Olean cuts ribbon on new solar electricity farm, hopes it will cut taxes

Jul 17, 2019

Officials cut the ribbon on a new 4-megawatt solar electricity farm Wednesday morning, the third developed for the City of Olean.

The project is in 75% ownership of RECOM, the EU-based manufacturer of crystalline photovoltaic solar modules, and 25% of BQ Energy, a Hudson Valley renewable energy company. The companies cooperated on the installation, that is covered by a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement with the City of Olean.

BQ Energy Managing Director Paul Curran said the first two sites in Olean provided power to St. Bonaventure University and Olean General Hospital. He said this new location on Homer Street, near Oregon Road, was a former oil refinery that closed in the 1960s and then cleaned up.

"The area the panels are on used to be a storage area for petroleum products," Curran said. "So it was a good site for us because it's been cleaned up according to the standards of the DEC, but those standards should never encourage housing or playground because, you know, they're not perfect."

Curran said all of BQ's renewable energy projects - including the highly visible windmills along Lackawanna's waterfront - are located on former brownfields, which can already have built-in functionality for new industrial uses.

Officials cut the ribbon on the new solar electricity project Wednesday morning.
Credit Rick Miller / Olean Times Herald

"What we see is an area with good infrastructure, that has had an industrial footprint to it historically. That's a nice way of saying it has a little bit of pollution to it historically," Curran said, "And what we're seeing is an area that could be used for redevelopment with renewable energy. The state is clearly looking for more renewable energy in the future and the reuse of brownfields, for us, is just a perfect solution for that."

This June, the state legislature passed the most aggressive green measure in the country, codifying the use of 70% renewable energy in New York by 2030.

The installation comprises of 11,808 RECOM monocrystalline solar modules, 345 Wp each.

“This solar installation is very symbolic in a sense that it is built on remnants of a petroleum ground reflecting today’s efforts to transit from fossil to renewables,” said RECOM CEO Hamlet Tunyan. “We are glad to be part of this project, which is one among many that RECOM is realizing in the State of New York.”

The two companies said this new Olean project will produce enough electricity to power about 400 homes a year and allow the city to purchase its electricity for less.

"The City of Olean buys electricity, like everybody else. They use it for wastewater treatment. They use it for streetlights. They use it for town garages and all that kind of stuff," Curran said. "What we're doing is selling electricity to the City of Olean and they're reducing their overhead costs by saving some money on the transaction."

He said that should translate into lower taxes for the city.