Community Solar Farms Now Legal in NYS

There was a big event last July that passed by without notice.  The NY State Public Service Commission issued a state-wide order allowing community net metering for local power. People will be able to have solar panels at a shared location instead of in their yard or on their roof.  The new rules apply to other renewables like wind and small hydo sites.  People in Wadhams and St Regis Falls, for example, will be able to buy their power from the small hydro sites in their hamlets. Old dams will become more interesting candidates for restarting small power production.

The big news is it means people living in homes in the woods, on small lots, or living in apartments will be able to participate in solar power deployment.

A summary of the ruling can be found here.

Full text of the ruling can be found here.

Here is my quick summary

Any type of group can be a Project Sponsor except the incumbent power company.  It can be a business, a church, a town or non-profit.  The Project Sponsor has to build, interconnect and operate the array.  It also has to manage information and accounting for credits.  Members of the project (a minimum of ten) buy, annually, credits in 1kw units.  The credits are applied to their home power bill, valued at the current retail power rate.  You can only buy credits up to your total power consumption.  You can transfer your membership to others.  The maximum size operation is 2MW.  I find answers to the question of “How many homes could 2MW serve?” range from 330 to 1000.  In any case there are only about 1000 homes in Keene, where a group is contemplating a project.  Lots of Adirondack towns have fewer than 1000 homes.

I am not up on the current rules for municipal solar or schools, but there have been changes for them as well. Perhaps municipal needs and school needs can be handled on these sites as well, at least in small towns.  Large customers can’t use more than 40% of the array.  It is mostly intended for homes.

In the Adirondack Park, prime sites for solar will be old, now capped, town landfills.  Each town owns one. They must be kept as open land and have no other use.  It is common for solar arrays to be built on old landfills, much like they are built on rooftops.  Some of these locations are now transfer stations, so that have power lines in place and are easily reached by existing roads. The landfill ‘caps’ have membranes that need to be replaced every couple of decades, like a roof, and the Project Sponsor could be required to fund and install new cap membranes when needed.   In Keene, the old landfill is very close to the NYSEG substation serving the whole town. It is also home to town highway crew operations.

These arrays are set up to fit the contours of the land.  On sloped land, as in the case of capped landfills, the panel rows curve to the slope.  Curved arrays are less obtrusive and reflective than flat arrays.  Glare has been an issue elsewhere (airports) and there are a variety of ways to deal with it so the resulting array isn’t reflective, just flat black.  2.5-5 acres are needed per megawatt.  The largest it could get is 10 acres.

Old landfills offer cleared sites already owned by each town which should make the solar power almost the same cost as having panels on your own land.  If building the array included the cost of purchasing and clearing 10 acres, that would make it more costly than having panels at home.

Assuming it is not in a hamlet, a landfill array would require an APA permit.    Keene’s location is a perfect south facing exposure.  It will, of course, be visible, as a black area, from surrounding mountains, an issue that will come up in the permitting process.

There are, of course, lots of details you can read in the links provided above.  But this may be a real break through for making solar PV broadly available to Park residents.  At the moment, only a lucky few residents have a location and the space needed for panels at home.  May 1, 2016 is the official ‘opening day’ for this sort of project but proposals can be filed now.


Meeting About Demographics in the Blue Line

Demographic Trends in the Adirondacks
Rockefeller Institute, 411 State Street, Albany
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Co-Sponsored by the Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Adirondack Research Consortium

One of the difficult things about the Park is the problem finding accurate demographic data because the Blue Line does not fit with town lines, school district lines, county lines or any other standard.  We ran into this with ADK Futures.  It is a well known problem.  This short meeting will host presentation of a demographic analysis about the region that was built up using census block data, and adjusted to handle prison populations.  There will also be a presentation about broader trends to put the regional work into context.  Finally there will be an hour or so to discuss the policy implications of the data.

It should be a good meeting.  Real data is always a good thing and often surprises.  The venue means limited space, about 100 people.  So you need to call to get  a seat.  Michele Charbonneau at the Rockefeller Institute at (518) 443-5258 is the person to reach.

2nd ADK Diversity Symposium Next Saturday, August 15

Next Saturday, August 15, 2015, the second Symposium: Toward A More Diverse Adirondacks will be held at the Adirondack Interpretive Center.

Multiple perspectives will be present, stimulating rich conversations exploring a wide range of human diversity issues within the Adirondack Park. This year’s symposium will focus on youth and diversity, and include panels led by regional high school and college students.

A symposium reflection/summary piece written by Dave Gibson after last year’s event can be found on the Adirondack Almanack.

CGA Forum 2015 Climate Change Workgroup

2015 CGA Group Photo cropped

This year’s Common Ground Alliance (CGA) Forum was held on July 15 in Long Lake.  Most of the day was devoted to workgroup activity around 9 topics, one of which was the region’s response to climate change, which we led.  Fourteen people participated in our workgroup and we had very productive and creative discussions.  The summary report on our discussions is available here.

Of particular note was the “fantasy stretch goal” that we were challenged to come up with by the Forum organizers.  Our group put forth the idea that we should set ourselves the goal of doing better than net zero with respect to emissions.  We should have net negative emissions.  This would come about by the combination of dramatically reducing our emissions, in line with what everyone should be doing to combat climate change, and strengthening the health and carbon storage capabilities of our forests and soils through the latest forest management and agricultural practices.  That’s a strategy that we can sign up for!

Report Available on Second Adirondack Regional Responses to Climate Change

On June 15 & 16 we held the second scenario development workshop in our new series on how the region responds to the threat of disruptive climate change.  The full report on the workshop is now available. A diverse and engaged group of 29 people came together for the workshop and really advanced our thinking on these issues.  We encourage you to read the report.  We will continue the discussion at the CGA Forum on July 15 in Long Lake.  Please join our workgroup at the Forum.  The details on how to register are in the previous post.

Registration for the 2015 CGA Forum is Open

The 2015 Common Ground Alliance Forum details and registration information have been released.  It will be at the same Long Lake location as usual on July 15.

Click here to go to the registration and information page.

Jim and I will be there to lead the working group considering how the ADK region might think about responding to climate change.  We have held 2 full two day workshops on the topic – one at Paul Smiths College during a snowstorm last December, another just this week, June 15 and 16 in Chestertown.  Also we held the prototype of a 3-4 hour version of this with a sustainability class at Paul Smiths in May, just before finals, on  Sunday, and 50+ students came.  We also worked in the Southwest this past winter, with the Dept of Interior Climate Science Center in Tuscon and learned a lot about how the west is handling the impacts of climate change on large scale conservation landscapes.  So we will have a lot of information to offer for consideration by people who come to our working group.

Hope to see you on July 15.  There are a number of other work group too, don’t read this and think the Forum is only about climate change.  Click on the link above and find out about the whole agenda.


743 Items of Evidence, and Counting

If you have not seen it, please note we have been monitoring what our region is actually doing vs the ADK Futures scenarios.  You can see what progress is being made here where more than 734 items of evidence show substantial progress toward realizing the vision laid out for our sustainable future.  More evidence is added all the time.

Recall that we were surprised by the strength and depth of the aligned intentions of most people in the region?  Well, if you were surprised by that, the progress since then is actually astonishing, and I encourage you to take a look at the breadth and depth of actions already taken.  Encouragingly, no single person is organizing and driving all this activity.  The progress is made by by hundreds of people in a distributed fashion.  It is clear that the region is making real progress toward what it identified as its desirable and attainable goals.

It is a good news reading, you’ll enjoy it. Look here and click on the header called ‘category’. Then you can look through each category and see what’s been going on.