Solar Power Shines

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Solar Power Shines
Solar Projects Shine New Light on Brownfields
Story by John Thomas
Staff Writer


   A special meeting of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency was called last week to consider three exciting new projects in solar power. BQ Energy/Steel Winds LLC is seeking approval of a 15-year Energy PILOT program for a trio of Olean projects. The projects are known as Solean Project, Solean West Project and Homeridae Project will all use brownfields around Olean to generate electricity.

   The Solean Project is a 4 MW (megawatt) photovoltaic plant; 100% of its production will be sold to St. Bonaventure University. The proposed contract will save the University about $283,000 per year in direct reduction of operating costs. The total investment of the project will be $10,075,000. The Solean West Project’s sole customer will be Olean General Hospital. The 20-year contact will utilize 100% of the 1.6 MW plant BQ will build. That investment will be $5,500,000, and will save the hospital $40,000 per month if electricity costs. Finally, the Homeridae Project will be a 3.2 MW plant, with 100% of its power to be sold to the City of Olean. The 25-year contract will save the city $125,000 per month.

   In addition to the cost savings, the three solar projects can be built on brownfields. These toxic sites are difficult and expensive to remediate. The solar panels used by BQ do not need to be anchored in the ground. Instead, they sit on heavy concrete ballasts, without disturbing the top-cap of the location, keeping the toxins in the ground. This returns the land to productive use and puts the site back on the tax rolls.

   Reduced carbon emissions are another benefit of solar power. During the night, the three entities will rely on the normal power supply from the grid. But during the day using solar energy to produce power results in less electricity generation from fossil-fueled generators. Furthermore, when peak daytime demand spikes in hot weather, power supplies like National Grid rely on “peakers” – power suppliers that have higher than average CO2 emissions. Since three large power users (St. Bonn, Olean General, and the city) will all be relying on BQ, peak demand on the grid will be lessened.

   The contract BQ will sign with St. Bonaventure will last 25 years with two five-year extensions. The total savings for S. Bonn over the duration of the contract will be $7,360,000. The contact with the City of Olean will also last 25 years, with two five-year extensions. Saving over the contract will be $3,200,000. The contact with Olean General Hospital will have a duration of 20 years with two five-year extensions. The hospital’s total savings will be around $1,000,000. BQ Energy’s investment in the City of Olean’s plant will be $6,000,000. BQ’s total investment in the three projects will be $21,600,00. It will create three to five full-time permanent jobs and will utilize local contractors for construction, and local specialized contractors for maintenance. Local suppliers will be used as well for the purchase of supplies and equipment.

Solar panels similar to these will be installed by BQ Energy for three solar projects in Olean.