The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The good intentions of government seem to prove this out.
The city of Auburn and the county of Cayuga have gone down the road searching for profitability in the production of electricity. The results have been dismal. The latest idea to come forward is a solar energy farm to be located on county property. It is intended to supply five megawatts of electricity, enough to supply the county’s government consumption and have some left over to sell back to the grid. The price tag for this is yet to be announced.
Let’s review the record of local electrical generation. Capturing methane at the Auburn landfill to generate electricity resulted in the failure to generate enough electricity to be cost effective. This resulted in a long term debt in the neighborhood of $10 million, which is being paid for by the local taxpayer.
The county manure digester was built at a cost of $10.5 million and it was supposed to produce enough electricity to power the county government facilities. This turned out to not be cost effective and the system was shut down in 2014. It was sold for $4 million to a private entity in 2016 in a long-term arrangement ending in 2036.
The North Division Street Hydroelectric Project has recently completed a $6.5 million upgrade of the existing facility. The existing facility was not generating electricity to be cost effective. I would be safe to say that there is something north of $10 million invested in this facility.
Has the Mill Street Hydro-Facility performed profitably enough to justify the investment there? I do not know but would be surprised if it did.
Somewhere north of $30 million has been spent in the pursuit of electrical generation by our local governments. It has been a poor investment. For government to invest in the revenue-seeking business of the energy market with the risk underwritten by taxpayers is bad economics and bad government policy.
I hope that this latest idea of a “solar farm” is rejected by our local legislators and will spare the taxpayers the burden of another failed adventure.