New York Supermarket Chain Participating in Community Solar Industry

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Tops Friendly Market of upstate New York will be joining the community solar industry with a new agreement with Convergent Energy + Power. The energy storage and generation developer has plans for a series of three community solar facilities that will also feature storage. The size of the units and storage will make them “large-scale” to accommodate the needs of the supermarket and an overflow of home-owning subscribers. The agreement between the solar developer and Tops is a long-term agreement that will serve the community for an undisclosed amount of time, though typical agreements last 20 to 25 years.

As part of the arrangement between the developer and the supermarket chain, the community solar facilities will serve 75 stores. Power generated by the trio of solar-plus-storage installations will filter out to the stores, providing Tops with low-cost energy over the 25-year span of the agreement. Though the 75 stores will take up a large percentage of the solar capacity, there will still be room leftover for homeowners throughout upstate New York. These participants will be able to join the community solar industry in reducing carbon emissions while decreasing their monthly utility bills. 

The three solar installations will allow homeowners and tenants to participate in clean energy without having to shell out money for costly solar panels. Programs like this keep homeowners from having to reserve space on their property or rooftops for large panels while providing a similar benefit that saves money and helps protect the environment. By participating in the community solar industry, residents of upstate New York are reducing their carbon emissions. In the long run, this helps the state achieve Governor Cuomo’s net-zero carbon plan. Cuomo has been a vocal proponent for reducing emissions throughout the state, and the increase in developments across New York has shown a willingness to follow the governor’s environmental plan.

The agreement between Convergent and Tops is another project that will help the state reach its 2030 goal. Upon activation, the three facilities will result in 57 megawatts with a 123-megawatt battery storage system built across all three sites. The storage is designed to back up the community solar installation on days of little to no sun. Should the demand of the region exceed the capacity of the facility, the 123-megawatt storage will kick into gear. From these batteries, homes and businesses will be powered until the installations can start generating again. 

Just before the announcement of the deal between Tops supermarket and the solar developer, Energy-Storage.news reported on equipment for the three installations being provided by GE Renewable Energy. This includes integrated solar inverters and solar storage batteries. GE will remain a part of the project with a 20-year service agreement on all equipment provided. In the event of a malfunction, GE will step in to provide maintenance.

The state’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) tariff is part of the agreement. Established by the Public Service Commission, VDER compensates subscribers to such programs just for helping generate clean energy. The compensation is based on how much energy the supermarkets will be responsible for adding to the grid. A distributed energy resources project will ultimately determine the value of what Tops is providing to the grid and provided payment accordingly. Convergent’s Frank Genova confirmed that the supermarket will be paid through VDER credits, stating that the method increases access to the generation of renewable energy and allows customers to draw power from off-site solar farms.

According to Genova, the VDER credits will span up to 25 years, though it’s possible the agreement between Convergent Energy + Power and Tops Friendly Market will extend beyond the two decades.

During development and once the sites are operational, they will generate jobs for the local communities. The short-term positions will help inject money into the local economy while the introduction of the community solar industry to Tops will help create a revenue stream for the local municipalities. The benefits of community solar installations expand beyond the key players, including the local government, Tops, and the subscribers to the program. Community solar helps promote a cleaner environment for future generations.

The trio of projects is just a sampling of movement in the community solar industry for New York. Since the beginning of the year, solar developers and local communities have been in the spotlight for new developments being considered for regions like New Woodstock, Cazenovia, and additional locations throughout New York. The push for community solar came after Governor Cuomo revealed his plan to switch the state to 100% sustainable energy. 

In February 2021, Cuomo revealed his plan to use community solar to drive his goal of reaching a generation capacity of 75-megawatts by 2025 or having 3,000-megawatts in solar storage by 2023. By focusing on the community solar industry, Cuomo and solar developers are providing residents across the state an opportunity to take part in the movement. In return, they’ll receive approximately 10% off their standard utility bill. There is no commitment to registering for community solar and no long-term costs. If a homeowner wishes to cancel their subscription, they can do so with ease.

Though the focus of the three community solar sites will be Tops Friendly Market, energy from the facilities will make its way to residents, as well. The goal isn’t to prevent residents from participating, so most community solar sites are designed to allow for at least a small percentage of homeowners. 



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