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Upstate New York Town Wants to Be Taken Off the Grid

Town Supervisor David Fleming is launching a proposal to rely on renewable energy sources to power Nassau, as power outages are common due to antiquated equipment.

(TNS) -- The town of Nassau, N.Y., is moving toward a future where it no longer relies on its electric utility for power.

Supervisor David Fleming says the Town Board plans to create a committee at its Dec. 10 meeting that will explore ways the town can install its own distributed power systems such as solar panels or wind turbines to provide a reliable source of off-grid electricity.

Fleming said that power in the town often goes out during storms because of aging utility equipment. National Grid serves the majority of the town, although NYSEG serves a pocket of residents in the southeast corner.

"We have a crumbling energy infrastructure," Fleming said Wednesday.

Fleming said the town highway garage's roof was recently replaced with a design that will allow the easy installation of solar panels, and the town's capped landfill would be ideal for a small wind farm.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said this was the first that the utility had heard that the town was contemplating removing itself from the electric grid.

"We will be reaching out to the town to find out exactly what their needs are and how we can best meet them," Stella said. "Of course, we do assist other municipalities with similar needs who have alternate power sources to some of their facilities."

Fleming said the goal is to have all town services operate independent of the grid by 2020. The initiative would not affect residential or commercial services, just municipal operations such as the highway garage and the transfer station.

"It's certainly an achievable goal," said Fleming.

Fleming said the town will look for grants to subsidize the program, and he said that local companies like General Electric Co. that are developing renewable energy technologies might like to use the town as a test bed for their products.

Fleming said that the highway garage's electric bill is $2,000 a month, and he believes that renewable systems could help reduce the costs to taxpayers.

"We're willing to be a guinea pig for this model," Fleming said.

State law would not prohibit the town from disconnecting from its utility or building its own power infrastructure, according to a Jon Sorensen, a spokesman for the state Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities in the state.

Sorensen said Nassau's efforts would help support Cuomo administration efforts to encourage more renewable energy development in the state.

"New York is working to expand the use of smaller, cleaner (distributed energy resources), including micro grids, which will help New York meet its clean energy standard of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030," Sorensen said.

National Grid's Stella noted the utility has spent $3 billion over the past 10 years upgrading electric facilities in upstate New York, and has surpassed all PSC targets on outages since 2007.

"Last year, on average, a National Grid upstate New York customer experienced less than one outage," Stella said. "The average outage duration was just under two hours."

©2015 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.