Cornell's proposed New York solar array conjures electrifying future

Continuing an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Cornell is proposing a 10-acre solar farm on university property in the town of Seneca, New York, where the university conducts agricultural research.

The proposed 2-megawatt solar farm will offset nearly 40 per cent of the annual demand of Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

''The proposed solar farm will provide a long-term, stable and clean energy source for the agricultural experiment station here,'' said Thomas Burr, associate dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. ''We are very pleased to be able to play this major role in advancing Cornell's overall commitment to sustainability.''

 In September, the university opened the Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm with 6,778 photovoltaic panels on an 11-acre plot that adjoins the Tompkins County Regional Airport in Lansing, New York. That 2-megawatt array will produce about 2.5 million kilowatts annually.

The solar photovoltaic panel array, pending approval from the town of Seneca and finalizing the developer agreement, will be Cornell's second large-scale solar project. The proposed array will take advantage of NYSEG's (New York State Electric and Gas) remote net metering program, meaning that Cornell will receive credit for the electricity the project adds to the grid to offset consumption at other Cornell locations.

In September, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York-Sun (NY-Sun) awards for large solar electric projects that will increase the solar capacity in New York state by more than 214 megawatts, a 68- per cent increase over the amount of solar installed. The NY-Sun Initiative strives to expand the renewable energy market in New York state while working to bring down the costs of the technology.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority administers the NY-Sun awards, and they will contribute about one-third of the project's capital cost, while private developer Distributed Sun LLC, which will own and operate the array, will secure the remaining capital to build it. Cornell will buy the electricity produced through a power purchase agreement.