ANCRAM—Residents and businesses in town now have a chance to save money on their electric bills while saving the planet.
Anyone who has ever considered switching to solar energy to power their homes or businesses can do it now—with no solar panels in sight or installation costs.
At the Ancram Town Board’s November 19 meeting via Zoom, Jill Henck, clean energy coordinator from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, and Alex Goldfarb from company called Solstice, delivered a presentation about “solarizing” Ancram.
The town’s Climate Smart Community Task Force and Conservation Advisory Council endorse the idea and brought it to the board for consideration.
According to the program information, this is how it works:
Local households and businesses can sign up for a share of a solar farm, “which is like having your own panels, but off your property. Your solar shares will produce energy on your behalf all year round.
“The solar farm sends its power through your utility’s power grid, [in this case, Central Hudson,] so there’s no need to install anything.” The town gets credits for the power its solar shares produce applied directly to residents’ and businesses’ monthly utility bills, lowering the cost.
Program participants will continue to receive electricity as usual with “no change to… everyday life,” except for the savings on bills “and the good feeling that comes with going green.”
Solstice Power Technologies, Inc., based in Cambridge, MA, is a company that organizes, educates, and innovates “to make solar accessible for every American,” according to its website (solstice.us)
In a follow-up email, Mr. Goldfarb described Solstice as “a community solar subscription manager. We find people to sign up for solar farms and then manage the entirety of their customer experience—registration, monthly billing, and customer support.
“Solstice partners with community organizations, municipalities, non-profits, and corporations alongside its own digital marketing efforts to educate folks about the benefits of community solar,” he wrote.
Along with a 10% savings on their electric bill every month, every person who subscribes gets a $100 enrollment bonus. The town gets a $100 credit per subscriber and fulfills “high impact action items” for NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities Program. NYSERDA is the state Energy Research and Development Authority.
Solstice tracks the progress of the town’s “solarization” campaign and donates funds for every person in the community who signs up for solar.
Town residents and businesses have the choice to opt in or opt out. The solar farms Solstice is currently working with are in Westerlo (Albany County), Kingston (Ulster County) and Poughkeepsie (Dutchess County).
“We have an online platform which allows subscribers to easily see all the details of their subscription including their monthly bills and savings, as well as the environmental impact they’re having by supporting community solar. Through our partnership program we’ve been able to donate tens of thousands of dollars to New York nonprofits and community initiatives in 2020,” Mr. Goldfarb said by email.
After a question about whether the program was “too good to be true” and hearing assurances that there is “no catch,” the Town Board voted unanimously to approve a resolution to become a partner with Solstice Power Technologies in the Community Solar Program.
NYSERDA must sign off on documents before Solstice can start to sign up folks in Ancram. But following that, residents can expect a direct mail promotion about the program and read about it on the town’s website (www.ancramny.org).
Ancram is now the second Columbia County town to sign up, following Gallatin.
“We are proud of our partnership with Solstice because it shows Gallatin’s commitment to supporting our community and helping them save with renewable energy. We signed up the Town Hall and Town Court right away and I just signed up my home—community solar is a win for Gallatin,” John Reilly, Gallatin Town Supervisor said in a program endorsement.
“We’re looking to expand our footprint in Columbia County,” Mr. Goldfarb said by email. He is at 845-310-0544 or
In other solar-related business, the Town Board considered a request from the Town of Copake to support a resolution detailing its opposition to the construction of Hecate Energy’s Shepherd’s Run Solar Project in Craryville.
Councilman David Boice said he found it “amazing,” that the board just entered into a program to use solar energy and is now being asked to pass a resolution against a solar farm. He later added that he believed Copake should have its say with regard to the Hecate project.
Zoning Revisions Committee member Steve Olyha objected to language in the resolution that says, “the installation of Shepherd’s Run would destroy the property values of homes situated adjacent to the installation…” He said the statement is not accurate. “We’ve got to do something, whatever we do is going to cause somebody pain. We need to accept some pain for doing the right thing for the broader community,” he said.
Councilperson Bonnie Hundt said, “We have to support Copake.” The developers are “putting it on prime farmland… I think it’s too big.”
Councilperson Madeline Israel agreed, the project is “massive.”
As a compromise, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin proposed that the board only adopt the last portion of the resolution, which calls on Governor Andrew Cuomo; the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly “to adopt legislation which would meet the challenges of climate change without violating Home Rule and local zoning powers and which would more fairly distribute the responsibility of confronting Climate Change among all communities throughout the state instead of placing the entire burden on small rural communities.”
The board voted unanimously in favor of the amended resolution.