Guilderland Central School District announces their brand-new 3-MW solar farm today on Becker Road in Altamont, New York. The District’s third and largest solar project, a 22-acre ground-mounted site built by ForeFront Power, is expected to produce 3.3 million kWh of clean electricity annually. The District is offsetting 58% of its annual energy consumption and reducing operating expenses by an estimated $4.5 million over a 20-year period.
The project is part of the District’s ambitious initiatives around reducing operational costs from the existing grid. Guilderland Central is also one of the pioneering school districts in the state with sustainability initiatives, looking to reduce its carbon footprint while also improving student quality of life.
Off-site solar framework
Guilderland Central’s solar farm utilizes an innovative framework known as Remote Net Metering (RNM) to achieve the economies of scale that is not typically possible at an individual school location. RNM allows Guilderland Central and other public entities to go off-site and still benefit from net metering, whereby solar power generated in excess is sold back to the electrical grid. Located just five miles from the campuses that it supplies, the District is seeing maximized savings from this program.
In 2017, New York’s RNM program was replaced with Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER), a program which compensates projects based on when and where they provide electricity to the grid. For Guilderland Central, getting grandfathered under RNM was a huge priority and motivating factor for building more solar and working with the ForeFront Power team.
“We were approached by several companies and [ForeFront Power] was simply good to work with,” said Clifford Nooney, energy manager and director of facilities at Guilderland Central School District. “After reviewing the responses during our RFP process, they were clearly the best option for us.”
The ForeFront Power team was able to act quickly under the RNM program and then construct the project in under two months following interconnection approval.
“Guilderland Central is now a leader in renewable energy adoption in New York and our team really enjoyed working with them on this unique project,” said Paul Walker, co-CEO of ForeFront Power. “This unique solar solution really allows organizations like Guilderland Central to scale their impact quickly.”
Savings and education
ForeFront Power, a California-based solar and storage developer, led the financing and development of the Guilderland Central project. With a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) from ForeFront Power in place, the District is projected to save an estimated $4.5 million over a 20-year period.
For Guilderland Central’s faculty, the solar impact goes beyond savings. Students across the District are gaining a whole new perspective on where their energy comes from thanks to the new ability to take field trips to the solar farm and access live production monitoring via kiosks on campus.
For teachers, the science behind solar fits well within the schools’ existing curriculum program, with science classes now having a portion dedicated to examining how energy is generated from the sun. For the District, it’s a win-win situation.
“I would recommend that schools pursue solar. While I’m a firm believer of saving our planet, solar is a good thing for the community and a good thing for taxpayers to be able to save money,” said Nooney. “Solar also presents a good educational opportunity for our young people. They are the ones that are going to deal with our repercussions for generations to come.”
The schools also receive free lesson plans from Schools Power, a leading national education organization that provides schools and colleges with standards-based renewable energy curriculum packages. ForeFront Power and Schools Power announced their partnership in July 2017.
News item from Forefront Power