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Solar Liberty wants to build solar farm on top of Niagara landfill

Row of solar panels

Thad Komorowski
June 9, 2019

TOWN OF NIAGARA – A solar energy company wants to build a 300-acre solar farm atop the Allied Waste Services landfill that would provide annual income to the Town of Niagara.

Nathan Rizzo, vice president of Solar Liberty of Williamsville, told Town Board members his company wants to lease land on top of the landfill to develop a solar energy project in which 14,000 solar panels would be installed. The $10 million system would allow the power captured at the farm to be sent to the nearby National Grid substation and added to the local power grid.

Solar Liberty has more than 2,500 solar installations completed or in progress across the state with a total of more than 125 megawatts of solar power capacity, according to the company’s presentation at the board’s work session last week.

Acting as the project manager and installer for Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd., the owner of the system, Solar Liberty would pay the town an annual lease payment of $600 per acre, along with a $5,000 yearly contribution to the summer concert series. Councilman Richard Sirianni asked that the $5,000 not be committed to the concerts, a town program he has questioned. He would prefer the money be free of any designation.

The total payment to the town would be $23,000, according to Rizzo. In addition, town residential electric customers could buy credits related to the megawatt harvesting at the farm. The credits would be used to offset their utility bills. The town also could participate to save on its own electric costs. Rizzo noted the typical savings per residential bill is about 10 percent of the total bill.

Rizzo said that the installation of the panels would not affect the landfill cap, as large concrete pads would be used as a base for the solar equipment. The equipment would not penetrate the cap on the 377-acre landfill, he said.

Because it is an active landfill, the property owners, Allied, pay the town a yearly fee to operate; and its subsidiary, Republic Services, provides garbage and recycling pick-up for residents. When the landfill stops operations, the payments would stop and the town would have to support its own garbage disposal service, perhaps funded by a special refuse tax, officials have warned.

Town Attorney Michael Risman told Rizzo he would need to contact Niagara County to begin a PILOT agreement and would need formal approval for the project from National Grid before any commitments could be made.