NY, LIPA to turn parking lots into solar plants

Leaders from New York state, Suffolk County, the Long Island Power Authority and the Long Island Association this morning gathered to break ground on an ambitious project designed to turn seven parking lots into solar power plants.
The carports topped with photovoltaic cells are slated to be built on property owned by the county, generating 17 megawatts, enough to power 1,850 homes, with 60,000 panels.

Although smaller solar projects have gone up in parking lots in other states, Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey described this as the largest solar carport installation in the nation.

Gov. David A. Paterson described the project as a magnificent undertaking, a milestone in the advancement of green technology and part of a renewable energy revolution.

What just a few years ago was a dream and a lofty principle is now being realized, he said.

Paterson, who supported the project, helped LIPA obtain $6.7 million in federal funds to connect it to the power grid.

Many people have long viewed solar projects primarily as residential undertakings, but these solar projects are a sign of a shift bigger plans, which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

We are witnessing the transformation of solar power, said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

San Diego, Calif.-based EnXco plans to transform the asphalt lots into solar arrays, while BP Solar is building a solar farm expected to produce 32 megawatts of power on Brookhaven National Laboratory property.

Through 20-year contracts, LIPA expects to pay $125 million for the parking lot power and $298 million for the solar generated at BNL.

EnXco, which employs 700 and has completed projects in 17 states, won the project as part of a request for proposals. Port Chester, NY-based Mercury Solar Systems, with offices in Holtsville, is doing the construction.

EnCxo plans to build the solar carports on Suffolk County land, including stations at Ronkonkoma and Deer Park, as well as court and government office buildings on county land.

In addition to generating power, the project is expected to generate $8.5 million to $9 million in Suffolk County lease revenue, $1.2 million for local school districts and towns and 150 to 200 construction jobs.

EnXco said work is slated to begin Dec. 10 on the project slated to be operational by the end of 2011.

The company said it plans to use Long Island-based labor and that the project wouldnt reduce parking spaces.
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