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Solar panels planned at country club in Smithtown

Russell Barnett, Smithtown's environmental protection director, said solar

Russell Barnett, Smithtown's environmental protection director, said solar panels will be installed on two buildings at the Landing Avenue Country Club. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Smithtown will install a solar array at town-owned Landing Avenue Country Club in 2019 that is expected to save $18,000 a year in electricity costs, officials say.

The 200 panels will cover part of the roofs of the club's Nissequogue House and Riverview Room, buildings that house recreational offices and a bar for visitors. Those buildings have direct sun exposure, and their roofs are decades away from needing replacement, Russell Barnett, the town’s environmental protection director, said.

A third nearby building, the Merrywood Cottage, was deemed unsuitable because it faces the golf course, and its roof “is frequently hit by golf balls,” he said.

The 72-kilowatt array will offset about 20 percent of the club’s electrical needs.  On cloudy days, the panels generate less power and the club will have to draw more power from the PSEG Long Island grid, but on days when the array generates more power than the club needs, the town will sell electricity to the utility at wholesale rates.

The array’s $250,000 cost will be funded in part by $179,000 from a $250,000 2016 New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grant. Smithtown was the first community on Long Island to win one of the state’s Clean Energy Community grants, which state officials said at the time was a recognition of the town’s adoption of LED streetlights, alternative fuel vehicles in the municipal fleet, energy code enforcement training and streamlined approvals for local solar projects.

Smithtown officials had originally intended to spend the entire state grant on the electric charging station and solar panels for the departments of planning and environment and waterways, which occupy separate buildings in downtown Smithtown. After the town council began considering selling those buildings to consolidate town real estate, officials redirected the funds to the country club project. 

The town council on Dec. 11 approved a $33,000 contract with Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering & Associates for design of the country club array. 

Smithtown already uses a smaller array and a wind turbine at its Kings Park recycling building, and private investors have built solar fields in Hauppauge and elsewhere in Kings Park.

But officials have not rushed to install panels at dozens of other municipal buildings scattered throughout town because the math hasn’t worked out, Barnett said. Some of the roofs aren’t big enough to support a solar array, or will need to be replaced too soon for solar installation to be cost-effective. Some former municipal landfills could become candidate sites if solar equipment prices drop.

“We want to do solar for real, not for show,” Barnett said.

In the meantime, the town is taking other steps toward reducing its energy costs, he said, including building improvements and an experiment with electric cars for code inspection and planning department work. Officials plan to use the remainder of the state grant money to buy two of the cars and install an electric car charging station behind Town Hall next year.

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