New York's 'Power Lots' Project – Seven Rooftop Solar Carports

Model of one of the newly built solar carports in Brentwood, New York.
Model of one of the newly built solar carports in Brentwood, New York.

New York’s Long Island Power Authority has begun construction on the Suffolk Solar Carport Project, expected to deliver up to 17 megawatts of clean, renewable energy, enough to power nearly 1,800 homes. The project, part of LIPA’s 50 MW Project, will be the largest solar project in New York and the largest solar carport project in the US.

This past week, New York Governor David A. Paterson was joined by local stakeholders and representatives of enXco and Mercury Solar Systems in Brentwood, Suffolk County. The event was the groundbreaking ceremony for the first of seven parking sites leased to enXco by Suffolk County where the company will construct carports with solar panels on the rooftops.

The solar power generated from the carports will be delivered directly to LIPA’s electric grid through a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement. The project will also serve as a unique educational tool for users of the carports to get a first-hand look at how clean renewable energy is generated.

“Today’s announcement is another step that our State has taken towards energy independence and economic security,” Governor Paterson said. “Through utilizing existing structures, we are able to keep costs down and maximize our limited funds for these clean energy initiatives. This project will create jobs and reshape our economy for future generations, and will further our goals of making the State more energy efficient and affordable for everyday New Yorkers.”

LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey said, “I commend Governor Paterson and all of our partners in making Long Island a leader in solar energy. This project is a prime example of how partnerships created between private, public and coordination between governmental entities can result in remarkable economical and environmental benefits for Long Island. Today’s groundbreaking demonstrates a unified commitment to Long Island and LIPA’s customers to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, to diversify our energy portfolio, to reduce our use and dependence on fossil fuels, to stimulate the local economy, to create clean energy jobs, and to help build the Long Island solar industry.”

The State, through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), awarded LIPA $6.7 million in federal stimulus funding which will allow LIPA to connect the solar panels installed on the carports to the Long Island electric grid. The project will consist of over 60,000 solar modules reducing carbon emissions by more than 14,300 tons annually, which is equivalent to removing 2,447 cars from the roads each year. In addition, there are substantial economic benefits to Long Island, including:

  • $8.5-$9 million in Suffolk County lease revenue
  • $10 million in local material procurement
  • $1.2 million for local school districts and towns
  • The creation of 150-200 jobs during the construction phase of the project

The county lots are located at: the H. Lee Dennison Building and the North County Complex in Hauppauge; the Cohalan Court Complex in Central Islip and the Riverhead County Center; as well as county-owned parking lots at the Long Island Railroad stations in Brentwood, Ronkonkoma, and Deer Park. As the project areas are located on existing parking lots there will be no disruption to the local environment and no reduction in the number of available parking spaces at any of the locations. Additionally, the design will allow for snow plowing and regular maintenance.

In December 2009, the LIPA Board of Trustees approved power purchase agreements with BP Solar International Inc. and enXco Development Corporation, thereby creating the State’s largest source of solar power on Long Island by introducing approximately 50MW of clean renewable energy generated on Long Island onto LIPA’s electric grid. The 50 MW is enough to power 6,500 households and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 45,300 tons per year as well as reducing other environmental pollutants.

David Kirkpatrick, Vice President of Solar Development for enXco, commented, “We are pleased to launch the construction phase of these valuable projects. These project sites represent the largest distributed utility scale solar project for enXco and our first in New York. We applaud the efforts and commitment of LIPA and Suffolk County to bring this vital renewable energy project to their service area and look forward to a successful future.”

Frank Alfano, CEO of Mercury Solar Systems, said, “Our team is thrilled to bring these unique solar carports to Long Island, the largest project of its kind in all of the U.S.”

LIPA’s 50 MW clean renewable energy project first stemmed from then-Lieutenant Governor Paterson’s Renewable Energy Task Force report in 2008 and furthers the Governor’s 45-by-15 initiative which established a goal for the State to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and renewable sources by the year 2015.

Read Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy-and Our Planet-from Dirty Energy from Amazon.