BY DAVID J. HILL republished from UB News Center
Release date: February 7, 2019
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo-led initiative to generate 100 megawatts of on- and off-site renewable energy hit a milestone today with the issuing of requests for proposals (RFPs). RFPs went out for on-site installations at each of the five partner institutions in the project: UB, SUNY Buffalo State, SUNY Erie, the City of Buffalo and Erie County.
The RFPs are part of Localizing Buffalo’s Renewable Energy Future, an initiative that calls for the creation of 100 megawatts of renewable energy. That equates to approximately 50 percent of all electricity used by these entities.
UB is spearheading the initiative, which was a winner of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Energy to Lead Competition, a clean energy competition for New York colleges and universities.
Collectively, the five anchor institutions that issued RFPs are doing their part to reduce the effects of climate change, while creating budget stability through power purchase agreements that will lock in fixed energy prices over a long period of time. The project is expected to divert 82,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, or the equivalent of taking 17,000 cars off the road.
A key step in this journey is launching the RFP process. As part of that, each of the five project partners are putting out a call to developers who may be interested in building renewable energy infrastructure on their sites, either as roof- or ground-mounted installations.
For most partners, the initial step was to identify available real estate in three key areas: land-mounted systems, roof tops and parking lots. Students in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning previously identified 260 potential sites across Western New York, of which 83 were deemed viable. Sites were then evaluated using a set of uniform criteria established by the engineering team from Edison Energy, the company UB contracted with to assist in drafting the RFP in collaboration with the university and its partners.
In addition to Edison’s criteria, each institution also performed extensive rooftop audits of potential sites that included roof age, condition, warrantee status, potential shading and future renovation plans. All of these factors were evaluated in order to determine whether solar would be a good match.
Over the past year, consortium partners worked through complex challenges not only with the solar installation sites, but also with New York procurement law. Partners explored their RFP options through meetings with State University of New York (SUNY) legal counsel, the City of Buffalo corporation counsel and the Erie County attorney, as well as law professors and professionals from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the New York Power Authority and other state officials.
The initiative partners and Edison Energy then worked together on an alternate approach that called for nearly identical RFPs to be issued by each member of the consortium: UB, SUNY Buffalo State, the City of Buffalo, Erie County and SUNY Erie.
The challenge was that while the idea of scaling renewable energy among this many anchor institutions to combat the threat of climate change is new, the administrative processes around procurement law have been in place for years. As a result, consortium partners had to create innovative approaches that worked within the current processes.
Once an installation is built on a site, it will interconnect to the electrical system and will have a revenue-grade meter and systems for reporting 15-minute interval data to the relevant settlement authority.
The power generated by these renewable energy installations — mostly ground- or roof-mounted solar — will be consumed by the consortium partner on whose property the infrastructure is built. For example, the power generated through installations in Buffalo will provide electricity to the city, while sites in Erie County will provide power to the county, and so on, through a power purchase agreement (PPA).
A power purchase agreement is a contract that locks in a fixed energy price over an extended period of time, anywhere from 10 to 30 years. That means that the buyer purchasing the power will achieve greater certainty and insight into energy costs, with greater ability to budget accurately.
Seed funding for the project came from the governor’s Energy to Lead competition, which is part of the Reforming the Energy Vision strategy to build a clean, resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers.
The Energy to Lead program is administered through NYSERDA as part of the REV Campus Challenge, which supports colleges and universities in New York State to implement clean energy projects and principles.
What they're saying:
Here’s what officials from each of the five consortium partners have to say about the project:
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown: “The City of Buffalo’s participation in this solar energy initiative is a continuation of my administration’s efforts in making Buffalo a cleaner, greener and more sustainable city. Not only will it help lower our energy costs and provide energy from a clean and renewable source, it will also help create new jobs in the renewable energy sector for city residents.”
UB Vice President for Finance and Administration Laura Hubbard: “This initiative has the potential to create significant savings for the university and our partners. It allows us to take a triple bottom line approach that creates cleaner air, better stewarding of our natural resources, more efficient budgeting and cost savings.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz: “The REV consortium brings together a large number of public entities that are committed to pursuing renewable energy and bringing positive environmental change to Erie County and Western New York. Together, we can make a difference. Erie County is proud to be a part of this group and we remain dedicated to creating a sustainable energy future for the next generation and beyond.”
SUNY Erie President Dan Hocoy: “SUNY Erie is proud to engage in a cooperative project that keeps with our mission to support local job growth, while helping to develop renewable energy sites throughout the region. Our campus community will benefit greatly from stable energy costs allowing us to redirect anticipated savings to other areas in support of our students.”
SUNY Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner: “Buffalo State College is proud to be a core member of the REV consortium. Through our collective efforts, this unique renewable energy initiative has tremendous potential to bring positive and sustained environmental change to Western New York, while also providing efficient and predictable energy budgeting for years to come.”
Sustainable Development Goals:
7. Affordable & clean energy: Making reliable and affordable energy more accessible to everyone
11. Sustainable cities & communities: Developing safe, resilient and sustainable places to live
13. Climate action: Taking steps to combat climate change and its impacts