The irony wasn’t lost on Damian Ulatowski.
On Earth Day, April 22, when dozens of residents and local dignitaries gathered to hear the Clay supervisor talk about the town’s new solar panel array, the sun was nowhere to be seen.
Despite the gloomy weather, the town unveiled its new 99kW solar array at Town Hall and the highway garage to reduce and stabilize energy costs. The project was launched through a partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Warner Energy LLC, a Clay-based business that designs and develops solar project for clients nationwide.
“Renewable energy is something that not only the town should look into, but we as a country should look into,” Ulatowski said. “Fossil fuels are only going to last so long. We’re going to have to provide an alternative.”
Ulatowski said he began researching the idea a couple of years ago, but met with resistance because of the Syracuse area’s weather.
“I’ve been told that it wouldn’t work in a northern environment, especially in the Syracuse area. There’s just not enough sunlight to make solar energy work effectively,” he told the Star-Review last year. “So I sought out companies that had the technology for solar panels that could function not just with the sun but with light of any kind, and Warner Energy is just such a company. They’ve created technology that’s 85 percent effective with any kind of light.”
Headquartered in Liverpool, Warner Energy designs and develops solar projects for clients throughout the US and distributes solar modules and related components to solar installers. Warner is a subsidiary of the Drescher Company, which also owns the Cicero-based Paul deLima Coffee Company. The Warner Energy campus on Morgan Road includes a technology development laboratory, solar module manufacturing lines, meteorological monitoring station, solar module testing and demonstration arrays, with a focus center for research, development and manufacturing of new renewable technologies.
The system unveiled last week in Clay is comprised of 396 high-efficiency solar panels, each with a capacity of 250 watts. The solar panels and related electrical equipment convert sunlight into power which can be used to run lighting and electrical equipment within the town’s facilities.
The use of such technology is cleaner and more efficient than fossil fuels, saving not only money, but the environment, as well. Warner Energy’s Zach Dresher said it is estimated that every year, for at least the next 25 years, the clean, renewable energy generated by the system installed at Town Hall will offset the emission of roughly 45 metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to more than 5,000 gallons of gasoline, 104 barrels of oil, the electricity usage of over five homes, or the carbon sequestered by planting 9.7 acres of pine forest.
The project will be funded through a NYSERDA grant and a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which, according to Drescher, offers a financing solution that eliminates up-front costs to town taxpayers. Ulatowski said no local tax dollars were used to build the system, and Warner Energy will take care of all of the maintenance of the array; the town only acts as the host. The agreement signed will last for the next 20 years.
In all, Ulatowski said the savings would amount to roughly $16,000 a year for the town.
“We’re looking at about $1,200 to $1,800 a month in energy savings,” he said.
The system is equipped with a monitoring system that will be kept in the lobby at Town Hall that will allow the town and Warner Energy to ensure that the array is providing the energy it’s supposed to. Visitors to Town Hall can see the readouts on monitors outside the town clerk’s office.
Ulatowski was thrilled to see the project realized after working on it for several years.
“This is one of the most exciting things the town of Clay has done in a long time,” he said.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.