SENECA — Anyone who has driven a stretch of Route 14A from Geneva to the hamlet of Hall has likely noticed solar panels being installed on a large tract of land for nearly a year.
The completion of that work was unveiled Thursday, when officials from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and a Massachusetts-based renewable energy company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new community solar project in the town of Seneca.
“Making the benefits of solar accessible to everyone is core to our mission as a company,” said Zaid Ashai, CEO of Nexamp.
The Boston-based company is partnering with NYSERDA and its “Solar for All” program (see accompanying box). The 20-acre site features approximately 13,000 solar panels, and the 5.2-megawatt facility is capable of providing power for more than 700 homes.
Max Joel, team leader for NYSERDA’s NY-Sun program, said a substantial portion of power — up to 1 megawatt — is reserved to provide no-cost solar subscriptions to low-income residents through Solar for All.
The community solar project, called Nexamp Seneca, is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Green New Deal and proposed mandate for 70 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030. Nexamp Seneca was one of nine projects awarded contracts under the first round of the Solar for All program.
Customers not eligible for Solar for All can still subscribe to the community solar project at solarforny.com. People are projected to save about 10 percent on their electricity costs for the life of the project, which will be about 20 years.
“Anyone who gets their electricity from New York State Electric & Gas can participate, not only in the Finger Lakes region but other parts of the state,” Joel said.
Yushi Kawasumi, community and channel manager for Nexamp, said the company was founded about 10 years ago by U.S. Army veterans with a vision for energy independence.
“In the last few years, we saw the potential in community solar and made it our primary focus,” said Kawasumi, who is based in Binghamton. “We believe community solar will change the energy landscape in New York and across the country.”
Kawasumi said Nexamp has another community solar project in Newfield, Tompkins County, and other projects are in the works for other upstate New York locations.
“Traditional solar projects, such as panels on a homeowner’s property or rooftops, are not a viable option for everyone, such as renters. It’s also a large monetary commitment for homeowners,” he said. “Community solar overcomes all those issues and makes solar accessible for everyone.”
Kawasumi and Joel said there is no cost to sign up for community solar, no credit check and no long-term commitment. Subscribers can opt out at any time.
Nexamp Seneca started operations about six weeks ago, after all the panels were installed and hooked up to NYSEG’s grid. Nexamp is leasing the property, which was fallow farmland, from an undisclosed landowner.
“This is an opportunity for farmers to get extra value out of a small portion of their land, and the location here is ideal,” said Keith Hevenor, Nexamp's communications manager. “This is close to the utility infrastructure, which is important for community solar.”