National Grid has Programs to Assist Agriculture

Jay Matteson

Farms and agribusinesses considering improving their energy efficiency or an expansion project should look closely at the program National Grid offers. They have been a good partner to many farms across Northern New York offering financial assistance for energy projects. As an example, National Grid assisted a 430-cow dairy just north of Albany in 2015. The farm wanted to improve their energy efficiency and increase their productivity.  National Grid was able to help the farm achieve both objectives through $18,000 in energy efficiency incentives and a $50,000 grant from National Grid’s Economic Development Agribusiness program.

    National Grid offers a variety of energy saving farm incentives. Improved lighting systems can increase milk production per cow and provide a better work environment for farm staff. National Grid provides significant incentives for converting old light systems to newer higher efficiency systems. There is a range of incentives offered depending upon the type of fixture.

    Fans can be a huge electricity demand during the warm summer months. Without fans, herd health and production can drop significantly. It is important to provide well-circulated air flow and cool temperature to keep your cows happy and minimize fly problems.  Through National Grid’s help, farms may be able to obtain more efficient fans that improve air quality and cooler temperatures.  In addition, variable frequency drives and controls can be put in place to allow fans to run only when needed adding additional savings onto a farm electricity bill.

    Assistance on upgrading milking equipment may also be possible from National Grid. Variable frequency driven vacuum pumps, air compressors, pumps, air dryers, milk precoolers, heat exchangers and chillers are eligible for National Grid incentive payments. Many farms have already taken advantage of incentives from National Grid to upgrade this equipment.

    Some of our farms located in the rural areas of Northern New York face limitations because of the power supply to the farm.  In order to upgrade or expand facilities, farms sometimes face needing a three-phase power supply to farm instead of single-phase. This can be a very expensive proposition as the farm will incur the costs of running three-phase power to the farm, if the supply is not present in front of the farm already. National Grid does have a grant program to decrease the cost of obtaining three-phase power. Potentially, depending upon the specific situation the farm faces, it may receive up to $200,000 for running three-phase power.

    The National Grid Agri-Business Productivity Program is available to assist dairy farms, commercial farms, food processing businesses and controlled environment agricultural facilities with energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy projects and delivery or productivity improvements. To be eligible a business or farm must receive electric or natural gas from National Grid and be undertaking an energy efficiency project through any public agency or utility program or be purchasing /installing equipment for a renewable energy project to service the facility. A project that is constructing or upgrading a new controlled environment agriculture facility may also be eligible.  Awards up to $50,000 are possible.

    Our office has a great working relationship with the Economic Development and Corporate Citizenship office of National Grid in Syracuse. Mr. Joe Russo is great to work with and has worked hard to help farms and agribusinesses with their projects.  If you are interested in learning more about these programs, please give our office, Jefferson County Economic Development, a call at 315-782-5865 or by email to coordinator@comefarmwithus.com or contact Mr. Russo directly at 315-428-6798.  You’ll find a good partner through National Grid with your energy efficiency or expansion projects.

Jay M. Matteson is agricultural coordinator for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp. Contact him at coordinator@comefarmwithus.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

Lewis County officials hopeful for solar project kickoff in spring

solar

By STEVE VIRKLER
SVIRKLER@LOWVILLE.COM

Lewis County’s planned solar project appears to be on track for an early 2017 kickoff, thanks to some help from the state Public Service Commission.

“We could start construction in the spring like we originally planned,” said Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, chairman of the legislative Ways and Means Committee.

While interconnection issues with the electrical grid had threatened to delay the project, a couple of conference calls with officials from National Grid and the Public Service Commission in the past two weeks seems to have rectified them, Mr. Hathway told his fellow lawmakers Tuesday.

County legislators have approved a power purchase agreement with Greenskies Renewable Energy, Connecticut, that would offer guaranteed savings of $2.86 million over 20 years for Lewis County and its municipal hospital. However, actual savings could be higher than that, depending on fluctuating electric rates and other factors.

Under the deal, Greenskies is to construct a 2-megawatt solar array on about 19 acres behind the county Public Safety Building on outer Stowe Street, then sell relatively low-cost power to the county for 20 years.

While the county still needs to firm up an interconnection agreement with National Grid, it now appears that the cost for needed upgrades to electrical infrastructure should not exceed $250,000 and may be as low as $200,000, while up to $500,000 had been planned for that expense, Mr. Hathway said.

Green Skies is also to cover $87,000 of that expense, so the county share should only come to a maximum of $163,000, he said.

Initial correspondence with National Grid had the county eyeing upgrade costs of more than $700,000 and an 11- to 16-month waiting period before the project could commence, Mr. Hathway said.

“Now, we’re talking three, four, five months and then we’ll be ready to go,” he said.

Mr. Hathway credited Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, and legislators Richard A. Chartrand, D-Lowville, and Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, with getting the Public Service Commission — which regulates providers of electricity and other utilities — involved in the discussions. That, with work by county attorney Joan E. McNichol, has been instrumental in securing more favorable terms, he said.

Mr. Chartrand and Mr. King discussed the solar project with other attendees at a recent intergovernmental session in Lake Placid and learned that utility-related issues were not uncommon, Mr. Tabolt said.

The chairman said a subsequent discussion with Mr. Chartrand about the trip prompted him to call a contact he has at the Public Service Commission, and officials from that agency have since made recommendations that will significantly reduce costs to the county and allow the project to move forward.

Greenskies officials, after signing a contract with the county in January, were initially hoping to complete the project this year. However, delays caused them to push back the timetable and secure less grant funding, and the company over the summer renegotiated its contract to offer lower guaranteed savings than originally planned.

If and when the solar project becomes operational, Greenskies is to charge 7.9 cents per kilowatt hour, well under the 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour the county is now paying, with a guarantee that actual production would be at least 90 percent of the company estimate each year.

The array, the largest that may be built under a New York State Energy and Development Authority subsidy program, should meet roughly half the electricity needs of the county and Lewis County General Hospital, county officials have said.

May 2016 Cover Story: Economic Development

Securing a stronger future for the north country

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

COR Development’s Mercy Health Center Redevelopment project is set to begin its first phase of construction this summer on 30,000 square feet of commercial space and 108 apartments. Overall, the project will house 168 units and a community center on the grounds of the former Mercy Hospital in Watertown. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Business.

Despite workforce challenges, regional economic development continues to power positive growth across Northern New York

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

A rural and historically challenged region where economic development was often stagnant, the Great Recession dealt a significant blow to New York’s north country as its counties saw a spike in unemployment and manufacturing jobs disappear, including about 600 from Jefferson County alone. [Read more…]

A well-powered region for a brighter tomorrow

Bob Burke, operations manager for EDP Renewables North America Eastern Region II, which includes Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, stands on a service road last month at the wind farm. Future investments in electrical transmission lines will benefit projects  like Maple Ridge, which went into service in 2006. Norm Johnston/ NNY Business

Bob Burke, operations manager for EDP Renewables North America Eastern Region II, which includes Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, stands on a service road last month at the wind farm. Future investments in electrical transmission lines will benefit projects like Maple Ridge, which went into service in 2006. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Investments in infrastructure, renewable sources will help Northern New York grow as a leader in energy production [Read more…]