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Cayuga County Legislature committee OKs changes to Sennett solar array plan
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Cayuga County Legislature committee OKs changes to Sennett solar array plan

Ways and Means Committee June meeting

The Cayuga County Ways and Means Committee adopted during its June meeting several adjustments to the business model and lease agreement for a solar array in the Town of Sennett.

The Cayuga County Legislature's Ways and Means Committee approved a revised plan for a solar array in the town of Sennett.

The Legislature previously entered into a lease agreement in March 2019 with developer Abundant Solar Power LLC to construct a 6.5 megawatt solar energy array on 25 acres of land near the Cayuga County Jail.

The project is intended to offer renewable energy to both the county and residents, billable through New York State Electric & Gas. The county is not required to source energy from the array but it will receive an environmental discount if it chooses to do so.

During a Tuesday evening meeting, the committee passed several adjustments to the project’s lease agreement and business model in order to reflect requirements from the utility company and a state research authority. The amended contract will go in front of the full Legislature next Tuesday for a final vote.

All but one legislator on the committee voted in favor. Andrew Dennison, R-Ira, was hesitant to move forward. He felt some aspects of the contract weren't fully worked out between the county and Abundant.

In response to a similar question from Legislator Ryan Foley, D-Auburn, County Attorney Christopher Palermo noted that the Legislature often gives the chairperson permission to execute contract agreements once legal counsel solidifies details at a later time.

Legislator Tucker Whitman, NOP-Sterling, read part of the resolution stating that Chairperson Aileen McNabb-Coleman can sign off on the changes after approval by the county.

“Nothing’s in concrete yet. There’s going to be some final reviews and I’d be comfortable passing it tonight,” Whitman said.

Melissa Clark, vice president for business development for Abundant, gave a presentation to explain the revisions they hope will “regain momentum" enough to finish the project.

The resolution adopted by Ways and Means would reduce the array’s power from 6.5 to 5.6 megawatts. NYSEG did not have the infrastructure required for the higher amount, according to the text of the full resolution included in the committee’s June agenda.

It also decreases the amount of energy available to the municipality. Originally, Cayuga County could have 40% of power produced by the array. The rest could go to residential use. The amended agreement reduces the county’s allocation to 20%.

The change is in accordance with recent regulatory changes from the New York State Energy Research Authority mandating that solar projects prioritize consumers like county residents over “anchor customers” like the county.

The proposed amendment changes the lease agreement from 25 to 30 years. It would also allow the county to deem the project “abandoned” if construction isn’t finished within the agreed-upon timeline or if Abundant stops producing electricity for a year.

Cayuga County would also be able to end the Power Purchase Agreement with Abundant at any time if it provides a 60-days notice, according to a proposed PPA included in the resolution that Ways and Means adopted.

In other news:

• Ways and Means unanimously recommended selling the building that formerly housed the Cayuga County Nursing Home to Auburn Community Hospital in a proposed $500,000 transaction.

The structure at 7451 County House Road in the town of Sennett was vacated in 2015 but was recently utilized as a respiratory clinic by the hospital to isolate potential COVID-19 patients in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Staff writer Mary Catalfamo can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or Find her on Twitter @mrycatalfamo.


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Crime/courts reporter

I cover criminal court, public safety and the Cayuga County government for The Citizen and You can also find my health and entertainment features online and in the Lake Life section of the paper.

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