Suffolk County Community College has agreed to allow the installation of solar panels over 1,500 parking spaces at the Brentwood campus so the county can avoid placing them at the Ronkonkoma LIRR train station where a major housing and shopping hub is planned.
But still unclear is how much revenue the school will see from the power generated and what the county might have to pay the solar developer, enXco, for moving the panels from the 2,643-car Ronkonkoma lot after designs were drawn and just before construction was to start earlier this month.
College trustees voted unanimously last week to enter negotiations with enXco and the county for use of four lots on the college's western campus. An emergency resolution will also be put before county lawmakers Tuesday. However, the college's largest parking lot -- at the field house/police academy/health club complex -- was excluded because it is designed on a curve, making construction not feasible.
Louis Petrizzo, college counsel, said County Attorney Dennis Cohen informed him that a copy of a sublease with the college will be sent by Tuesday. Petrizzo said the college has several concerns, including the revenue it will receive from the 20-year lease. Under the original deal, Suffolk expected to get $8.5 million from enXco for the entire $120 million project, which involves seven sites.
The move comes after Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko raised concerns that placing the solar carports in Ronkonkoma could severely reduce flexibility in designing the transit hub, which planners have cast as a project of regional significance. County Executive Steve Bellone, who has made economic development a major priority, decided to find an alternative site.
Bellone spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said the revised agreement is still being negotiated, but whatever revenue comes from the 3 megawatts of power generated from the school site will go to the college. Those talks also involve whether the county will have to pay to change the site.
The college lots are smaller than the train station site, Baird-Streeter said, so the county is talking to San Diego-based enXco about expanding into the west parking lot at the Cohalan court complex. Construction is under way at the court's eastern lot.
Katherine Heaviside, enXco's local spokeswoman, said negotiations are ongoing.
Even with the 3 megawatts at the college and the 1.9 megawatts from extra parking at the courthouse, Heaviside said the project won't have the 6.3 megawatts that the Ronkonkoma lot would have produced.
Before going ahead, Petrizzo emphasized that college officials still want talks with enXco to clarify some points.