A California company is proposing to install fuel cells in a Melville parking lot that would reduce the electric bills of 10,000 homeowners by a guaranteed 10%, or about $150 per year, officials said on Thursday.
Generate Capital Inc., based in San Francisco, wants to put 28 fuel cells on a half-acre parcel at 575 Broad Hollow Rd. The land is part of a large parking lot for a small office building across from the Long Island Hilton hotel.
Generate has hired Edgewise Energy in Plainview to construct the $57 million project and get homeowners from across the Island to buy the 7.6 megawatts of electricity through a subscription plan. The power would be delivered by PSEG Long Island and subscribers would receive savings credits on their monthly electric bill.
"The Long Island residents who subscribe to our project will have access to cheaper and cleaner electricity" because the fuel cells produce energy through "an electrochemical process without combustion," said Jeff Ross, head of Generate’s investment team, in an application for tax breaks from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency.
The fuel-cell energy project still must win building permits from Huntington Town, according to Edgewise chief operating officer Dan Whitson.
He told Thursday's IDA meeting that the fuel cells – which produce electricity from natural gas, hydrogen or biogas – don't release pollutants into the air as traditional power plants do. "There are many sustainability benefits from this," he said.
IDA board members voted 5-0, with one recusal, to grant Generate a sales-tax exemption of up to $2 million on the purchase of construction materials and equipment for the project. Generate also agreed to a property-tax deal over 25 years in which the company would pay an average of $307,500 per year on top of the parking lot’s annual tax bill of $6,000.
The fuel-cell energy project won’t create any permanent jobs, but Generate and its local partner Edgewise would employ 15 unionized workers for construction in August-September, said Peter L. Curry, Generate's real estate attorney.
Edgewise CEO Sammy Chu is a former labor commissioner under Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, vice chairman of the county’s planning commission and chairman of the Long Island chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2019, Chu unsuccessfully lobbied the Nassau County IDA to require businesses that receive its tax breaks to publicly disclose how much energy they use.
Separately, Generate has proposed a fuel-cell energy project at 1640 Hempstead Tpke. in East Meadow on the site of the former Lufthansa Airlines building across from Eisenhower Park.
Suffolk IDA executive director Anthony J. Catapano said the Brookhaven Town IDA has aided fuel-cell projects and other town IDAs have applications before them from developers.
"New York State has made renewable energy one of its top priorities and it makes sense for us to assist these projects because they help our residents and the environment," he said in an interview. "This is really a good use of a parking lot."