By LARRY ROBINSON
City officials voted Monday to hire a private company to clear the trees off a six-acre plot of land on Chamberlain Street that could some day be the site of a large solar array generating as much as a third of the electricity needed to power city government.
The council voted 7-0 Monday night to hire H. Richardson & Sons, LLC, Ogdensburg, to clear six acres of trees and grind them into wood chips on outer Champlain Street next to the City landfill, at a cost not to exceed $9,600.
City officials plan to use the lot to temporarily store road millings and other debris from the municipality’s Patterson Street Reconstruction Project. However, the site is also being eyed as the possible home of a six-acre network of solar panels. If constructed the array would be capable of generating a third of the power needed to run city government - at a cut rate price for municipal taxpayers.
City Manager John M. Pinkerton told the city council that a resolution could be prepared for elected officials as early as next month to consider whether to have Rochester-based Larsen Engineers submit a proposal to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to receive financial incentives to construct a network of solar panels on the Champlain Street lot.
Mr. Pinkerton said NYSERDA offers financial incentives to select private companies to create photovoltaic systems that not only utilize renewable energy sources like the sun, but can save municipal taxpayers money by providing electricity at cheaper rates.
In the case of Ogdensburg, he said the city is interested in a solar system that could generate a third of the power now used by city hall, police, recreation and other municipal departments.
He said the city government currently uses about 3 megawatts of power annually. It is hoped a future solar array on Chamberlain Street could produce one megawatt of power.
Mr. Pinkerton said there is no downside to having a private company submit their own application to NYSERDA. He said if NYSERDA helps the private company build a solar system, the financial incentives given must then be passed onto the municipality in the form of cheaper rates.
He said those rates would be determined after factoring in the amount of incentives given and the going rate of a kilowatt of power.
Mr. Pinkerton estimated the construction cost at about $2 million.
“Potentially we will contract with an investment firm to put in a solar array which would reduce our cost for electricity by one megawatt,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “We as a municipality, as a city itself, we use three megs. So, it would reduce our cost by a third.”