Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
Broome County, New York is now into the self-deception business, promoting nonexistent solar “savings” when what the county needs is natural gas development.
We have nothing against solar energy–honestly. Yes, in one sense solar competes with natural gas, but hey, let the best energy source win! Truth be told, we need all energy sources, not just one. So please understand this is not a “bash solar” story. However, we do have a problem when politicians and anti-fossil fuel zealots insist we must use one source of energy over another. That’s just not American. And it doesn’t make economic sense either. You may hear that solar is cheap and getting cheaper. Some claim solar now produces electricity at a lower cost than natural gas. Not true.
Here’s a comparison.
Earlier this week Broome County celebrated the startup of a “large” solar farm on 20 acres of county-owned land in Conklin, NY. The official ribbon cutting was a big affair with the county executive claiming the county will save $140,000 a year with the facility–a facility that’s a year-and-a-half late going online. Fair enough. Who doesn’t want to save $140K a year, right? Not that a single taxpayer in Broome County will notice the 10 cents per tax bill they end up saving.
Meanwhile, over the past ten years in Susquehanna County, PA (just south of Broome County, shares a border with Broome), natural gas drilling has been going great guns. In Susquehanna County, a single driller, Cabot Oil & Gas, has put $1.5 billion into the pockets of private landowners through signing bonuses and royalties, and has spent another $3.5 billion on drilling (over $5 billion total spent)–all in Susquehanna County. It is an economic miracle. Tax revenues in the county have gone through the roof! Millions have poured into tax coffers because of the gas industry. Cabot, a single driller, is providing 2.5% of all the natural gas produced in the U.S.–from Susquehanna County.
And that’s just one driller! There are more drillers in Susquehanna. We’d estimate that at least $7-$8 billion has flowed into the county over the past 10 years. Mind blowing. And yet, here in the Binghamton area, local media has a blackout and refuses to report on Susquehanna County’s economic miracle.
Meanwhile, Broome residents are told to get all excited about saving $140K a year. We’re being asked to jump up and down and feel good about a few economic cracker crumbs when 15 miles away everyone eats economic filet mignon. And, now a group of antis masquerading as a solar group is trying to snow even more Broome residents into thinking solar is our energy savior. They’re selling a bill of goods.
Broome County’s “large” solar farm was supposed to be online long ago. This story is from February of this year, stating the project was already a year late at that point:
A large solar farm in the town of Conklin may become operational within the next several weeks – almost a year later than originally expected.
When the $4 million project was announced by then-county executive Debra Preston, the plan was for the facility to go on-line by spring of last year.
Actual construction on the solar farm on the 20-acre site near the Broome Corporate Park south of Powers Road was completed around the end of last summer.
County executive Jason Garnar Thursday said it is going to be on-line “very soon.” He said that could happen “probably within the next month or two.”
Speaking on WNBF Radio’s Binghamton Now program, Garnar said the county has been working with NYSEG and SolarCity to finalize a rate agreement. Energy produced by the solar farm will be sold to NYSEG.
SolarCity partnered with the county to build the solar systems. The company owns the solar farm, which it is to maintain.
Garnar said when the project was announced, there was a promise it would “save the county a lot of money every year.” In reality, he said, the county may not actually see any net savings as a result of the solar farm.
County public works commissioner Leslie Boulton said a connection to NYSEG’s system still must be completed. She said the utility installed some poles to link the solar farm to the grid.
SolarCity project director Dan Leary could not be reached Thursday to discuss the rate agreement that’s been reached with NYSEG.
Broome’s first solar farm finally went online sometime in June. Earlier this week county officials gathered to celebrate:
Broome County expects its solar energy project to save $140,000 each year now that it is generating energy.
The largest solar project in Broome County was unveiled Wednesday morning after beginning to generate energy at the end of June. The county says it could save nearly $3 million over the next 20 years.
“Its great to have this up and running,” said Jason Garnar, county executive. “I really believe this is the future along with a lot of other energy sources this is what were moving into.”
Energy created by the solar panels become energy credits. Those are used by the county to use to reduce energy costs. Energy credits generated by the panels will go to four of the county’s largest energy users: the County Office Building, The Floyd Maines Veterans Arena, the Binghamton airport terminal and the Public Safety Facility.
The solar farm was built on county property in Conklin, consisting of two separate arrays. The size of the north and south arrays generate about 5.2 megawatts. The panels create energy that is measured in kilowatt-hours, with one kilowatt-hour is the amount of energy it takes to power a 100-watt lightbulb for 10 hours.
It’s expected to produce about 6.1 million kilowatt-hours of energy in its first year, enough electricity to power 567 homes, on annual average.
The county receives a credit from NYSEG for the energy collected by the solar grid. The county has a contract with Solar City, which built the project and owns and operates the array. The county pays Solar City to generate at a cost per kilowatt-hour.The amount of money the county saves is based on the difference in what it is getting from NYSEG and what it is paying to Solar City.
According to the Commissioner for Public Works, Leslie Boulton, the county looks at trends in electrical costs when they make these agreements to ensure that the amount the county is paying Solar City is lower than the amount the credit the county is getting from NYSEG, that is where the counties savings comes from on this project.
Not everyone is as excited about this project as the county is.
“A lie is being pushed upon the community about solar energy,” said Victor Furman, a natural gas proponent from Chenango Forks who was at the county’s solar farm unveiling. “I did an extensive study and FOILed for county records and contracts I got over 700 emails. In those emails they said they were selling it for five cents higher a kilowatt-hour then what they’re paying for it now.”
According to Furman the county had previously been telling people that it would be getting five cents more per kilowatt-hour of energy generated than it is now.
“Whether the contract changed or not I have no idea, but I think the public is being shammed here, I think the environment is being shammed, I have nothing against solar energy. If solar is as good as they say it is then why do they have to lie to people about it?”
According Furman over 1,000 mature trees were cut down to build the solar project.
The project was finished last year and did not come online until recently, once the county was able to negotiate contracts with NYSEG and Solar City.
Again, we’re not bashing solar as a technology and energy source. We’re happy for the project, happy it’s online, happy the county will save a few bucks each year–some of which may (or may not) show up in people’s tax bills. All fine and dandy. But please don’t tell us how solar is the future and changes everything, and that we must purchase solar energy.
A group calling itself Southern Tier Solar Works is sponsoring an event next week at the Broome County Office Building to promote more solar farms in the area. Fine. Go for it. However, it’s important to know that the people behind the organization are some of the same antis who fought tooth and nail against allowing shale drilling in New York. MDN friend Frank Chernega is encouraging folks to show up at next week’s meeting and ask them tough questions–the kind of questions they asked at gas meetings in years gone by.
What about issues like frying birds, intermittent power, and toxic waste from solar panels at the end of their useful life? How do you justify using hundreds (thousands) of acres for solar panels to produce the same electricity it takes one 10-acre natural gas plant to produce? Can you defend cutting down trees and taking crop acreage out of production? If their preferred energy source is so great, they should be happy to defend it, be ready with answers to tough questions, and explain why they believe solar crumbs are better than natural gas filet mignon.
The event is on Wed., July 25. Here’s a link to register (free):
Editor’s Note: Jim’s comparison is very apt, as always. Let me add that this; there are no solar savings. Broome County taxpayers will be paying far more, not less. There are three specific reasons.
First, the “savings,” as Vic Furman noted here don’t add up if one considers the cost of money and analyzes the financials from a rate of return perspective. It’s a thoroughly rotten deal for Broome County.
Secondly, the only reason any of these solar deals makes sense is if the energy produced is fed into the system at essentially retail prices (net metering), when the reality is that the electricity produced is often valueless because its generated at the wrong time of day when it’s not needed and is not available when it is needed (cold nights, for example). This means other ratepayers in Broome County and the rest of New York are either paying too much for solar energy they don’t need or paying for dispatchable energy from some other source to fill the gaps. Ratepayers are ripped off both ways.
Finally, there is the big rip-off. I’m talking about SolarCity, of course, which is the epitome of the taxpayer boondoggle, part of Corruptocrat’s Buffalo Billion scam. Hundreds of millions of dollars are hard-earned New York taxes paid to the Empire State have gone into subsidizing Elon Musk and his two cousins.
Put it all together and there are no savings whatsoever from Broome County taxpayers; only ever growing subsidies as far as the eye can see as the county is denied what it really needs — natural gas development. Get to the meeting and speak up!