AN EXAMPLE OF the many styles of solar energy panels gracing roofs aross the country this particular example is from a California company which can evaluate the solar potential for any given structure through satellite data. On Monday, the Callicoon Town Board debated the long term costs of putting panels on buildings, requested more information before moving ahead.
Callicoon makes plans to go 'solar'
By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE The Town of Callicoon is looking to the top to save money.
The top of the buildings that is.
Supervisor Linda Babicz laid out a plan Monday to install solar energy systems at the town hall and town barns that would take the town off its dependence on electricity and oil.
Solar panels placed on the roof of the town hall in Jeffersonville would replace electricity used to run everything from the lights to the photocopier while the solar system at the town barn could also harness the sun to heat the water in the barn floor.
Using a $125,000 line item from Albany, secured by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Babicz said the town can then apply for some $210,000 in grants from the New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) to fund the $335,000 project.
Even the project proposal came free of charge, written by Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development member Dick Riseling, a town resident.
The proposal met with curiosity from members of the town board who peppered Riseling with questions regarding the systems’ maintenance requirements, life and expected costs vs. savings.
The project itself will be covered, Riseling assured them. NYSERDA would cut a check for its portion directly to the company hired to complete the job.
The remaining portion which Babicz said Gunther has promised would have to be funded by the town, with a reimbursement from the state.
As for maintenance, Riseling said the warranty on the systems guarantees they’ll continue to operate at 95 percent capacity or more for 25 years. That means they’ll generate at least 95 percent of the energy the systems can create from the sun’s rays for a quarter of a century.
As for act of God damage issues, Riseling said the town will have to check with its insurance carrier to see what is covered but even that should be minimal.
“They say you can shoot it with a BB gun,” he noted.
Savings, Riseling told the board, should be above and beyond the $7,700 in electricity bills the town paid last year. An expected increase of 8 percent per year in electric costs means over 25 years the town would also see its electricity bills grow.
“This thing actually appreciates in value every year,” he said.
A few town officials voiced concern. Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Zieres pondered the unbalanced load on the brand new town barn roof if solar panels are spread across just one side.
The company hired should take that into consideration, he reminded the board.
Town Bookkeeper Joe Anne Baker said she’s in support of self-sustainability and “going green,” but she warned the board against promoting this as a money saver.
Instead of spending the money currently budgeted for energy on other projects, Baker said it needs to be put into a savings account to pay for a replacement to the solar system at the end of that 25 years.
“I just don’t want the board to go into this thinking we’ve got $335,000 worth of equipment free and we’re saving $8,000,” she warned. “I’m not saying don’t do it, but I want the board to understand . . .”
Her statements were pooh-poohed by Callicoon Center resident Bill Engle, who stood up to tell the board to act and act now.
“To make a decision not to do something because of what might happen 25 years from now is a stretch,” Engle said.
Board members in turn told Babicz they’re encouraged by the idea but requested more information including a review of the insurance implications and feedback from other New York State towns which have dealt with NYSERDA to install similar systems.
With Gunther expected to attend the board’s October meeting, members agreed to meet on Monday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal.