by Rachel Hunter
Kruger Energy wants to build a solar project on the four parcels it owns off County Route 22 in the Town of Fowler.
Representatives Mike McDonald and Tim Conboy presented a concept plan to the Town of Fowler board at its Thursday, July 6 regular meeting.
Kruger Energy is a subsidiary of Kruger, Inc., headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. The company purchased the Emeryville Hydroelectric facility earlier this year – and is interested in further developing the 53 acres of land they acquired in the purchase.
The origins of Kruger Inc. date back to 1904, when Joseph Kruger founded a fine paper business in Montreal. Gene H. Kruger, the founder's son, became president of that company in 1928 at the young age of 25 and expanded it into the manufacture of newsprint, paperboard and tissue products.
As chairman of the board and CEO, Joseph Kruger II, Gene's son, has overseen the company's continual expansion into specialty publication papers, North American tissue products, wines and spirits, forest and wood products, renewable energy and recycling, as well as its modernization with special emphasis on the environment.
The company's activities are divided into two major divisions: Industrial Products (publication papers, forest products, containerboard and packaging) and Consumer Products (tissue products, wines and spirits). Kruger Inc.’s subsidiary, Kruger Energy, develops and operates hydroelectric, solar, wind power, biomass cogeneration and biogas energy projects.
“We are looking at developing, building and operating more solar projects in the US at this time,” Mr. Conboy told the town board.
Kruger Energy has spent the past month looking to see if the property would be an ideal site for a solar project – and they like what they see.
“It has the components,” Mr. Conboy said. “What we look for on a good solar site is relatively flat land where there isn’t going to be any undue environmental or any other impacts – any threatened or endangered species, on wetlands, rare plants and animals, on our neighbors, and on the community.
“Also there is a 23KB National Grid line that runs from the Emeryville Hydro Project, along the road for a little while, follows the railroad track, and cuts along the southern corner of the property that Kruger owns. That would be where the solar project interconnects to the electric grid – something that you need for the kind of project that we want to do.”
Kruger Energy will only be able to use 27 out of the 53 acres.
“There’s a stream, some wetlands, in the southern boundary of the tract,” Mr. Conboy said. “We would have some setbacks from that. We would want to avoid the wetlands. We would setback the edges of the solar project from the adjoining neighbors, from the property lines.”
On the 27 acres of available land, Kruger Energy plans to put up rows of solar panels, aligned from east to west, fixed tilt to the south.
“The sun is usually toward the south on the northern latitudes where we are here,” Mr. Conboy explained.
A gravel access road would lead into the project from County Route 22 in Fowler, and a fence would surround the perimeter of the solar panels.
Mr. Conboy continued to give the town board details on the solar project as follows:
“There would be underground electric cables that would then take the electricity from the solar panels, run them together and pass the electricity through converters (converting it from DC to AC electricity). Then it goes through transformers stepped up to the same voltage that the transmission lines are operated at – and then it would connect to that transmission line. The skill of the project is just under five megawatts AC… Getting just below five megawatts allows us to reduce our costs a bit.
“The project would generate 8,300 megawatt hours per year which probably doesn’t mean much to anybody, but that is the equivalent of electricity used by approximately 1,100 New York households. It is a fair amount of electricity that we could produce.”
Mr. Conboy told the Town of Fowler board that Kruger estimated the total capital investment would be around $7 million. He said the soonest the project could be completed was late in 2018 or possibly summer of 2019. He then commented that the timing would be dependent on whether they received an award from New York State Energy and Resource Development Authority.
“They are conducting a competitive request for proposals to supply them with the renewable energy credits (RECs) from this project,” Mr. Conboy said. “So, this project would generate two main products of value – one being the energy that is put into the grid and the other being the RECs which are the renewable components and NYSERDA will purchase them under a long term contract.”
Mr. Conboy then assured the town board that it would not be an overnight decision.
“We are not going to start the construction next week,” he said. “We have to do the development work. We have to go through the permitting process with the town, the county. We are interested in getting a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement from the town, county, the IDA, and the school district. So that’s something we want to start a dialogue about. We have to start to go through the whole interconnection process with National Grid to get technical permission to connect the project to the grid. So, we are at the beginning of the development process that will probably take 12 to 16 months before we can actually start construction.”
Mr. Conboy told the town board Kruger Energy’s owner likes to develop projects and business with a real long-term perspective in mind.
“If we are going to develop and build and operate a project long term, we want to have a good relationship with the community where the project is located,” he said.
Mr. Conboy concluded his presentation by mentioning that he would appreciate feedback from the community about the project. He said he would be talks with NYSERDA this week, and get the beginning stages of the development process rolling.
“I wanted to make an introduction to the town board, to the community and just talk about what our interests are – get the dialogue started,” he said. “We’ll be doing more research in the weeks ahead, but if anyone has any feedback, please let us know. We will keep in touch as we move things forward, and see if we can make this happen.”
He then asked the town board if there were any questions.
Town of Fowler Supervisor Michael Cappellino asked, “What is the lifespan of this solar array?”
“We are projecting about 30 years operating life,” Mr. Conboy answered.
Deputy Supervisor Rick Newvine asked, “What is in it for us? Does this create jobs for Fowler? Does this create low-cost power for Fowler? It seems like so far all we are doing is giving taxes away.”
“Well, you will get property tax revenue either in form of PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) payments, or if you don’t do a PILOT just in the property tax payments,” Mr. Conboy said. “But if you do the PILOT you’ll get the PILOT payments and the property tax payments when the PILOT term ends. That is certainly the biggest kind of financial gain. On the same of side of that, it is not the sort of project that is going to create a lot of needs for services for the town or the county. We are not going to create jobs. We are not going to put more students in the classroom or need plowing or other municipal or social services that some projects create through the types of jobs that they create.
“In creating the PILOT payments, it is going to diversify the economic base a little bit. I guess you have a hydroelectric project here in town, but you have another type of tax revenue coming in.”
The discussion with the Kruger energy representative lasted for several more moments before the town board extended their gratitude to Kruger for making their presentation to the town board.
The next meeting of the Town of Fowler is to be held on Tuesday, August 1 at 7 p.m. at the Fowler Town Hall.
by Rachel Hunter