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Niagara County lawmakers embrace $4.75 solar initiative

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Wed, Sep 30th 2015 09:05 am

Bradt: Deal 'turns vacant land productive to benefit taxpayers'

Niagara County lawmakers unanimously backed initiating contract talks with a solar energy producer Tuesday at a special meeting urged by the Legislature's sole professional accountant, who said inking the deal could produce $4.75 million in savings to taxpayers.

A resolution passed at Tuesday's meeting authorizes the county administration to move forward with drafting a contractual agreement with Buffalo-based Solar Liberty Energy Systems Inc., that will allow construction of solar arrays on vacant county lands. Draft plans suggest the construction of three arrays on properties owned by the county's refuse, water and sewer districts.

"Through this agreement, we are putting vacant county-owned land to use providing a financial benefit to our special districts and an expected savings to taxpayers of $4.75 million," Legislator Randy R. Bradt, R-North Tonawanda, the project's most vocal backer, told colleagues.

Under the arrangement, Solar Liberty will construct the arrays, and power generated by the arrays will be sold on the market by Solar Liberty. The county is set to benefit from an anticipated $744,000 in monetary credits over the next 20 years and revenues in excess of $4 million through construction of the solar energy farms at county-owned sites.

Environmental Coordinator Dawn Timm noted the deal, which takes advantage of the county's grandfathered status under the New York State Public Service Commission's "Remoted Net Metering Solar Projects" program, would allow Solar Liberty to benefit from tax credits to construct the arrays, which she termed "good for the environment."

"By authorizing construction of these solar arrays and entering into this agreement, we as a county are embracing the generation of green energy - renewable alternative energy that has zero carbon emissions," Timm said. "Coupled with the financial benefits to our taxpayers, that's a real positive for our region."

State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, praised the initiative, as well.

"By offsetting Niagara County's energy costs and expanding solar technology, this exciting project will benefit taxpayers, protect our environment and grow our economy," he said. "I'm proud to spearhead clean energy efficiency and incentives at the state level. And I'm thankful that we have such strong partners in local government and business - it's especially encouraging that this venture will utilize a local small business and the expertise of our Western New York workforce."

Solar Liberty's website can be accessed at www.solarliberty.com.

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