Arcadia has been a driving force in opening community solar farms across six states to date. Arcadia, solar developer partner ForeFront Power, and numerous state agencies opened the solar farm on Pruyn Hill Road in Mechanicville, New York, in December. This achieved an important milestone: New York’s solar generation reached 2,000 megawatts (or two gigawatts) which is roughly a third of the 2025 state-wide goal of 6,000 megawatts (or six gigawatts). That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment.
Thomas and Janice Johnson, whose family has owned the land for over 100 years, leased the site to the operators. Talking with the couple, it was easy to see how proud they were of the accomplishment and of the innovative use of the land.
The solar array consists of 18,500 panels producing 6.12MW or over seven million kilowatt hours. This is equivalent to taking 800 cars off the road. The solar array feeds power directly to the grid, supplying enough power for an estimated 1,000 residential customers. In the installation of panel support structures, the wiring was run through an underground conduit to make the land maintenance (e.g. mowing) more efficient.
Compared to installing solar panels on an individual house, one of the many benefits of community solar is how it generically feeds the solar-produced energy into the grid. That means that local energy users are running off solar as opposed to non-renewable generated energy. More to the point, it’s really democratized in that you don’t need to be a high-income investor in solar to get solar-generated energy anymore. With community solar, all consumers of electric power in the area are now getting solar-generated power.
The appeal to electricity subscribers is they can take part in driving the change toward solar energy without having to own their own solar panels or their own home. Renters and homeowners alike benefit from solar energy generated at this site.
The financial arrangement between Arcadia and the subscriber appears simple but is actually clouded in handoffs. The subscriber signs up with Arcadia and gives Arcadia the ability to see and pay their current electric utility provider, in my own case the utility provider is NYSEG. Arcadia then starts to bill the subscriber for their monthly usage as documented by NYSEG. So, the subscriber pays Arcadia who in turn pays NYSEG.
The subscriber receives a 5% discount on their monthly bill for the portion they elect to get through the community solar farm. The subscriber can choose 50 or 100 percent of wind or solar or a combination of both, through Arcadia. The subscriber is paying Arcadia what they used to pay NYSEG, minus the 5% discount.
Interestingly, the subscriber can see on their NYSEG account the exact credit which NYSEG gives for the electricity fed into the grid via the community solar farm. Judging by the amount of credits on the NYSEG statement, Arcadia makes their profit on the difference between what the subscriber pays Arcadia and what NYSEG charges every month after the credits for electricity fed into the grid via the community solar farm are taken into account.
Not only is the community solar project impressive to walk through, but it is exciting to be part of the effort in some small way as a subscriber of Arcadia Power. Stemming off some carbon emissions makes me feel good on paper. Seeing it in real life was a crystalline moment.
Chris Cusack is a software engineer and blogger who is passionate about reducing our carbon footprint and improving our impact on the environment. His blog can be found at https://syncopatedcodes.com.