Let the Sun Shine

By Dave Bertola

With the last solar panels installed and operational, National Grid’s Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar Demonstration Project has cleared another major milestone, and the work of testing the grid efficiency of a concentration of rooftop solar generation in a single neighborhood while providing energy bill savings for participants is now fully underway.

Rooftop solar has been installed on 74 structures in one of Buffalo’s oldest neighborhoods.  The $3.7 million energy demonstration project received its final approval back in January 2016 by New York Public Service Commission as part of the state’s efforts for grid modernization and infrastructure investment. It is designed to use solar power to create a customer-centric, responsive, efficient and environmentally-sound energy network in the neighborhood. This project marks the first time that residents in such a large, economically-diverse neighborhood have shared power resources.

Participants receive a monthly credit on electric bills based on the value of the aggregate generation of the panels installed in the neighborhood under this project, and enjoy benefits of solar power without having to purchase, install or maintain systems. That’s because National Grid services and maintains the systems for 25 years.

This demonstration project is examining the impact of a concentration of solar generation on the company’s local delivery system, including both the engineering and economic feasibility of expanding similar programs to other communities; especially economically diverse neighborhoods like the Fruit Belt.

This project is one of nearly a dozen demonstration projects National Grid had undertaken in support of New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, Gov. Cuomo’s comprehensive energy strategy.   REV is designed to help consumers make more informed energy choices by helping enable utilities such as National Grid to develop new energy products and services that help protect the environment while creating new jobs and economic opportunity across the State.

National Grid’s demonstration projects also align with the company’s recently released “Northeast 80×50 Pathway,” a blueprint for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (“80×50”). The Pathway is the first of its kind in the Northeast.  National Grid’s goal is consistent with the energy goals of the states in which it serves – New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The Northeast 80×50 Pathway includes in-depth modeling and analysis addressing the three most carbon-intensive sectors in the Northeast- heating, power generation, and transportation.

 

Project Facts

  • The project includes installation of solar panels on rooftops, which have a combined capacity of 500 kilowatts. Renewable energy was introduced to the neighborhood to determine whether such a concentration of neighborhood solar generation can result in grid efficiency.
  • Energy from the solar installations is aggregated and monetized through the energy marketplace.
  • All solar equipment for this project was procured and installed by Solar Liberty, a Buffalo-based solar sales and installation company.
  • Final installation was completed in the last week of September 2018, with solar arrays now on 74 rooftops throughout the neighborhood.  The program included incentives for participating home and building owners for roofing upgrades to accommodate the solar installations.
  • Participating customers are receiving a monthly credit to their electric bills of approximately $15.  National Grid also selected, at random, an additional 59 account holders who are not hosting solar panels to receive the credit, in recognition of many who expressed interest but whose were not able to host a solar array either as a result of roof condition, alignment with the sun, or the account holder doesn’t own the house in which they live.
  • Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was involved with initial program design, project application to the state, and the initial community outreach once the project was approved.
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, under their EmPower Program, is offering free energy efficiency services to all neighborhood homes.
  • The 500-kilowatt capacity provides National Grid the opportunity to conduct a proper grid efficiency analysis. This analysis will help determine whether projects such as these are financially and technically feasible on a broader scale.

 

 

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