New solar array planned for Town of Niagara

Mar. 9—TOWN OF NIAGARA — Another solar farm is in the works for Niagara County, this one planned for a portion of a local landfill.

New York City-based AC Power LLC wants to install the panels in closed sections of the Republic Services Landfill at 560 Niagara Falls Blvd.

Miranda Robinson, a project engineer, said both arrays would be capable of producing 5 megawatt hours of power and take up 38 acres of the 42-acre site. The panels would have a lifespan of at least 20 years. Gina Wolfman, a senior director of Project Development with AC Power, said they have a 25-year lease at the site with the option of two five-year extensions.

AC Power is a women-owned company whose mission is to develop solar farms on previously disturbed sites, such as superfund sites, brownfields, landfills and mining sites. It has 150 megawatts worth of solar projects in development in five states — New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Illinois.

Locally, AC Power is also behind a solar farm in the Town of Lancaster on its former solid waste landfill located along the I-90.

In the Town of Niagara, since the planned arrays would be visible from the I-190 thruway that passes by and from planes taking off from the Niagara Falls International Airport and Air Reserve Station, an anti-glare product would be put on the panels.

Wolfman said that all the solar projects they have worked on are community solar and that they want to work with the town on creating a community benefits and pilot programs. Robinson said there will be another player involved with setting up the program.

New York state has these developers sell solar credits to members of the community at a minimum discount of 10% off their electric bills.

Town Attorney Michael Risman said this array would a perfect use for the landfill, since this is also something that New York state is encouraging.

"We're getting a lease payment because it's our landfill," Risman said. "And we're getting a pilot payment and they're providing a pilot payment to the school district, Niagara-Wheatfield and the county."

While Wolfman and Robinson presented preliminary plans before the Town of Niagara planning board on Tuesday night, the planners agreed to elevate the proposal to a final site plan so they could give it their approval.

The town zoning board of appeals would have to grant a variance for this solar farm, as the landfill land is currently zoned for solid waste, along with discussion from the Niagara Town Board. As the project is more than 20 acres in size, it would also have to go through the state Environmental Quality Review process.