the project would reduce the county's electricity bill.

"It is anticipated that this project would save us somewhere around 220,000 dollars a year for the next twenty years," he says. "If there's something that's, number one, good for the environment, but also benefits the taxpayers of the county, we'll chalk that up in the 'win-win' column."

But before that happens, Zurlo says the county has to cut through some red tape. The Clinton County first has to prove to the Federal Aviation Administration that panels on the airport won't distract planes trying to land.

Also, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority – or NYSERDA – has to sign off on the project.

Clinton County has to send a statement to NYSERDA by mid-July.

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