On Rochester’s periphery, you can still see green pastures and farmland that hasn’t yet been displaced by urban development — horse farms and fields full of swaying corn stalks. Now, Monroe County officials want to raise a new kind of cash crop on 28 acres of empty county land just outside of Rochester. On Tuesday, county executives presented legislation to the County Legislature that would authorize the installation of two massive “solar panel farms,” which would generate 11 megawatts of electricity every year.
If the proposal is accepted, the solar project would be the largest such installation in the state outside of Long Island. In total, the farms would hold 42,000 solar panels.
The largest active solar installation in Monroe County is at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but only generates two megawatts of energy per year. Right now, the county buys about $15 million of electricity a year on the wholesale energy market, but the proposed solar farms would harvest enough solar energy to power 2,000 homes and save $366,000 annually. Over the next 20 years, the farms would save the county $7.3 million.
“This project not only demonstrates our commitment to being ethical stewards of the local environment, but shows how we continue to embrace green initiatives that ultimately protect our community for future generations,” said County Executive Maggie Brooks.
Upstate New York has seen a surge in interest in solar energy this decade. In Buffalo, a company called SolarCity is set to hire 1,400 workers for a new solar factory under construction there. Nationally, the price of solar panels has dropped 80% since 2008, and by next year, a new solar panel will be installed every 20 seconds.
Another Buffalo company, Solar Liberty Inc., won a competitive bid to build the proposed solar farms in Monroe County. Solar Liberty Vice President Nathan Rizzo says if the plan is approved quickly, the solar farms could be completed as soon as next year.