- Published: 11 February 2023
Cohoes, N.Y., is placing a floating solar electric array atop a 10-acre city reservoir to generate all of the electric needs for municipal operations, with power to spare. The project could serve as a model for other cities.
A project to float a solar array on a community reservoir in New York may serve as a template to grow renewable energy on similar water bodies across the nation.
The small town of Cohoes, N.Y., is moving forward with a project to nearly cover a 10-acre man-made reservoir with a system of floating solar panels. The network — kept afloat by buoys — will generate more than 4.1 million megawatts of power in a year, according to city officials.
The project has been identified by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) for its expertise in the area, and is also participating in a new U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) program known as Clean Energy to Communities — or C2C — which connects local government, electric utilities, and community-based organizations with DOE’s national lab infrastructure to offer assistance with community aims to grow renewable energy.
“We knew we wanted to have what we call a cleaner, greener Cohoes, and take a comprehensive look at everything we’re doing,” said Theresa Bourgeois, director of operations in Cohoes.
The $6 million project is set to go online later this year, or early next year. It will supply all of the municipal power needs, with excess capacity to be used by other public-sector organizations like schools and libraries.
“We have been exploring scenarios in which the additional generation is used by the school district or housing authority in order to provide the broadest community benefit,” said Joe Seaman-Graves, city planner for Cohoes.
Cohoes, covering only four square miles, does not have a lot of open land to locate a solar field, and most of its city buildings are historic and not appropriate for siting rooftop solar.
The city — by leveraging the data and research from NREL — was able to make the case to state, federal and other officials about the efficacy of floating solar arrays, allowing the small, working-class community of 17,000 just north of Albany to secure some $3.75 million in grant funding. Other sources of funding came from Cohoes’ own efforts to cut operational costs by upgrading streetlights to LED fixtures, a move that would save some $9 million over 20 years.
“That $3 million that we set aside from switching out our streetlights — and that’s a pot of money that we just use to match grants — has really made a huge difference in our ability to pursue grant funding,” Bourgeois pointed out. In three years the city has raised more than $25 million in grant funding.
But it was the support from NREL and the C2C program that helped to develop the solar project, and give it the street cred it needed to attract funding and other interest.
“That third-party technical expertise was absolutely invaluable. It was something that a working class community like Cahoes, we could have never gotten this,” said Bourgeois.
Concerns about the system surviving a northern New York winter have been built into the project, said Seaman-Graves.
“In Europe these systems exist in high altitude, cold weather climates. The array’s anchoring system accounts for the snow load and will allow enough slack to compensate for an extreme weather event,” he explained.
Floating solar systems — rare in the United States, but which can be found in parts of Asia and Northern Europe — could become a reality in thousands of locations in the U.S. In fact, if you’re wondering if reservoirs in your area might work as a candidate, there’s an app for that.
In partnership with the The Rensselaer Institute for Data Exploration and Applications (The Rensselaer IDEA) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the city helped to develop the Floating Solar Explorer app, which charts the 24,419 NREL-identified water reservoirs in the U.S. and then evaluates their solar power generation potential. That same NREL data concludes that floating solar installations could supply 10 percent of the country’s electric needs.
“We could become a national model,” said Bourgeois. “We had no initial plan to create a national model, but that’s exactly what we had.”
Autor(en)/Author(s): Skip Descant
Quelle/Source: Govenment Technology - Future Structure, 03.02.2023