New York Utility Companies Admit to Billing Problems

November 15, 2022

By Liam Mayo, The River Reporter

STATEWIDE, NY — Utility companies across New York State are having difficulties in issuing timely billing for their customers.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order for improvements on September 15, directing utilities to file plans for improvement of their billing processes.

At the heart of the issue is a program that is supposed to make it easier for customers to benefit from renewable energy: community-distributed generation (CDG), also known as community solar.

Consolidated billing

Community solar programs allow customers of a utility company to get savings on their electric bills. To do so, customers sign up with a solar farm that feeds the utility grid.

“This creative program creates opportunities for low- and moderate-income families… by providing increased access to electricity generated from renewable resources and lower monthly bills,” said Rory M. Christian, chair of the PSC.

The current issues with utility billing involve an attempt to streamline the process of going solar.

When the community solar program first started, solar providers and utility companies billed their customers separately.

If you signed up for community solar a few years ago, you got a bill with credits from your utility company, then a separate bill from your community solar provider, debiting you for a slightly smaller amount. The difference between the credit and the debit gave you savings on your electric bill.

Hoping to simplify that process, utilities started rolling out a new system in 2021 called consolidated billing.

Under consolidated billing, your utility company sends you one bill with two lines. The full credit amount and the smaller debit amount get applied on the same bill, giving you the same savings in a simpler package, and the community solar provider doesn’t get involved.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. Things aren’t turning out that way in practice.

Problems in practice

Delaware River Solar (DRS) is a developer with 45 community solar projects, many of them in the Sullivan County area.

DRS started hearing about problems in the consolidated billing system late in 2021. “Many community solar subscribers have experienced multi-month delays in receiving electric bills from New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) and Central Hudson. While such delays are inconvenient for any utility customer, for those on a budget or a fixed income, these delays are particularly troublesome,” said DRS spokesperson Mark McLaren.

NYSEG and RG&E are sister companies that provide energy to customers in the Sullivan County area and beyond. According to company representative Kelly Packard, the companies have faced staffing shortages in areas such as customer billing and meter reading.

“These shortages have impacted our ability to bill customers, including CDG customers,” said Packard.

Packard cited as well a rebound in the solar industry since the pandemic that has increased the number of community solar projects the company has to handle. NYSEG and RG&E combined have over 55,000 community solar customers, less than 25 percent of which are currently affected by billing delays, she said.

A trepidatious timeline

The PSC’s demand for improvements included a request for a timeline for those improvements, including automation in consolidated billing. The billing process for community solar projects is currently handled manually; with an automatic system, community solar customers would have the same billing system as the utility’s other customers.

NYSEG and RG&E upgraded their billing system effective September 2022, according to an October 14 filing with the PSC. That upgrade provides a foundation for fully automated consolidated billing. NYSEG and RG&E expect to move to fully automated consolidated billing in the second quarter of 2023, though it may take up to six months for all community solar projects to transition over.

Packard anticipated that progress on billing timelines will continue in the interim, but that the manual process of community solar billing will continue to cause troubles for some customers. “Customers who have a delayed bill are always eligible to enter into a payment agreement if there is a need to pay a balance over time,” she said.

Community Solar Adoption

The difficulties with consolidated solar billing could harm the adoption of community solar in the interim—McLaren said that hundreds of DRS customers have canceled as a result of the delays in billing.

“We are concerned about any negative public perception of community solar due to the utilities’ recent billing problems,” said McLaren. “However, we have seen the utilities improve their processes over the last six months, and most customers’ utility billing has been normalized.”

“Getting the utility billing and crediting processes performing accurately and timely for these programs is of the utmost importance to ensure their success,” said Christian.

The PSC will hold a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday, November 9 to check in on the utilities’ progress with these programs, following up on its September 15 order.

Photo: The River Reporter

Originally published November 1, 2022 in The River Reporter.

Also In the News, Energy Innovation for Everyone

Learn about Delaware River Solar’s new Yellow Mills Community Solar Farm here

Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E) subscribers can join Delaware River Solar’s new Yellow Mills Community Solar Farm here.

New Portal Provides Customers With Easy Access to Their Accounts

June 30, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Fred Stabbert

Delaware River Solar (DRS) is always looking for new and improved ways to communicate with their customers. With a dedicated call center located in Callicoon manned by professionals, customers have always had easy access to real people to answer their questions and help them with their account.

Now DRS subscribers have an even easier method of getting the information they need through the new customer portal

“You can register your account and view your bills there,” Luke Duncan, a SVP at DRS said. “We are happy the portal allows us to communicate new messages to our subscribers,” Duncan, who was responsible for the technical design on the back end of the new portal, said. “We let them know how much they saved and how much energy these use.” Duncan said the portal will be a real timesaver for
customers who would like to review their history online, view bills, reach DRS with questions, pay online or simply sign up for auto pay.
Dan Green, COO of DRS Operations, said, “We can help both types of customers on our portal – those who have a consolidated bill through the utility and those who are billed separately by DRS.

“You will also be able to see your monthly savings, overall savings, and environmental impact you are having by using DRS,” Green said.
“We are also working on building a referral program into the portal whereby subscribers would receive a gift card for referring friends or family to us,” he said. “We will also be working on a chat option.”


Ask the Expert: A Limitless Resource

June 21, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Autumn Schanil

As a child raised in upstate New York, David Plante loved being outdoors, fueled by his deep curiosity for the environment around him. He spent summers as a camper and volunteer at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Teenage Ecology Camp at Pack Forest, and during High School was involved in the New York State Envirothon program – competing in the fields of aquatic ecology, soils, wildlife, forestry, and current environmental topics.

Plante later attended Siena College, earning his Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, followed by his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Albany. “I was fortunate that Siena College had a great Environmental Studies program led by Dr. Larry Woolbright,” Plante said. “[The courses] exposed me to so many different facets of ecology; from amphibian ecological field work at the
Saratoga Battlefield to acid level sampling in Adirondack lakes, to how the environment shaped great literature by the likes of Edward Abbey, Robert Frost, Henry David Thoreau, and Aldo Leopold,” he continued.

“I was hooked and knew I wanted to make a career being outside, along with working on transformational projects.” Plante has now been in the private environmental consulting field for 17 years, is a Certified Planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is one of a handful of planners that hold an AICP Advanced Specialty Certification as a Certified Environmental Planner. Currently the Energy + Environment Practice Leader for Bergmann – a planning, engineering and architecture firm of over 400 people headquartered in Rochester, and an affiliate of the 2,000 person firm Colliers Engineering & Design – many consider Plante an Expert in his field. “Most of my 17-year career has been involved in environmental impact assessment and wetland impact planning and permitting,” Plante stated. “I started right out of college delineating wetlands and performing threatened/endangered species studies for some large projects, including the Luther Forest Technology Campus in Malta.”

Plante’s expertise has mostly been centered around project planning to avoid and minimize impacts to wetlands and other waters of the United States, as well as performing environmental impact assessments as defined and regulated under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) for private sector projects as well as assisting municipal clients with their obligations under SEQRA:
reviewing projects thoroughly and accurately. “Within the past five years my experience has grown to include due diligence, design, environmental impact assessment, permitting, and construction phase compliance for nearly 500MW of community and utility scale solar projects here in New York as well as several other states,” he said.

“My hope is that we are able to create more community scale and utility scale solar projects across New York to get us to the big benchmark set by the Governor for having 70 percent of our electricity derived from renewable sources by 2030 which, currently, we’ll need a lot more solar arrays here in the state to accomplish this goal.” One of the ways in which this can be done, according to Plante, is by better educating municipalities across the State in what sensible solar development looks like, in hopes that those municipalities don’t pass solar laws restricting solar development. Rather than stagnant rows of metal, Plante talked about the future of solar involving agrivoltaics – the simultaneous use of areas of land for both solar power generation and agriculture.

Currently, Plante stated, that he and his company champion projects that utilize pollinator-friendly seed mixes and install hives to encourage bee colonies to live, thrive, and expand. On other projects they employ solar grazing with rotational sheep herds that both allow farmers to have a place to graze their animals while providing a type of lawn maintenance service for the solar developers. All of this perhaps leading to more agrivoltaic activities like growing crops around and under panels to keep the ground in production. “There are so many wide ranging facets to solar projects, from understanding environmental regulations and zoning codes to knowing what potential species and habitats might be impacted by projects, and how to monitor and mitigate those impacts, to electrical and civil engineering concepts that inform how a solar project is designed to the economic considerations that go into making a project developable,” Plante explained. “Being able to speak confidently and technically about a project while also possessing the soft skills to talk to a landowner who is passionately tied to their land and ensuring them you and your client will be a good steward of a property that their family has owned for generations is all so important to inching us forward toward our goal of New York being the clean energy capital of the country.”

And a common misconception that Plante encounters quite often at Planning Board meetings for solar projects is the question of it being too cloudy and winter being too long for solar to benefit or work in upstate New York. Recent technological developments in solar, according to Plante, such as tracker panels that follow the sun across the sky throughout the day to maximize production as well as bifacial panels that allow the underside of panels to generate electricity from sunlight bouncing off the snow and ground have made solar that much more possible.

And of course, no solar project would be before the board if it wasn’t feasible. “On the scale of humanity’s time on Earth,” Plante added, “the sun is a limitless, inexhaustible resource that rises every morning and sets every evening. “To not harness it to either supplement or replace the more traditional electricity generation sources would be a big missed opportunity, for me personally. “Both working in the solar field and as a community solar subscriber, it’s a way I can leave the planet a better and greener place for my three children and their children going forward,” he said.

Meet the Team: The Build Team

June 16, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Autumn Schanil

Manuel Folgado, CEO of Empire Valorize Solar Empire Valorize Solar’s CEO, Manuel Folgado, is an Agricultural Engineer with training in both solar technology and electrical trade. He is the person behind the build team providing strategic decisions, making sure internal processes are well established, that results are accomplished according to plan, and making sure customers get what they expect – all while working to inspire his team and create a comfortable work environment. “I really enjoy entrepreneurial activities,” Folgado stated. “I was co-founder of a start-up for development and EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) services for solar projects in 2004 in Valencia, Spain during my transition from my studies to the labor market.

“In 2006 that company merged with an engineering firm. In 2016 I left to start this new endeavor with Empire Valorize Solar with the aim to provide development and EPC services to the New York solar market,” he said. Back when the community solar market in NY was just getting on its feet, Folgado met Rich Winter of Delaware River Solar when they were both involved in other projects in the industry.
It was then that they decided to collaborate on putting together a plan for development, construction, and operation of solar projects in the community solar space in NY.

Since then, according to Folgado, they have participated in the NY State Community Solar Program with more than 100 projects. “Some of the challenges we’re facing now are related to high volatility in raw materials, shortage of equipment, and the uncertainty on legislation around panel imports,” expressed Folgado, “which is inflating the cost of the panels.” But the rewards often outweigh the challenges, according to Folgado. Such as landowners benefiting from hosting solar projects with predictable long term lease agreements, the promotion of local jobs and having local companies participate with community projects. “And in some instances, local farmers are providing services to our projects with their local expertise like seeding or mowing,” he continued.

Folgado doesn’t feel that there is one single solution either, but rather a combination of technologies along with solar that can, and should, support the base load of the grid. “Like a sail boat,” Folgado stated, “when the wind isn’t blowing you turn on the engine. Solar and wind should be prioritized in the generation mix, and combined with other technologies when they cannot support the base load of the
grid. “I think the future is for solar to participate in grid support combined with other technologies like green hydrogen or batteries,” he said. “A combination that will be gaining space in the generation and grid support mix in the coming years.”

Folgado also believes it’s important for legislation to establish the rules of the market and reduce uncertainty. “We need legislation that allows distributed generation, like the Community Solar initiatives, that promote homeowners to have access to green and cheaper electricity without compromising space or investment upfront and allow increased access to solar, which in turn can promote more jobs,” he continued. “NY State is becoming a leading state for Community Solar projects, let’s keep that going.”

Justin Gaby, Project Manager
Justin Gaby attended both Alfred State College and Rochester Institute of Technology. Shortly after graduating he began his career in solar for a startup out of Maryland as lead electrician for New York State, eventually working his way up to Field/Electrical Manager.
The company was then acquired by an overseas corporation and their office was closed, which allowed Gaby to go back to his former college and teach for a period of time. It was there that Gaby had the privilege of teaching and promoting renewable energy (solar), before the opportunity arose to work for Empire Valorize Solar.

“I was excited to get back into solar in a practical application,” expressed Gaby. “I’m the Project Manager at EVS, supervising a set number of construction managers who oversee their projects. And being a point of contact for towns or the developer, I allow the construction manager to be able to focus their time on their specific projects.” Gaby also assists the construction managers with experience they may not have, as well as physical labor within his expertise.

“Each day starts with safety, where the construction manager meets the subcontractors as the day begins,” Gaby explained, “and ends with quality assurance after the construction manager spot checks the days progression.” According to Gaby, the average site can be anywhere between 3MW(million watts) to 10MW with one to five different subcontractors at any given time with as many as 60 people depending on the stage and size of the project.

“I think solar will continue to evolve as time goes by both in efficiency and application,” said Gaby. “As battery capabilities progress, solar will be able to be utilized in off times rather than just daytime. And it’s less invasive, meaning depending on the location it can be relatively hidden. “It’s rewarding to see your hard work completed and to see a project from conception through hand off to the owners, knowing this will generate energy for many years in a clean, efficient manner.”

SunMyung In, Project Coordinator
With a background in Civil Engineering and as a construction inspector, SunMyung In’s first role at EVS was in the office for software assistance, before eventually becoming Project Coordinator. “I honestly never expected that I would work in a solar company,” stated SunMyung, “but I feel really lucky to be a member of this company. As Project Coordinator, the main scope of my position is supporting the whole construction team to meet the construction schedules on time.” Still in the learning process, SunMyung tracks the overall
progress of each construction site at the end of every week. If there has been a delay due to weather conditions or essential construction materials are not on time, SunMyung modifies and updates the preliminary schedules and spreadsheets the company uses to track the status for each task of each project in progress.

“Besides the weekly reports,” SunMyung added, “I am sometimes on construction sites if the construction managers need hands for testing or clients require official documents. After site visits, we summarize our performances and share those with other members in the construction team and also from different departments in our company. We repeat those steps numerously to achieve the foremost outcomes
at the end and to bring the best results to our clients.” According to SunMyung, currently nuclear power and fossil fuels are considered a main power source to produce electricity, but they come with huge environmental risks, which is why the future of solar is important in helping produce energy that is environmentally friendly.

“Currently, solar is not efficient enough to completely replace nuclear power plants or fossil fuel power stations, but since the efficiency of solar farms is advancing yearly,” he added, “I think those can gradually take out the important positions of other power plants and will be one of the most important electricity generations of the future.”

Community Solar: How Your Solar Credits are Calculated

June 15, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Cat Scott

Delaware River Solar (DRS) has been at the forefront of a clean energy revolution in New York State whose goal is to have 70 percent of all its electricity produced by renewable resources by 2030. Currently, there is more than one gigawatt of community solar installed and operational throughout the state with a goal of 10 gigawatts of solar by that 2030 deadline.

Community solar is an easy and accessible way for customers to participate in this clean energy revolution, but having a clear understanding of how it works is key to participation. Utility billing can be complicated and hard to understand when working properly, but is a downright nightmare when it’s NOT.

How are community solar credits calculated and applied to your bill?
Great question! Delaware River Solar builds a solar farm which the utility (NYSEG, RG&E, National Grid, Central Hudson or Orange & Rockland Utility) then connects into their grid. DRS enrolls customers into their solar subscription program and then evaluates each customer’s energy needs by auditing their previous 12 months of energy consumption. That allows them to determine how much of the solar farm each customer requires and assigns each account an allocation percentage. With that process complete, DRS submits an allocation report to the utility using each customer account and their allocation percentage.

The solar farm then sits and soaks up those beautiful rays of sunshine and produces clean energy. Once a month, the utility reads the meter on the solar farm to determine how much energy those rays of sunshine have produced. The utility company then calculates how much energy was produced for each account assigned to the solar farm based on their allocation percentage. Then they determine how much energy
the customer has consumed by either reading their meter, estimating their bill, or receiving meter reading information directly from the customer.

Finally, the utility calculates each customer’s bill, including their solar credits, and sends those bills out to each customer. The utility sends DRS a credit report for each solar farm that lists each customer’s solar credits for that month. DRS submits their next allocation report to the utility for the next month’s meter reading continuing the cycle. This is when accounts are added or removed and adjustments to allocations can be made.

NYSEG, RG&E, and Central Hudson have informed us that they are experiencing billing delays for some community solar customers. This has resulted in those affected customers receiving multiple utility bills in a single month. Each utility has assured us that no late fees or penalties will be added to these bills and that payment options are available. We acknowledge that these utility billing delays have inconvenienced many customers, and have been assured by each utility that they are diligently working to improve their processes. Each utility has informed us that they have reached out to their customers to communicate this situation. Unfortunately, DRS does not have any control or influence regarding billing practices or systems of the utility companies. These billing delays were not caused by us; however, we are doing our best to stay up to date on each utility company’s progress. DRS will continue to provide you with guaranteed monetary savings and environment impact benefits from local solar farms. We can be reached at 845-414-3491 or email us at with any questions, concerns, or clarifications. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have earned your business and look forward to many sunny days ahead!

Power to the Farmers: Husband and wife now cherish new life in the sun

June 01, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Kathy Daley

Ben Goodrich is a seventh generation farmer on the land. In 1802, members of the Goodrich family from Connecticut bought a huge piece of property in Owego, N.Y. near Binghamton and started farming. They were descendants of the Goodrich family from England, who left by ship in the 1600s to land in New England.

In the Village of Owego, you can’t miss the name. There’s Goodrich Road, Goodrich Avenue, Goodrich Auctions, Goodrich farm. “Our house was built after the War of 1812,” said Ben, who is a humble man in spite of his ancestry. “It still has bark on the beams.” The oldest tavern in Owego was once on their land.

Ben himself was born in 1942. His farmer father raised Brown Swiss cows, known for their size and their rich milk popular for cheese-making. Father Goodrich was always winning first prize at the county fair. “Registered Brown Swiss cows and a John Deere tractor – that was him,” said Cindy Goodrich, Ben’s wife.

Ben and Cindy raised their three children on the farm happily. But “the troubles” for farmers began in the 1980s with a glut of dairy products on the market and the U.S. government dropping milk prices. In 1994, Ben and Cindy gave up their dairy herd. Instead of sending their milk to a marketer, the family began raising heifers and selling corn and hay. Cindy continued to work as Commissioner for the Board of Elections in Owego. “That’s what wives do,” she said. “They work to support the farm.” But the financial squeeze continued. “At the end of the month, there’s not enough left over for you,” said Ben.

“Every time you think you just might be getting ahead, you have to go and spend money on a tractor,”
said Cindy. “And if you don’t pay the taxes you don’t have the farm.” Yet farmers don’t give up their lives, livelihoods and land easily. “Our farm i beautiful,” said Cindy. “We’re on top of the hill, and you can see the whole valley, the churches, the river. Our farm is everything for us. Once you sell it, it’s gone.” The concept of giving up the farm was unthinkable.

Cindy began researching possible scenarios for how to stay on the land. Then she read about a South Carolina farmer who had linked up with a solar company. “This is what we need to do,” she told Ben.
After a mass of research, Cindy found Delaware River Solar.

“I liked it that they were land conscious,” she said of DRS. “And that they wouldn’t move a tree without asking us. And that we’re all on a first name basis with them.” Ben was glad that the solar farm would produce clean power from the sun to the surrounding community. He felt good that the solar farm would be inspected every month by New York State and by NYSEG, which gains energy from the Goodrich project.

The Glen Mary Project, located on Glen Mary Rd. is actually home to two projects, Glen Mary I and Glen Mary II. The second project, Glen Mary II, won a NYSERDA ICSA award, which incentivizes solar projects that service low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents by providing a guaranteed 10% discount savings to the value of solar bill credits. 100% of Glen Mary II’s customer base serves LMI customers, which are a mix of LMI single-family homes and Section 8 housing developments.

The solar panels went up last November and December on 48 leased acres of the Goodrich’s 220-acre farm. The land-lease agreements have provided the farm family with a new lease on life literally. “Is it a miracle or what?” said Cindy. “Solar is the answer to keeping our county clean and the answer to global warming,” she said. “Get away from fossil fuel. Save the country. And the thought of helping farmers for the good of all is what we are about.” Their three grown children and grandchildren – all of whom live in the Owego area – couldn’t be more pleased. “We’re 58 years married, have gone through it all, and we plan on lasting it out,” said Cindy. “We have wonderful kids – Teresa, Benjamin and Rebecca – and five wonderful grandchildren. We have a new future. Because of Delaware River Solar, we know we can
keep the land for the next two generations.” And former dairy farmer Ben, who is approaching age 80, has a good reason for relishing his new life, and farmers can identify with it. “Now that we’re raising solar,” Ben said with a grin, “I don’t have to go out in the rain because a neighbor called me to come and get a solar panel that’s strayed off.”

Ask the Expert: Making Good Energy Choices

February 15, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Autumn Schanil

Ask the Expert will attempt to inform and educate readers on the importance of sustainable energy and what lies ahead in the future as more of our nation’s energy is generated through renewable energy.

Independent Energy Navigator, Gerri Wiley, is considered an expert when it comes to guiding individuals or groups seeking to reduce their energy use, decarbonize their homes, businesses, or churches while powering their space, water and appliances with renewable energy.
Offering her services for free, each month Wiley sends out Energy Updates to groups and individuals that include timely energy information, along with listings of ethical, reliable Energy Service Companies and Subscription Community Solar companies – her main focus being the NYSEG utility territory.

With a background in Sociology and Nursing, Wiley has always been active in public health and children’s high-level wellness – interested in clean air, water, healthy food and a livable climate; which are all essential for wellness – so moving her energy towards renewable energy resources flowed easily and naturally.

“Ten years ago, I left paid employment to partner with groups throughout New York in fending off the public health threat of high-volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas development (i.e. fracking),” Wiley explained. “When this effort was successful in 2014, environmental protectors like me were able to turn our attention to the promotion of renewable energy sources. For the past seven years, I have had the remarkable opportunity to work with groups and individuals who respect and cherish the natural world and recognize the connection between human and planetary health with ‘what we eat and how we heat.’ Her main inspiration for taking this path? The sheer absence of available guidance. “There are so many factors involved in making good energy choices that unless individuals, families, and organizations have guidance from an impartial party, chances are that they will be disappointed with their selection,” Wiley stated. “Truly, who has the time or interest to do a thorough search? Who can easily sniff out a scam or even simply less than stellar practices? I had the passion for filling this gap.

The more I learn and share, the more I am called upon. I certainly don’t feel like an expert, but when I don’t have answers at hand, I relish jumping into someone’s curiosity and we learn together.” Wiley’s hope is to help people better understand their options
and to obtain the best sequence for decarbonizing their homes and buildings, which in turn helps mitigate climate change and minimize their own costs. Ways that can be done, according to Wiley, are by obtaining a home energy assessment, ensuring good insulation and sealing, electrifying/decarbonizing heating of space, water appliances, and transportation by using ground or an air-source heat pump system, induction cooktop, or an electric vehicle, and then powering your now known 100 percent electric load with solar if the rooftop or site is suitable.

“We use energy sources primarily to control the temperature of our homes, cook our food, and often to move ourselves from here to there,” said Wiley. “Granted, we use way more power than that which is needed to serve our basic needs. As the climate clock ticks away, it serves us well to minimize our use of power—any source of power beyond our own often underutilized muscle power. “A big perk for us in reducing our energy load,” she continued, “is that the cleanest, cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one not used. To the extent that we do benefit from power to meet our basic needs, it is wise to use sources that don’t require millions of years to replenish.” And according to Wiley, what better renewable power source is out there asking to be captured than the sun that comes up every morning?

“Subscribing to a Community Solar project both saves money and supports more solar development,” added Wiley. “Speaking of the future being bright for solar, this is the time for the younger generation to shine, particularly in New York State, as our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) provides the springboard for your enthusiasm and fresh ideas.”

How Does Solar Work?

February 03, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
This article is courtesy of the Solar Energy Technologies Office, a part of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy,

The amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour-and-a-half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year.

Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate
solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage. Solar energy is a multi-faceted topic which includes solar radiation, photovoltaic and concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, electrical grid systems integration, and the non-hardware aspects (soft costs) of solar energy.

There is also much our readers can learn about how to go solar and the solar energy industry. In addition, readers can dive deeper
into solar energy and learn about how the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office is driving innovative research and development in these areas on their website,

Below, we will highlight a few topics of interest in the solar energy field.

Solar Energy 101
Solar radiation is light – also known as electromagnetic radiation – that is emitted by the sun. While every location on Earth receives
some sunlight over a year, the amount of solar radiation that reaches any one spot on the Earth’s surface varies. Solar technologies
capture this radiation and turn it into useful forms of energy.

There are two main types of solar energy technologies – photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). Photovoltaics Basics Most readers are likely more familiar with PV, which is utilized in solar panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow. Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Basics Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) systems use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat, which can then be used to produce electricity or stored for later use. It is used primarily in very large power plants.

Systems Integration Basics
Solar energy technology doesn’t end with electricity generation by PV or CSP systems. These solar energy systems must be integrated into homes, businesses, and existing electrical grids with varying mixtures of traditional and other renewable energy sources.

Going Solar Basics
Solar energy can help to reduce the cost of electricity, contribute to a resilient electrical grid, create jobs and spur economic growth,
generate back-up power for nighttime and outages when paired with storage, and operate at similar efficiency on both small and large scales.

Solar Industry Basics
Solar energy systems come in all shapes and sizes. Residential systems are found on rooftops across the United States, and businesses
are also opting to install solar panels. Utilities, too, are building large solar power plants to provide energy to all customers
connected to the grid.

Meet the Team: The Project Development Team

February 02, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Autumn Schanil

In this issue of the DRS Magazine, we will look at the Project Development Team and how they help turn ideas into reality.

John Schmauch, Director of Project Development

“The development team is the foundation of Delaware River Solar (DRS),” said Director of Project Development John Schmauch, who works on bringing DRS projects through the development lifecycle. “The Development Team is involved in every aspect of bringing a project to life,” explained Schmauch. “This begins by researching land opportunities, utility infrastructure, creating longstanding relationships
with landowners and their families, negotiating leases and purchase options, presenting in front of and working with town and county boards, managing the engineering and surveying teams as well as navigating many other details that come with bringing a community solar array to commercial operation.”

Schmauch has always been interested in renewable power and was working in other states doing exactly that, when NY began talking about bringing community solar to his home state. “Once the legislation was passed at the end of 2015,” said Schmauch, “we created DRS and poured all of our resources and efforts into developing the program.” As with anything, there can be hurdles and challenges along the way, such as lack of remaining capacity to handle a solar site, land falling into an endangered species area, or land in a town with laws that may not work for community solar. “It’s always a challenge telling someone we can’t move forward,” Schmauch stated. “The flip side of that, however, is when we do have the opportunity to move a project forward and work with a family that can truly benefit from the array.”

According to Schmauch, 90 percent of landowners are generational farmers farming generational land, which is becoming harder and harder to do, resulting in more families losing their land over time. “This ‘new crop’ is giving families the opportunity to continue working their land and then pass it on to the next generation,” he added, “and solar is extremely important.“We can harness and use what is given to us freely, the sun and its energy. The sun already powers our planet, keeping the environment and our population growing,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we use the sun’s energy to power and heat our homes and stores, light up our roadways and playgrounds? “It’s smart, it’s practical and most importantly, it’s clean.,” Schmauch said.

“On top of that, community solar allows people to access solar power at no cost to them, lower their electricity bills, lower the pollution from fossil fuels and helps support their local economy.

Rosario Giufré, Project Development Senior Associate

Project Development Senior Associate Rosario Giufre was fortunate enough to join the DRS team through a colleague who joined the Development Team prior to him. His role on the Development Team involves managing the application processes with utilities such as NYSEG
and Orange & Rockland in order to get DRS projects connected to the grid, as well as engaging with landowners to field questions related to the development process. He also assists engineers and local officials with the permitting of the projects. “The development team is essential in bringing community solar farms to fruition by securing interconnection agreements with local utilities, contracts with landowners, and permits from local jurisdictions and agencies, all of which are required to be able to build a project,” Giufré explained.

“We all have a background in environmental policy, and being able to work in a position that allows us to see tangible results of that policy is very satisfying,” he said. Community solar is an economic benefit to both participants, who save on utility bills, as well as landowners, who benefit directly from the contract. Giufré also feels that the transition to Renewable energy resources, especially
now, will be crucial in helping fight against climate change by cutting carbon emissions. “Being able to visit arrays that are up and
running,” Giufré continued, “and to meet the people who are directly benefiting from the projects, is the most rewarding part of what we do.”

Alyssa Nielsen, Project Development Manager

“My MPA in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University was coming to a close a few years ago, when I found a job listing for DRS that matched everything I was able to provide as an employee,” stated Project Development Manager Alyssa Nielson, “as well as something that aligned with my goals.” Now as Project Development Manager, Nielson works on a variety of things day-today–coordinating with third party engineers to perform environmental reviews of the potential project sites, working with towns on what they require for us to receive permits for the projects and working on the operating portfolio, as well as any potential projects energy partners are interested in purchasing.

“Each town that we work in has different requirements for solar projects to receive permits, so navigating those differences can be challenging,” explained Nielson. “However, the reward of seeing our projects receive their permits is worth it, knowing that we will be able to provide energy for hundreds more homes in that utility territory,” she said.

And what Nielson loves most about community solar and what she does day-in and day-out? Making clean energy accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay for solar panels on their home or office.

Nicole Haghpanah, Project Development Associate

As a member of the Development Team, Project Development Associate Nicole Haghpanah helps guide landowners through the development
process by facilitating communications with various utility companies across the state. “Our team is incredibly collaborative,” Haghpanah stated. “I work closely with our project development partners and our engineers to ensure we create efficient community solar farms that meet both the needs of our landowners as well as their communities. “It’s our responsibility to hit the ground running and identify the most favorable sites in areas where the communities will benefit the most,” she said.

Haghpanah credits DRS’ success due to building their reputation on trust, using their multi-disciplinary approach to help foster relationships with local farmers and officials alike, with the common goal of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. “Being able to give back to different communities is the most rewarding part of what we do,” Haghpanah said. “Providing landowners, who are oftentimes
farmers struggling to keep generational land, an additional source of income while giving back to the community is probably the most fulfilling to me.”

When a Family Farmer Decides to Saddle the Sun for a Shining Future

February 01, 2022

Sullivan County Democrat – “A Sustainable Tomorrow”, A Quarterly Publication of DRS
By Kathy Daley

For farmer Peter Hofstee, harnessing nature was not outside the ordinary. After all, his parents and their forebears hailed from the
Netherlands, the land of windmills. “I’m surprised it took us this long,” said Hofstee wryly.

Hofstee of Bethel, N.Y. comes from a long line of men and women farmers, with wind-powered mills playing a critical role. As early as the eighth century, the Dutch windmills – looking almost like lighthouses with propellers — drained water in flooded areas so that land could be used for wheat, maize, vegetables and flowers. Now the windmills of the Netherlands continue to pump out water and grind grain.
So for Hofstee to have said “yes” to happily leasing 28 acres of his 102-acre spread for the largest community solar project in the mid-Hudson region – well, perhaps it was in the bloodstream.

Parents Edward and Johanna Hofstee began farming on Route 17B in Bethel in 1967. Some 15 years earlier, they had left World War II-battered Holland for life in the U.S. “It was a poor time for Holland,” said Hofstee. First, Edward found work on a large Sussex,
N.J. farm and Johanna labored in a nearby factory. Meanwhile, his brother was already farming in the Port Jervis, N.Y. area, and after more than a decade, Edward found his own land in Sullivan County.

“As soon as I could walk, he put me right to work,” said Peter Hofstee with a grin. The Hofstee farm, by the way, was practically
within shouting distance of the vaunted Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. “Nobody could sleep that weekend, but my mother let the kids
use the bathroom and make phone calls,” said Peter. For about two years, Edward Hofstee milked by hand before turning to automatic suction milking machines. The milk was then piped into bulk tanks and trucked away by a New Jersey milk marketer. Farming, family and church were the pillars of life, which included sister Jannetta, who lives now in Liberty, N.Y.

Peter worked alongside his father for years and took over the farm when Edward died in 2013. By that time, dairy farms were losing thousands of dollars each year due to poor federal milk prices and skyrocketing costs of feed, repair, taxes and more. Eventually Peter decided to give up the dairy herd. “I had to look for a different way,” said Hofstee. “There had to be another solution.”

Seven years ago, Peter began looking into leasing some of his land for an array of solar panels. “People were talking about it,” Hofstee said, and his longtime partner Christine Vitale was all for it. “It’s about taking care of the environment, too,” she said.

At the local college, SUNY Sullivan, Hofstee attended solar energy seminars. Then Delaware River Solar actually approached him. DRS project developer John Schmauch explained what the company looks for in a potential solar farm. “We first research the three-phase (electric distribution) lines in the area and their respective substations,” Schmauch said. “Once that’s done we look for properties that touch those lines and are viable for solar.”

“Pete’s farm was perfect for an array,” said Schmauch, “not only from a utility and connection standpoint, but from a land standpoint as
well – flat, open, and great regarding any viewshed issues. I reached out to Pete, made introductions and went from there.” The two men clicked: “He educated me a lot,” said Hofstee. “I felt comfortable with him. He kept me informed.” “We always want the landowner to be aware of what to expect,” Schmauch said. “Whether it’s the approval process, engineering, layout design or the construction phase, this is their land and we don’t want them to ever have to deal with any surprises.”

It was heartening, too, for Hofstee to learn that DRS was launched by Rich Winter, a Callicoon, N.Y. beef farmer. “He knows how hard
farming is,” Hofstee said. After approvals came from the Town of Bethel and from Sullivan County – and with $1 million from the New York State Energy for Research and Development Authority – construction began. “Once permits are acquired, the actual construction takes three to five months, depending on the system size,” said Schmauch.

The solar array on Pete’s property, up and running since this past summer, generates 6.1 megawatts of energy, or 7.8 million kilowatthours of solar energy annually. That’s large enough to power 1,000 homes. But this solar array is fully subscribed with 129 homes, small businesses and non-profits.

“We signed up a number of small businesses, non-profits and municipalities that took a lot of power,” said Schmauch, noting that community solar, as is DRS, is not strictly for residents but also for small businesses and municipalities. Meanwhile, Hofstee receives a check from DRS every month, funds that represent his future. “I’m never going to sell this farm,” Hofstee said. “I love farming. I love being out there in the fields, not behind a desk – even though farming is not easy and mother nature can be tough.” He’s now raising 60 head of white and black Holsteins as replacement heifers to sell to other farmers. He also keeps 50 brown and white Herefords to sell for beef. “If you want to get with the times, you have to be creative,” Hofstee said. “I highly recommend solar to every farmer. You don’t have to kill yourself. Let the sun do the work.”