Cohoes “Floating Solar” Demonstration Project Selected among “Top Ten”
Projects Congressman Tonko Proposing for Federal Investment
National Demonstration Project would generate 100% of the City’s Municipal Electricity Needs with Solar Arrays on its Water Reservoir
Cohoes, NY (April 29, 2021) – A proposal by the City of Cohoes, NY, to install a municipally owned and operated 3.2 MWdc Floating Solar demonstration project on its water reservoir — yes, “Floating Solar” –has been selected as one of just ten projects U.S. Representative Paul Tonko is submitting to the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations for federal investment under the committee’s new “Community Project Funding” (CPF) process.
“For more than 30 years Congressman Tonko has been a powerful and persistent voice calling for innovative clean energy solutions that benefit all communities, including working class cities like Cohoes. We are honored and grateful to have his support and guidance, and to partner with him as we work to get this exciting Floating Solar array installed on the Cohoes reservoir,generating both power and opportunity,” Mayor Bill Keeler said after today’s announcement of
the “Top Ten” designation for the Cohoes project.
The city’s proposed municipally owned and operated 3.2 MWdc Floating Solar demonstration project would be installed on its secured 14-acre water reservoir, at a cost of $5.9 million, including a Federal share of $4.788 million and a non-Federal share of $1.209 million.
“This project would demonstrate that leveling the playing field by providing grants to municipalities — as an alternative option to current tax credits for private investments — for Floating Solar installations would incentivize municipalities to invest in their own energy infrastructure in a sustainable way, while realizing the full economic benefits of doing so,” said Cohoes City Planner Joe Seman Graves. “The project may also spark interest in tapping
appropriate water surfaces as a viable platform for solar energy generation.”
In a 2018 report, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers estimated “installing floating solar photovoltaics on the more than 24,000 man-made U.S. reservoirs could generate about 10 percent of the nation’s annual electricity production.”
If installed, the Cohoes Flotovoltaic (FV) clean energy installation would generate 100% of the city’s energy demand for its municipal facilities. The city’s current annual electricity cost is approximately $660,000 annually. “Selling energy back to the grid, and reinvesting those savings into our community would have a generational impact on our residents,” Mayor Keeler said.
Given the available size of its water reservoir, the city will still have 40% of power-generating capacity to make available for other community purposes. “We are working to ensure that this project has the broadest positive impact on our community, including exploring the possibility of the Cohoes School District and or the Cohoes Housing Authority also benefitting from this clean energy,” Mayor Keeler said.
Floating solar arrays are a relatively new but proven technology used overseas – and in a limited way in the United States. Municipalities installing floating solar typically enter into either a lease agreement or a power purchase agreement with a third party non-government entity. “The privatepartnership approach facilitates overcoming up-front-cost barriers. However, the majority of the economic benefit, by way of tax credits and full life-cycle savings, accrues to the asset owner, which in this scenario is the private developer and not the municipality,” City Planner SemanGraves said, indicating that it appears to be most economically advantageous over time (perhaps a novel approach in the United States) for the City to own and operate floating solar arrays on the
This transformative clean energy infrastructure proposal was developed in partnership with RETTEW Engineering and US Floating Solar, and with other expert guidance.
The proposed Cohoes NY Floating Solar Municipal Demonstration Project has garnered broad based community support. Here are quotes from letters of support for the project:
New York State Senator Neil D. Breslin and Assembly member John T. McDonald III wrote:
“Cohoes officials have astutely pointed out the funding inequities that currently act as a barrier for municipalities to own and operate their own photovoltaic (PV) system. We agree it is time to level that playing field. We commit to addressing these funding issues at the State level, while at the same time assisting Cohoes in navigating the essential state permitting processes required to ensure the safety and long-term viability of this important demonstration project.”
Solar expert, University at Albany Research Professor ASRC, Dr. Richard Perez wrote:
“Technically, this would be one of the first floating PV installations in the US, demonstrating intelligent use of space in a northeastern peri-urban environment. Floating PV has a demonstrably large potential for the country as attested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s research as well as our own peer reviewed research.”
Capital District Regional Planning Commission, Executive Director Mark Castiglione, AICP wrote:
“The Floating Solar array could be a true watershed project for the region, as several municipalities own water supplies and struggle with operational costs and energy challenges for water treatment. We envision the Cohoes project as the perfect test bed for an innovative siting of solar facilities and we have no doubt additional communities would eagerly follow suit if and when this project is constructed and proves to be as successful as it has been modeled.”
Members of the Cohoes Common Council wrote:
“We support the Mayor’s goal of seeking to generate 100% of our municipal facilities’ electricity demand using “Floating Solar” energy, we welcome the opportunity to be a national model that may spark other similar communities to follow our lead, and we join in seeking your support for this transformative clean energy infrastructure proposal.”
Cohoes City School District Interim Superintendent Peggy O’Shea wrote:
“The Cohoes Floating Solar Demonstration Project will also enable us to provide additional educational experiences for our students. We plan on incorporating information regarding the development, installations and ongoing use of the floating solar installation into our Science programming. This will also allow us to highlight future career opportunities for our students.”
Chair of Cohoes Housing Authority, Mark Pascale wrote:
“As Chair of The Cohoes Housing Authority I would absolutely extend our interest in exploring this further in conjunction with Mayor Keeler and The City of Cohoes. Additionally, serving as a long standing member of The Cohoes School Board I can only imagine the profound educational opportunities and community pride for our students.”
A cross-section of local Cohoes developers wrote:
“This project will also create a buzz around all of the positive cleaner, greener measures that are being taken in the City, which we see as an attractor for people and businesses looking to relocate or just begin their journeys. Creating a sustainable economy is the smart thing to do economically and it is the right thing to do for the health and long-term sustainability of our community.”