BUFFALO, N.Y. – After more than a year of planning and community outreach, National Grid’s Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar Demonstration Project has reached a significant milestone – full customer commitment to reach its 500-kilowatt generating capacity.
A total of 170 participants have enrolled or are in the process of enrolling in the project, designed to test the grid efficiency of a concentration of rooftop solar in a single neighborhood, while providing energy bill savings for participants.
This innovative, $3.7 million energy demonstration project was approved in 2015 by New York Public Service Commission as part of the state’s efforts for grid modernization and infrastructure investment. It was designed to use solar power to create a customer-centric, responsive, efficient and environmentally-sound energy network. Homeowners and non-profit groups who enroll will enjoy lower energy costs. The project marks the first time that residents in such a large, economically-diverse neighborhood have shared power resources.
Participants receive a monthly credit on electric bills based on aggregate generation of the panels in the neighborhood, and enjoy benefits of solar power without having to purchase, install or maintain systems. That’s because National Grid services and maintains the systems for 25 years.
To commemorate the enrollment milestone, National Grid hosted company and civic leaders on Tuesday, July 18 at First Centennial Baptist Church, which is located in the Fruit Belt. They talked about its significance and the path forward.
National Grid created the project to test the benefits of concentrated solar installations on its delivery system. To do so, the company is coordinating solar power distribution by concentrating the equivalent of 100 5-kilowatt solar voltaic systems on rooftops of homes and non-profits within Buffalo’s Fruit Belt. Additional project goals include accelerating adoption of renewable energy options, testing the effectiveness of utility ownership of distributed generation in an economically-diverse community and determining whether this energy model could be replicated elsewhere.
“This is an entirely new concept for us, and we greatly appreciate the support we’ve received from the Fruit Belt neighborhood and our project partners,” said National Grid New York vice president Melanie Littlejohn. “. New York State is a leader in energy innovation, and this project puts Buffalo and the Fruit Belt on the leading edge. We very much look forward to the research that will come from this demonstration that will help our industry continue to evolve for the benefit of customers and our environment.
“I commend National Grid for bringing solar energy technology to such a large and economically-diverse neighborhood,” said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. “I hope this can serve as a model for similar neighborhoods across Buffalo, especially on the East and West sides of our city. This is not only a welcome way to help our residents cut their electric bills, it also demonstrates that solar technology is attainable for everybody.”
“This is a wonderful opportunity for homeowners to green their homes and lower their utilities, not only for themselves, but for their neighbors, too,” said Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes. “Over 40 Fruit Belt households are in various phases of solar installation. Once data is available, I have no doubt that this National Grid pilot project will be a great example of an innovative community partnership that has the ability to be replicated throughout the City of Buffalo to benefit residents. Thank you National Grid and congratulations to the participating residents.”
“The Fruit Belt neighborhood is leading the way towards a greener future for Western New York,” said Senator Tim Kennedy. “This innovative project, capable of generating 500 kilowatts, is lowering power bills for consumers, while reducing our region’s carbon footprint. Congratulations to the residents of the fruit Belt, and thank you to National Grid and NYSERDA on successfully implementing this program. I look forward to seeing it continue to expand and thrive.”
“The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is so pleased to be part of the Fruit Belt Neighborhood Solar Partnership, particularly because it has been a tremendous example of how creative thinking and collaboration can lead to new energy approaches, particularly for clean energy solutions,” said Paul Tyno, director of energy initiatives for Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc. “While we have partnered with National Grid on a number of energy initiatives, this project has been particularly gratifying in that there are direct community benefits to our adjacent partner and longtime partner in the form of energy savings.”
- The project includes installation of solar panels rooftops, with a combined capacity of 500 kilowatts. Renewable energy was introduced to the neighborhood to determine whether such a concentration of neighborhood solar can result in grid efficiency.
- Energy from the solar installations is aggregated and monetized through the energy marketplace.
- All solar panels are being provided and installed by Solar Liberty, a Buffalo-based solar sales and installation company.
- To date, there are 44 systems installed, including 15 that are connected to the grid. An additional 40 are in the process of being constructed. Installation of the full contingent of 500 kilowatts is expected to be complete by November.
- For those customers already participating, the monthly credit to their electric bills is approximately $15.
- Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was involved with initial program design, project application to the state, and community outreach once approved.
- The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, as part of the community outreach effort, the residential efficiency portion programs.
- The 500-kilowatt capacity provides National Grid the opportunity to conduct a proper grid efficiency analysis in 2019. Doing so will determine whether projects such as these are financially and technically feasible.