Casey Croucher/Recorder staff Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick points to the new solar panels installed on the city's Public Safety Building.
By CASEY CROUCHER
City buildings are going green to save some green.
Police Chief Gregory Culick said the Public Safety Building is the city of Amsterdam's first building to install solar panels on its roof, at no charge.
Energy group Monolith Solar, in Rensselaer, contracted with the city last August to install solar panels to seven sites in the city including City Hall, the water treatment plant and the sewer plant.
Monolith finished its first city installation last week at the Public Safety Building. According to the agreement, Monolith won't charge the city for installation or equipment, instead they'll sell the city the energy the system generates at a 25 percent discounted rate compared to National Grid.
The agreement is a 20-year commitment, and the company estimates the city will save $310,000.
Culick's department brought the idea of solar panels to the Common Council after noticing an office building on Market Street, where the old Marine Midland Bank used to be, had solar panels.
"We noticed that that building had the panels and they're in a similar location," he said. "But I didn't think the department could afford solar panels because they're usually pricey."
Culick said he called the New York Light Energy group and they pitched the idea of doing the entire installation for free.
"They told me they lay it out for totally free and get New York State Energy Research and Development Authority grants and federal grants," he said. "They told me we would save so much, like 25 percent off of our bill, and that they get a portion of the energy generated."
Culick brought the New York Light Energy group to the Common Council so council members could hear the group's pitch. The group told the council they were interested in putting panels on seven city buildings. Culick said the city's engineer found Monolith, and the council decided to contract with the company.
He said the building's solar panel system is very innovative.
"The whole system is Internet-operated," he said. "If there's a problem with wiring on a panel, the company can pinpoint the issue with the Internet system. Also, energy not used during the day is stored when the panels are 'sleeping' at night and is used when it's a cloudy day; it's referred to as collected energy."
Culick said he's hoping the panels help the city save money, since that was the whole point of the project, however, he's witnessed proof from the city's neighbor.
"The town of Amsterdam had panels put up by the New York Light Energy group and when everything was up and running, the bills showed that in one month, in the summer, the electric bill was negative $4, so they were actually making money that month because of the solar panels," he said. "So that's great. I hope the city can see that happen with this change."
He said the decision to get solar panels made sense and was a smart decision.
"We have all this space, and this company was offering us a free installation, so it made sense," he said. "Why not use it and take the burden off the taxpayers a little bit, and generate some energy ourselves. Monolith owns all the equipment, and hopefully we'll reap all of the awards."