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South Fork solar farm set to power more than 125 homes nears completion in Springs

The 1.1 megawatt solar farm in Springs is

The 1.1 megawatt solar farm in Springs is on a 21-acre Accabonac Road town property. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

East Hampton will be one megawatt closer to its ambitious goal of meeting all the town’s energy needs through renewable sources by 2030 when a Springs solar farm comes online this year.

Construction recently began at Accabonac Solar, a 1.1-megawatt solar farm operated by Boulder, Colorado-based AES Distributed Energy. It is on a 21-acre Accabonac Road town property, the site of a former brush dump. When completed, its 3,456 individual 320-watt panels will generate enough energy to power 129 homes, said Jeff Gorman, director of business development for AES. The fixed panels will convert the energy to an AC current, which will then be fed into the power grid, Gorman said.

“It’s an integral part of our renewable energy approach,” Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Monday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site.

The new solar farm helps move the needle toward the town’s energy goals, though officials acknowledge that the plan hinges largely on the 15-turbine, 90-megawatt South Fork Wind Farm coming online by 2022.

In a news release on Monday, town officials said they hope to be the first municipality on the East Coast to meet the equivalent of 100 percent of annual communitywide energy consumption in all sectors (electricity, heating, and transportation) with renewable energy sources by 2030.

“This is a big deal because it’s not only the first utility-scale power plant in East Hampton, but on the entire South Fork,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of the advocacy group Renewable Energy Long Island. “But with solar alone, we couldn’t meet our renewable energy goals.”

The town is also urging residents to adopt more energy-efficient practices through several initiatives, including the installation of LED lights, rebates on energy-efficient pool pumps and the Solarize East Hampton program, which offers below-market-rate solar panels through the town’s contractor, GreenLogic Energy. Van Scoyoc noted that he has taken advantage of the town’s solar initiative and that it lowered his monthly energy bill from more than $200 to about $14.

He noted the town’s Rush Hour Rewards program, which through a web-based program makes small adjustments to the settings of a resident’s central air conditioning system. In exchange, a resident receives a free Nest thermostat or a $250 rebate for an existing Nest thermostat, plus an additional $25 per year for staying enrolled in the program, which is also available to Southampton Town residents.

Van Scoyoc said East Hampton officials have also considered leasing other sites for solar farms, including a former brush dump on Bull Path in East Hampton and perhaps at capped landfills in the town. Additionally, the town plans to add solar panels to town-owned buildings, Van Scoyoc said.

AES acquired the Springs project from SunEdison, which announced in 2015 that it had agreements with five Long Island municipalities to develop commercial-scale solar arrays, though none came to fruition before the firm filed for bankruptcy the following year.

The Springs farm is the second of three former SunEdison projects on Long Island operated by AES. The first was the now-complete Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant in Wantagh, and the other is a 4-megawatt solar farm at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach that has yet to break ground.

“These are all legacy projects,” Gorman said.

East Hampton Town's renewable energy initiatives

Accabonac Solar — 1.1-megawatt solar farm at former brush dump in Springs, set to go online this year

South Fork WInd Farm — 15 turbine, 80 megawatt offshore wind farm, expected to come online in 2022

Solarize East Hampton — Program offering below-market-rate solar panels to town residents; it expires at the end of October, according to its website

Rush Hour Reward — Free Nest thermostats in exchange for enrolling in a program that saves energy during peak demand periods

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