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Here comes the sun—to DPW yard

NIAGARA FALLS, NY – The city’s Department of Public Works will soon get a power boost from the sun.

City leaders are working with the New York Power Authority to install 169 solar panels on the roof of a storage garage at the New Road public works yard.

It will be the first city building to house a solar photovoltaic project, but Mayor Paul A. Dyster hopes it won’t be the last.

“I think we’re looking forward to the day when all of our public buildings derive part of their power from solar panel installations on their roofs,” Dyster said last week, “or maybe other public spaces that don’t have other uses become home to solar panels.”

Under the proposal, the Power Authority would hire Solar Liberty of Amherst to install the 40-kilowatt array of panels on the Niagara Falls building. Power from the solar panels would supplement electricity used in the DPW yard.

City officials and the Power Authority looked at several buildings — including the new Police and Courts Building and the Niagara Falls Library — before settling on the DPW garage.

Michael P. DeSantis, the city’s senior project designer, said the DPW garage was chosen because of its flat expanse and the fact that a new roof was installed on the building last year.

“You’re going to put these panels up there for 15 or 20 years,” De- Santis said. “You want a new roof so you don’t have a roof leaking under your panels.”

The Power Authority recently installed about 1,100 solar panels on the top of a Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority bus garage on Military Road in the Town of Tonawanda. That 250-kilowatt project, by comparison, will supply about 16 percent of the energy used in the bus garage, said NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer.

The solar panels in Niagara Falls will be visible to drivers on Porter Road as they pass the DPW yard. “This is something that has great symbolic importance for us because we’re trying to position Niagara Falls—and, in fact, Western New York as a whole is trying to position itself — as a leader in the emerging solar power industry,” Dyster said.

Two Niagara Falls plants have taken aim at the solar industry. Globe Metallurgical has announced plans to invest $35 million to expand its Highland Avenue facility to produce a purified silicon used in solar cells. Ashland Advanced Materials on Niagara Falls Boulevard also makes materials used in solar energy.

Dyster said he is “intrigued” by the idea of placing solar panels in public spaces or on former industrial waste sites such as Love Canal. “If you can put it on top of a building roof without damaging the building roof, then you can put it on top of a brownfield, even a brownfield with a very high-tech and sophisticated containment system, without potentially damaging the containment,” he said. “So it opens up a lot of different possibilities.”

The Council on Monday night unanimously authorized Dyster to sign an agreement with the Power Authority to install the solar panels at the public works yard. Work is expected to begin this fall.

“It’s a good way to save money,” Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said. “It’s definitely the wave of the future.”

The Buffalo News
By Denise Jewell Gee