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State says host a solar or wind farm and get a rebate on your bill

ALBANY – New Yorkers who live in towns or cities hosting large solar or wind farms could get a break on their utility bills, according to a proposal from the state Department of Public Service.

In what could be viewed as a way to overcome local opposition that has emerged with such proposed projects, the DPS, controlled by the appointed Public Service Commission, is calling for electric bill rebates or credits paid by developers of solar and wind farms of 25,000 KW capacity or above.

While details of the proposal are still being worked out, the rebates could be in the range of $87.50 to $145.83, according to one calculation put out by the DPS. They would be paid annually in the first bill of the year for the first 10 years of operation for a new energy plant.

The rebate would be one of several obligations that renewable power plant operators would have to meet in order to gain approval.

“This is supposed to be additive,” Brandon Goodrich, a lawyer for the DPS said Tuesday during a web-based question-and-answer session on the proposal.

The concept of a rebate to customers, while likely popular with homeowners, does not seem to excite the myriad environmental and industry groups that have already offered comments on the plan.

Utility companies have questions about the logistics in providing rebates. And environmental groups think the money should go toward other uses such as land preservation.

“Community Benefit Programs should go towards meaningful, landscape-level environmental needs of the host community and surrounding area rather than isolated and uncoordinated projects or minimal utility bill credits,” one group, the Land Trust Alliance, said in its written comments.

And the New York Power Authority, which operates publicly owned power plants, believes rebates should be targeted to needy communities, given that state energy laws call for a measure of environmental justice.

The state Association of Towns suggested the money might be better used on infrastructure projects. “The idea of an environmental benefit should be interpreted broadly,” the group said.

The Alliance for Clean Energy, which supports alternative power companies, said they believe rebates should help offset tax or Payment in Lieu of Tax programs to municipalities.

The proposal comes as people in some communities are mounting opposition to large solar or wind projects proposed for their towns. The 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act created goals and incentives for sharp reductions in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But residents of communities, including those in the Capital Region such as Greene County, say they are worried about the size of some proposed solar farms and their impact on property values.

Additionally, the CLCPA puts much of the approval authority for alternative energy plants in the hands of a special state siting board rather than local officials.