West Seneca Special Town Board Meeting Minutes 01/29/2009
Supervisor Wallace C. Piotrowski called the meeting to order at 4:00 P.M. followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Deputy Town Clerk Jacqueline Felser and 30 seconds of silent prayer in remembrance of Highway Supt. Patrick Finnegan.
ROLL CALL: Present -
Absent - None
AGREEMENT TO PURCHASE SOLAR POWER GENERATION EQUIPMENT
Motion by Councilwoman Bove, seconded by Supervisor Piotrowski, to adopt the following resolution concerning execution of a contract with Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc. (SLES):
WHEREAS, the Town Board of the Town of West Seneca has duly investigated and deliberated upon the issue of contracting with Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc. (Solar Liberty) regarding the construction of a solar energy system known as “Photovoltaic Generating System,” and determined that Solar Liberty is an eligible installer for New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association and the New York State Solar Energies Industries Association; that Solar Liberty has a sound reputation and is a leading supplier of solar power generation equipment, and is the sole contractor/vendor capable of fully completing installation of the proposed solar energy project eligible to receive and qualify this town project for an incentive through New York State Energy Research & Development Authority of approximately $224,920, thereby reducing the total cost of the energy system to the town to the sum of $87,457, and that the use of solar power where possible will result in substantial electric utility costs savings for the town over time; and
WHEREAS, it further appears that the project is such that it requires special or technical skill, training, knowledge or expertise in solar energy installations, such services to be performed by licensed and qualified technicians with substantial formal training, and in addition that Solar Liberty is the sole source contractor or vendor capable of completing the entire project and eligible to receive the incentive for the Town of West Seneca as stated above; and
WHEREAS, the Town Board having further determined that the towns of Clarence and Orchard Park in the County of Erie, State of New York, have similarly contracted with Solar Liberty, such contracts for services requiring special and technical skill, training or expertise from a sole available vendor or contractor being recognized exceptions to General Municipal Law, Section 103, pursuant to case law authority and numerous Opinions of the State Comptroller; and based upon the foregoing, it is
RESOLVED, that the Town Board of the Town of West Seneca hereby authorizes the execution of the aforementioned contract with Solar Liberty and the Application for Incentive to the New York State Energy Development Authority in accordance with said contract.
On the question, Councilwoman Bove stated that she became familiar with solar energy because her brother, a physician and naturalist, applied to New York State and received a grant to install three large arrays of solar energy. She witnessed the benefits he received from this and wondered if the town had the possibility of benefiting also. After researching this issue and checking with other municipalities, Councilwoman Bove had a conversation with Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc., they made a presentation to the Engineering Department, and it was concluded that this would be a good project for the town. The Town of West Seneca had the opportunity to choose an alternative to traditional energy sources and New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) will help make the decision. They offer financial and technical assistance to businesses, industries, and municipalities to address New York’s energy and environmental needs. After research and working with the Engineering Department, it was suggested that they install a 50 kw system at a gross cost of $312,377. Incentive from NYSERDA automatically deducts $224,920 which leaves an out-of-pocket expense to the town of $87,457. The town was considering possible systems for the Senior Citizens Center, Highway Department, and Town Hall. They will be installed on the roof to get the full benefit of the sun. An energy analysis showed the town can reduce its electric bill by 22 percent with an annual savings of $6500 per system the first year, $7153 in the second year, and by the fifth year $9144. After nine years the town will be fully paid back. Also, from the fourth year on, renewable energy credits will be accrued that will pay the town money. There will be metering and monitoring that allows for real time production and tighter management of energy production in the town’s usage. They can use seasonal data for making other comparisons and have information on the town’s website so residents can track the savings. There will be a comprehensive five year service and product warranty, a 25 year limited warranty on solar panels from the manufacturer, annual inspections, routine maintenance, and remote monitoring with automatic performance alerts. Councilwoman Bove noted that Solar Energy has shown to have experience with municipalities with the application submissions to NYSERDA and will provide the engineering, supervision, materials, and equipment to complete the project. Instead of renting electricity from a utility, the town will own its own clean energy production. Solar energy is a safe and efficient form of power and does not require any fuel of any kind. It is a renewable source that is there when the sun is out, and even when it is not out although not as much. It is totally silent and non-polluting, requires little maintenance, has no movable parts, and lasts a long time. Councilwoman Bove noted that one 50 kw system will lower the town’s carbon footprint and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 919 tons of carbon dioxide. With two systems this figure would be 1838 tons and with three it would be 2757 tons. For one system it would be like planting 36,760 trees and for three systems 110,280 trees. Councilwoman Bove commented that West Seneca had a chance to take a step into energy independence, make a positive environmental impact, and ensure a good investment for the taxpayers of the town.
Nathan Rizzo of Solar Liberty Energy Systems, Inc. stated that he and his brother started the company in 2003 and began wholesaling distribution of solar modules and learning how to install systems. Their first installation was in 2005 and they had since grown to be one of the largest distributors in the country. In 2007 they made Inc 500 and were #92, and #5 of all the energy companies in the country. A lot of their distribution and wholesaling was in the European market where they were very far ahead of the United States. Ninety-five percent of the solar panels installed were in European countries. Mr. Rizzo stated that incentives and rebates in the U.S. were getting better, but New York State recently changed their rebate program. Solar energy was a very viable alternative to utility power and there were a lot of great aspects of it. There was no maintenance to the system and no moving parts, and having the modules mounted at a 10 degree pitch allowed the rain to wash any debris off them. The town would also be setting an example and helping residents learn about solar energy and see that it is a viable alternative. The town will not be renting their power any more. They will own a power production facility on the building and be accountable for helping to protect the environment, save money, and doing it in a very low maintenance type of system. Mr. Rizzo referred to the amount of energy the systems produced and stated that they use calculations for Buffalo and factor in the angle the modules will be mounted at and the orientation they will be facing. They are then able to come up with a power performance model.
Town Attorney Edwin Hunter referred to the 10 degree pitch and stated that the panels he was familiar with were much more vertical. He questioned how a 10 degree pitch would accommodate snowfall.
Mr. Rizzo stated that they will shed some of the snow, but the modules will be relatively close to the roof surface. If they were to bring them up so the snow could fall off, it would produce slightly more energy, but during the winter they are not receiving that much sunlight anyway. The calculations account for some type of snow coverage. If they were to mount the modules directly on the side of a building facing south, they would lose about 20 percent efficiency. The 10 degree pitch was chosen because it maximizes the power density per square foot on the building. If they put the modules on a steeper pitch like 30 degrees, they would have to compensate for shading in between each row. Whereas, in this case, more modules are layered on the roof, and thus more power is produced per square foot. A 50 kw system is approximately 50 sf. They are also able to use a ballasted system with the 10 degree pitch. The roof is not penetrated; ballast blocks are used to weight the system down for 90 mph wind resistance. On a higher pitch, more ballast blocks would be necessary and in most cases the structure would not be able to hold the additional weight of the modules and ballasts.
Supervisor Piotrowski questioned the warranty coverage on the panels.
Mr. Rizzo advised that there was a five year product warranty, but the modules were tested to withstand over 60 lbs. per square foot of weight. There have been instances where they mounted systems on a pitched roof and they had to work on some wiring before the installation was completed, so they slid down the modules to work on them. If they were flat they could walk on them, but it was not recommended. The modules are tested to withstand one-inch hail stones at 60 mph, so they are very durable.
Supervisor Piotrowski questioned if the town’s maintenance staff will have to clean the panels periodically and if there was a guide provided.
Mr. Rizzo stated that they would provide a maintenance guide when installation is complete. They recommend that once or twice a year someone get up on the roof and make sure there is no real debris on the modules. The contract provides a maintenance cost of about $200 and that is simply to have someone get on the roof and hose the modules off with a garden hose.
Supervisor Piotrowski questioned if the chart Mr. Rizzo provided indicating the maintenance costs was for his company to perform the maintenance.
Mr. Rizzo responded that it would be an additional cost to have his company service the equipment. The cost indicated in the chart was for a maintenance person to hose off the modules, but if there were any questions they would look at the system. Mr. Rizzo noted that there was a five year product and service warranty on the system.
Councilwoman Bove questioned if there was any guarantee that the town’s applications would be accepted. She understood the money is set aside when they are accepted and questioned how the town would know.
Mr. Rizzo stated that when the application is sent to NYSERDA and they advise that they received it, the money is set aside for the project. They then review the applications for changes that need to be made. This is not an unlimited pool of money, but NYSERDA had about $20 million allocated for solar this year. Mr. Rizzo noted that NYSERDA contacted him this morning to ask if they were done sending in applications and informed him that his company had sent in the most applications and installed the largest systems.
Councilman Graber referred to the energy bill estimate and the total use of 20.3 megawatts that was consistent and questioned if this was for the senior citizens center.
Mr. Rizzo responded that this was for the senior citizens center. He had received two electric bills, one for summer and one for winter, and took the average of those two bills to come up with a steady usage. A 12-month history would give a more accurate figure.
Councilman Graber questioned if the town could sell back to the utility any extra watts that are not used.
Mr. Rizzo did not believe there would be any extra wattage, but stated that a credit would build up and carry over from month to month. If there were extra leftover at the end of the year, the town would then receive a check.
Councilman Graber questioned if this was the latest technology available.
Mr. Rizzo responded that this company just reached one gigawatt of production, the largest in the world, and it is one of the most efficient modules in the world. One other company has a more efficient module, but their prices are also much higher.
Supervisor Piotrowski questioned if there was a limit on the number of grants available to the town and suggested that they do three buildings.
Mr. Rizzo stated that there was no limit and the town could submit three applications for three different buildings.
Town Attorney Edwin Hunter questioned if there would be any responsibility on the town if three applications are submitted and one of them is denied.
Mr. Rizzo responded that there would be no responsibility on the part of the town. They do not begin installation until they receive notification from NYSERDA. The time frame is approximately three to five months.
Mr. Hunter referred to the system being connected to the grid and the ability for it to shut down if the power goes off and questioned if the system automatically goes back on when the power goes on.
Mr. Rizzo stated that the system waits for five minutes and then turns itself back on.
Councilman Graber noted that all the cash flows were predicated on an assumed 5 percent increase in electric rates, but historically, this was not true. NYSEG rates have not gone up 5 percent in the last five years combined.
Councilwoman Bove stated that Councilman Graber was an excellent source on electricity and she thanked him for his expertise. She questioned if they should amend the resolution to add a third system.
Motion by Councilwoman Bove, seconded by Supervisor Piotrowski, to amend the motion to include three buildings.
On the question, Supervisor Piotrowski questioned an e-mail he had received from Mr. Hunter concerning changing the terms of the contract.
Mr. Hunter advised that he spoke with Mr. Rizzo and his brother earlier today and suggested revisions to the contract. These were incorporated in the contract as it was presented this date.
Councilwoman Bove noted that all Town Board members were very receptive in the discussion of this opportunity to invest in this solar energy initiative and they were working together as a board with this project to benefit the community, the taxpayers, and the environment.
Councilman Graber noted that the senior citizens center was already self-sufficient for natural gas and this will add to that and make it the most self-sufficient of all town buildings.
Motion by Councilwoman Bove, seconded by Supervisor Piotrowski, to adjourn to Executive Session at 4:40 P.M.
The Town Board returned from Executive Session at 5:30 P.M.
Motion by Councilwoman Bove, seconded by Supervisor Piotrowski, to adjourn the meeting at 5:30 P.M.
PATRICIA C. DePASQUALE, RMC/CMC