East Hampton Airport Could Be Potential Site For Solar Energy Production

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The East Hampton Airport may become a generator of solar energy as part of a feed-in tariff program with the Long Island Power Authority and the Public Service Electric and Gas Company, PSEG Long Island.

At the East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday, Frank Dalene, the chairman of the Energy Sustainability Advisory Committee, explained that adding a 280-megawatt solar energy system to the airport could bring in as much as $3.5 million a year. He said it would ultimately be up to the Town Board to decide whether to lease space at the airport to host a system.

On January 21, the board accepted requests for proposals from three different contractors that would help them with the process of hooking into the electric grid. About 10 locations across the town where the solar panels would go are being considered.

Mr. Dalene said the committee decided to segregate the airport from those 10 locations, and that two contractors are interested in designing the airport’s system. One of the contractors said that the potential at the airport alone is “tremendous.”

“All issues would have to be vetted out, but one said that in his design, the solar power would reach 380 megawatts, which would put it as the largest solar power plant in the Northeast, and potential revenues to the airport as $3.5 million,” he said, explaining the system would be under a 20-year contract. “There was another design that wasn’t as aggressive. Some contractors are from outside the area and don’t understand that we’re concerned about the groundwater and clearing restrictions.”

The RFP for the potential airport system needs to be issued before the town can go forward and choose a vendor.

The committee is also recommending that the town seek proposals for a peak power plant, which would house batteries for power generation. Mr. Dalene said the town should consider using a liquid flow battery, which stores as much electricity as there is liquid within the battery, or other fuel cell technology.

According to Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, the town will seek proposals for both projects and later choose a contractor for both. Once that is done, the contractors’ projects will be submitted to LIPA, which still owns the grid, by March 31.

He said the plans will go through public review and be vetted out thoroughly.

“This is an exciting opportunity to consider,” Mr. Cantwell said. “The benefits of renewable energy sources on the South Fork and the tremendous financial opportunities all have to be weighed against the best interests of the community, the neighborhoods and the environment.”

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