Weekly Feature

2017-07-12 / Front Page

Town of Tonawanda participating in Solarize campaign


The Town of Tonawanda is looking to increase energy efficiency by encouraging residents to go solar through “Solarize Tonawanda.”

(See editorial on page four)

The community campaign aims to help incentivize and promote the development and installation of solar electric systems by property owners of residential properties in the town.

The Solarize initiative is a component of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Communities Program.

“It’s an economic benefit for the household,” said Town of Tonawanda Councilman Bill Conrad, noting that residents would be able to save money on their electric bills through the installation of solar panels.

Conrad gave an example of his father — a retiree who installed solar panels on his residence in the town years ago — who has made substantial savings by switching to solar.

The opportunities, both economic and environmental, then led Conrad to be the executive of the initiative for the town.

He said a team, comprising town department heads, has been working to make this possible.

It is also one of the first steps in the Tonawanda Tomorrow’s implementation, which includes an effort to promote projects and programs such as this one that enhance the town’s sustainability, energy efficiency and place-based values.

The town is now seeking proposals from solar electric installers interested in serving as a designated installer of residential solar panel systems within the town under NYSERDA’s Solarize initiative.

According to Conrad, the town will be vetting businesses to be providers and will ultimately select two or three installers.

Residents can experience savings because Solarize campaigns can lower the cost of solar 10 to 20 percent.

The request for proposals is due by July 27. Following the selection of installers, a Solarize Tonawanda Launch event is planned for late summer.

Among other actions, the town must provide a list of at least 10 local solar customers that resulted from the campaign in order to receive a Clean Energy Community designation. Conrad says they’re hoping to get at least 25.

According to NYSERDA, local governments can complete four of 10 high-impact actions to not only earn the Clean Energy Community designation but also obtain a grant of up to $250,000 with no local cost share to support additional clean-energy projects.

“It’s a race. We’re competing with any community or government [municipality] with more than 50,000 people,” he added.

The town has been committed to renewable energy sources and energy efficiency and hopes to continue to implement projects.

It currently has five buildings on which solar was installed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including the Wastewater Treatment Facility, at 779 Two Mile Creek Road; Water Treatment Plant, at 218 Aqua Lane; Senior Citizen’s Center, at 291 Ensminger Road; Water and Sewer Department, at 525 Belmont Ave.; and Highway Department, at 450 Woodward Ave.

According to Town Engineer Jim Jones, the town is also working with Tesla to install a 2-megawatt solar array on the town landfill, with work expected to be completed in December 2018.

Conrad noted that the initiative will be recruiting Solarize volunteers in the future and is willing to partner with community groups. A website launch for “Solarize Tonawanda” is also planned.

“We want to make sure we get the best deal for our residents to be able to install.”

email: awalters@beenews.com

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