Broome solar farm now generating electricity

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A year and a half after construction began on a solar farm in Conklin, the panels are finally generating electricity.

Broome County officials held a news conference Wednesday to celebrate the start of power generation.

The switch was flipped about two weeks ago at the 22 acre county-owned property within the Broome Corporate Park.

The solar array is operated by Tesla, which bought out SolarCity, the original developer of the project.

Broome will save money with the project by purchasing electricity from Tesla and then selling it to NYSEG at a higher price through a process called net metering.

However, last year, after construction of the array was complete, NYSEG sought to change its net metering process which could have lead to them paying a lower price for the power.

Commissioner of Public Works Leslie Boulton says Tesla objected and prevailed.

“This is grandfathered.  We set this up under certain conditions because this was the way it was.  And this was a fight that was going on with electrical companies across the state.  So, they held off on finalizing and putting it into the grid until we could get NYSEG to agree to how we had set it up originally,” said Boulton.

Local energy activist Victor Furman attended the news conference.

He’s been a critic of the project.

Furman argues that the removal of a thousand trees to make way for the solar farm offsets its benefits to the environment.

“This solar farm is already two years old.  These panels are already two years old.  They lose 1% of their efficiency each year due to dust, rain, snow, it’s all scratching this glass,” said Furman.

The county currently has a 20 year contract with Tesla which pays the company 7.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

Last year, NYSEG paid on average 9.4 cents in credits, although the number varies.

Based on that average, the county expects the credit to save it a minimum of $140,000 per year.

Those credits will be used to offset electricity consumption at the Arena, County Office Building, airport and Public Safety Building.

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