Solar Tompkins Surges Past Goal

The amount of solar-panel electricity that Tompkins County residents generate is set to jolt by two-fold before summer 2015...

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By Andrew Casler, via the Ithaca Journal, 11/11/14

Solar House

ITHACA – The amount of solar-panel electricity that Tompkins County residents generate is set to jolt by two-fold before summer 2015, according to the Solar Tompkins program.

Solar Tompkins sold 375 photovoltaic solar panel systems during 2014, which will add about 2.75 megawatts of solar capacity in Tompkins County. The new solar arrays will more than double the amount of residential solar electricity generated in Tompkins County.

The program launched in May and aimed to sell 300 systems before October.

"Our goal setting out had been to double the amount of residential solar in Tompkins County, and we have exceeded that goal," Solar Tompkins Program Director Melissa Kemp said.

About 40 solar panel systems have been installed under the program already, and construction will continue through the winter and into the spring, Kemp said.

Solar Tompkins said it added about 22 permanent, full-time, living-wage jobs in New York.

Under the program, Astrum Solar and Renovus Energy were each contracted to install about 1 megawatt of the solar panels, meaning solar panel systems on about 260 to 360 homes. Taitem Engineering/ETM Solar Works was contracted to install 360 kilowatts of solar panels, about 45 to 60 homes.

Solar Tompkins offering tiered pricing, and customers bought their systems at about 20 percent below the market rate, Kemp added.

In May 2014, when Solar Tompkins launched residential solar PV covered 0.28 percent of the total electricity used in the county, according to Kemp. By June 2015, Solar Tompkins alone will have taken the residential solar PV sector from covering 0.35 percent of the total electricity used in the county to 0.75 percent of the total electricity used in the county, Kemp said.

"All of these are still small numbers, but the exponential rate of growth is really important," she said. "If that rate of growth is continued as markets expect, looking out three years into June 2018, solar would cover 8-15 percent of the county electricity usage."

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority President and CEO John B. Rhodes congraulated the program and said it could motivate other citizen groups in the state.

"As NYSERDA rolls out Community Solar NY, a new component of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's NY-Sun initiative, we hope to see many municipalities and counties follow Solar Tompkins' lead and drive an increase in solar projects in their communities," Rhodes said in a news release.

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