Sustainable Westchester is bolstering its push for “green” energy by promoting incentives for municipalities to enroll residents in its free Community Solar program. So far the villages of Hastings and Dobbs Ferry are on board. In addition, the Village of Ardsley plans to join, according to Mayor Nancy Kaboolian. 

Individuals (renters or homeowners), religious institutions, and some businesses and nonprofits are eligible to subscribe to the free program, launched in 2018, that promises to cut their electricity bills approximately 10 percent by connecting to solar “farms” (solar arrays) without installing their own solar panels. Solar-equipped buildings aren’t eligible for the program. All that’s necessary to subscribe is to have a ConEd account with which to sign up on the Sustainable Westchester website (sustainablewestchester.org/solar).

Hastings Mayor Niki Armacost, who’s excluded from the program because her home has solar panels, noted that Hastings subscribed to the original Community Solar program when it was first offered in 2018. The updated version expands its benefits.

“Residents in Hastings will be able to sign up to support community solar arrays constructed nearby in Westchester,” she noted. “…We are even looking into signing up our municipal accounts.”

The Village of Hastings will host an online forum about Community Solar and GridRewards on April 22, at 7 p.m., via Zoom.

NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) has designated Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, and Ardsley as Clean Energy Communities. Hastings is certified at the silver level, Dobbs Ferry and Ardsley at the bronze level. To maintain their status, each village must renew it yearly by completing sustainability actions from a list supplied by NYSERDA.

Hastings and Dobbs Ferry opted to use Community Solar enrollment as one of their actions. To meet the threshold that defines completion, a village of their size must enroll 10 subscribers. Doing so will earn the municipalities 200 points toward certification, and a $5,000 NYSERDA grant. There’s no limit to the number of subscribers that can be enrolled, but there is no further grant money. According to Claire Kokoska of Sustainable Westchester, the grants would preferably be used for a sustainability-related project, but they aren’t restricted. 

Dobbs Ferry’s Sustainability Task Force, co-chaired by Linda Stutz and Rob Baron, is taking the lead in their Village. Stutz subscribed to the program a year ago; her account is connected to a solar array on the roof of a building in New Rochelle. 

She explained how Community Solar billing works. “I get a monthly bill from Con Ed that shows my credits in dollars — they’re called ‘adjustments.’ I set up auto-billing, and I’ve seen savings, much more in the summer than in the winter, but it evens out.”

Sustainable Westchester details why consumers will receive two bills: Community Solar farms send the energy they produce to the local electric grid. Rather than paying the solar farm owner directly for the energy, the utility places credits on its bills to subscribers. The solar farm owner then bills those subscribers a discounted amount for the credits the utility shows on its own bill.

To see locations of solar farms, visit the Community Solar section of the Sustainable Westchester website.

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