Cohoes reservoir could be a floating solar power pioneer

COHOES: The city’s 10-acre reservoir would be mostly covered with 8,000 solar panels to create the country’s largest municipally owned floating solar network: a $ 5,997 million demonstration project being considered for federal funding .

The city began looking for a place to erect solar panels to generate energy in its buildings. It ended up in an unexpected location.

“You need empty land for solar panels. We have 10 acres of reservoir, ”said Joe Seman-Graves, the planner leading the solar project.

The cohoes would be the first community to build and own a floating set in their artificial reservoir, an idea that could be a model for municipalities across the country. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated in December 2018 that 10 percent of the country’s annual electricity needs could be met if matrices were placed in the 24,000 artificial reservoirs. The lab is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The 3.2 million megawatt DC grid will generate 4,153 million kilowatts of electricity during its first year of operation, according to the city. That way, between $ 300,000 and $ 350,000 a year could be saved as part of the Greener, Cleaner Cohoes initiative to use renewable energy and combat climate change that Mayor Bill Keeler has been promoting since taking office. .

Lack of soil for solar panels is common in other countries.

“Floating photovoltaics (PV) is still an incipient technology in the United States, but its use has spread abroad where space for ground-mounted systems is less available,” the National Laboratory said in September. of Renewable Energy.

There are only a handful of floating arrays across the country, usually privately owned by renewable energy companies.

The 8,000 panels would cover 65 percent of the surface of the reservoir. In addition to generating electricity, Pubic Works Commissioner Steve Hennessey said covering the panels would reduce the growth of algae in the water, which is extracted from the Mohawk River, by reducing the amount of chemicals placed in the tank. . .

Cohoes is seeking $ 4.78 billion in federal funding to support the project. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, has shortlisted the floating Cohoes complex as one of its top ten projects aimed at possible funding in the 2022 federal budget.

The Cohoes reservoir set “is an innovative idea that solves several problems at once, locating power generation, increasing network stability and reducing utility costs for consumers, while maximizing the ownership of the city, ”Tonko said Friday.

“I will be pushing hard in the coming weeks to get federal funding for this worthy project under the new community project program established this year by the House Appropriations Committee and I think there may be other opportunities to use this project as to model to address some of America’s most thorny challenges in terms of clean energy generation and preventing the worst outcomes of the climate crisis, ”Tonko said.

The city is seeking federal funding to make the project affordable. A municipality cannot use tax credits as private companies do to take advantage of its solar investments, the city said in describing its plans to invest in the reservoir as a whole.

The Cohoes will seek other grants and sources of income to cover the $ 1.21 million needed to supplement federal funds.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the New York Power Authority could be potential funding providers and discussions will be held with National Grid, said Assemblyman John T. McDonald III, D-Cohoes, who has been coordinating the city meeting with state agencies. The State Department of Health and Environmental Conservation is also involved, as they are the regulatory bodies for the operation of the reservoir.

“It’s a fantastic idea. Local governments are very frustrated when their lands are being occupied by solar panels and are not available for development. In fact, they are municipal properties that are used for one purpose and can be used for another, ”said McDonald.

The impact on taxes could go beyond the savings the city would operate. The Cohoes City School District and the Cohoes Housing Authority can also take advantage of the electricity generated through the reservoir project.

The city also plans to build a visualization platform to allow visitors to see the project and involve students from the city’s schools in educational programs related to the environmental project, said Kathleen LaBombard, Keeler’s assistant.