Mount Kisco, NY isn’t a larger city, but the Westchester County village recently revealed some major news. As part of New York State’s push to go completely green, the small town unveiled its first community solar program. Though the county has additional projects planned and currently in development, it also is the first community solar project and storage facility for the county. The development was built atop an old landfill at Columbus Avenue that had since been capped and decommissioned.
The village’s first community solar program is designed to generate 575-kilowatts of energy from 1,750 solar panels were installed on the old landfill. That’s enough energy to power over 100 homes throughout Mount Kisco. Until the application for the facility was filed with the Board of Public Utilities, the former landfill remained inoperational for more than 20 years. Despite setbacks caused by the 2020 COVID pandemic, BQ Energy and Sustainable Westchester were able to step up and continue the development of the first community solar project in the small village. In fact, David Sandbank of the New York State Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) stated that more solar projects were in development in 2020 than any other year. To fund the project, NY Green Bank approved more than a $2.20 million loan to develop the land, install the panels and battery storage, and landscape the property.
During a press conference to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of the new facility, Mayor Gina Picinich touted that the people of Mount Kisco were happy to assist the state in achieving its long-term energy goals. Set by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state is planning to reach 70% sustainable energy by 2030, with a longer-term goal of net-zero carbon emissions several decades after that. While private residences switching to solar power is a means of reducing carbon emissions in the village, community solar is a more accessible option.
Unlike private panels, Mount Kisco’s first community solar project won’t require homeowners to pay an exorbitant amount for installation. By the time customers are brought onto a community solar program, the funding is already covered. In fact, participants only cover a small, one-time upfront fee. Homeowners also don’t have to find space for panels, as all the energy generated for the project will come from the landfill site off Columbus. Like private panels, though, homeowners will see a dip in their utility bills once they’re fully subscribed and linked up to the facility.
Mount Kisco residents should see upwards of a 10% discount on their electric bill each month. These savings are an incentive to switch to sustainable energy and to ensure that everyone plays their part in reducing overall emissions. Mayor Picinich clarified that it’s not just about meeting the goal. Developing the facility also ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy and live on a “clean planet.”
To develop the village’s first community solar project, Mount Kisco partnered with the Wappingers Falls-based BQ Energy and Sustainable Winchester. While BQ Energy managed the development of the site on the capped landfill and was responsible for overseeing construction, Sustainable Winchester worked on the backend to start subscribing homeowners to the program. The company performed outreach to bring in potential customers looking to reduce their annual electricity costs.
Additional help came from the NYSERDA’s team at NY-Sun, which provided technical expertise. The agency also sunk around $900,000 in incentives. Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was involved in assessing the landfill site for comprehensive solar development. With the EPA’s approval, construction could commence.
While homeowners and even small businesses and tenants receive ample benefits for being part of the program, Mount Kisco will see financial benefits from its first community solar project. BQ Energy will be paying the village $100,000 each year the facility is active to lease the land. According to the initial lease with Mount Kisco, the term is for 25 years.
BQ Energy’s managing director, Paul Curran, stated that the battery storage units are unique to what the company typically develops. These storage units allow the facility to handle surges when there is an increase in demand, specifically on hotter days during the summer. Even if consumption exceeds what the facility can generate, the battery storage will have a store of electricity that the grid can pull off of. It’s also effective in times of extended rain or cloudy days. Curran believes the storage facility will become an essential part of the future of solar energy, and Mount Kisco’s first community solar project is just a pioneer.
Even Sandbank is touting the inclusion of the solar banks, stating that Mount Kisco’s first community solar project is revered for having this onsite storage. When other facilities throughout New York are unable to generate the necessary energy due to a lack of sunshine or any additional reason, the Westchester facility will be tapped because of its battery storage. In turn, the site will generate more money and be more successful in the long run.
The development of the Mount Kisco facility was originally met with issues when hearings regarding the project were postponed in September 2020. Despite public concern, the project received approval and was able to move forward with development. News of Mount Kisco’s first community solar project also comes shortly after the reveal that another facility is being planned for the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, Westchester, NY. The two towns are only 15 minutes apart, meaning, if approved and developed without battery storage, the Hawthorne site could draw energy from Mount Kisco’s landfill facility.