The bases for solar panels are installed at Robert Moses...

The bases for solar panels are installed at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon, June 7, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

The New York State Power Authority will study the feasibility of expanding solar arrays in several state parks on Long Island as the first project at Robert Moses State Park moves closer to completion.

Three additional parks are being considered for the solar arrays, which would provide enough power to more than meet their energy needs, and supply excess power to the electric grid.

The four projects being considered would put thousands of solar panels in and around parking areas and on some buildings at Belmont Lake State Park, Heckscher State Park, Sunken Meadow State Park, and at an additional parking lot at Robert Moses. NYPA is also conducting feasibility studies to examine other parks in the lower Hudson Valley, according to a source.

“NYPA will do a study before going any further,” said the source. “It might not work economically, there could be environmental issues. They don’t know yet.”

Calls to representatives at State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation were not returned.

Though the plans haven’t been finalized, the next phase of construction may not use a staff of newly trained state parks employees who installed solar panels at the first location at Robert Moses, in favor of an outside solar contractor that will be selected by NYPA after a competitive request for proposals, the source said.

The Robert Moses project, which the state initially said would produce 500 kilowatts of power and cost $1.7 million, was intended to make the facility the first energy neutral park in the nation, with a projected $130,000 in annual savings.

NYPA is already providing technical expertise to State Parks on the first project, which had interconnection issues that delayed the rollout.

Mike Voltz, director of energy efficiency and renewable energy for PSEG Long Island, said engineers discovered the power line nearest the park wasn’t suited for interconnection. So the grid connection was extended less than a mile away to a higher voltage line. Voltz said that even with the added cost, the project was feasible. He said he didn’t have a figure for the added cost, but noted that PSEG facilitated a rebate of some $87,000 for the project.

Voltz said PSEG will examine each new location for panels in parks when or if they are approved by NYPA. “If we can’t accommodate it, we will go back to State Parks and propose alternatives,” he said.

The State Parks Department initially handled the Robert Moses project with help from at least two firms that won requests for proposals. TRC, an engineering and construction company, won a competitive bid to handle those aspects, and National Solar of Buffalo supplied the panels.

The Robert Moses project was considered innovative because it called for 20 newly trained park employees to install the 1,792 panels. The training and certification was arranged by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Alfred University.

State Parks will reimburse NYPA for its advisory services, which are expected to involve technical analysis, competitive bidding for a panel supplier and a construction contractor.

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