East Hampton Town Celebrates Near Completion of Solar Project

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East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc (center) with Town Board members (from left) Jeff Bragman, David Lys and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez with construction foreman Michael Flynn (right) holding a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Monday, October 22, at Accabonac Solar, a 1.1-megawatt solar project on town property off Accabonac Highway in Springs. A private contractor, AES Distributed Energy, leases the site, a former brush dump, from the town and will sell the power it generates to LIPA. It will generate annually the equivelent of half the energy the town uses to power its own buildings. Peter Boody photo

The first ground-based, large-scale solar panel array on the South Fork won’t be up and running for another month or so but the East Hampton Town Board held a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Monday, October 22 to celebrate its near completion.

Wearing hard hats, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, joined by Councilpersons Jeff Bragman, David Lys and Kathee Burke-Gonzales, stood before the partially-constructed array and posed for reporters as the supervisor cut a ribbon with oversize scissors.

Site work began over the summer on the project, an array of 3,528 individual 330-watt solar panels mounted on south-tilted rows of racks on two acres of an old 21-acre brush dump off Accabonac Highway in Springs that hasn’t been used for decades.

Called Accabonac Solar, the project is owned by AES Distributed Energy, which leases the site from the town and will remotely monitor it from its main office in Boulder, Colorado. It will produce 1.1 megawatts of electricity that will flow from the site through a meter and into the LIPA grid via Accabonac Road. LIPA has a contract with AES to buy the energy, which is the equivalent of more than half the annual electrical demand of the Town of East Hampton’s government facilities.

Councilman David Lys explained in an interview after the photo session that the project is one part of the town’s plans for promoting renewable energy and achieving the goal, formally set by the town board in 2014, of meeting all the community’s electrical needs with renewable sources by 2020. Smaller solar arrays, funded largely by LIPA grants, are also planned for the rooftops of about 10 town facilities, including police headquarters, the Marine Museum and the aquaculture facility in Napeague, Mr. Lys said.

The Town of Southampton set a similar renewable energy goal in 2014 but so far has no solar panel arrays on town properties, according to Gordion Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a non-profit that promotes the transition to renewable energy. Mr. Raacke, who attended the event Monday, said it has been challenging for Southampton Town to find appropriate town-owned sites that are not encumbered with development restrictions.

AES purchased the project from Sun Energy, which won the town contract to construct and run the solar array in 2015 but went bankrupt. AES approached the town board in early 2018 with its plans to revive the plans and build the facility.

Accabonac Solar is AES’s second project on Long Island. The first has been up and running for about a year at Cedar Creek Park in Nassau County. Construction of its third project is expected to start soon between the runways at county-owned Gabreski Airport in Westhampton, according to Jeff Gordon, AES director if installations.

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”