Solar panels coming to Lackawanna wind farm

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A new form of clean renewable energy is blowing into Lackawanna’s waterfront wind farm.

BQ Energy, the investors who built the windmills on Lackawanna’s waterfront, are planning to install 13,000 solar panels on the Bethlehem property about a quarter mile away from the windmills. They would each be five feet long, similar to the ones that are already in use on the University at Buffalo’s Amherst campus.

Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski sees it as a transformation of the former Bethlehem Steel site.

“For 31 years, this property has been sitting vacant and nobody’s knocking on the doors to set up shop here. So if a company wants to come by and have a clean, green initiative and benefit everybody, then I’m all for it.”

The solar panel project might begin by fall. The 13,000 solar panels would only create enough energy to power about 10 percent of the homes in Lackawanna.

Without government subsidies encouraging green energy, solar and wind projects like this probably wouldn’t happen. The electricity generated goes into the statewide grid.

The City of Lackawanna gets a payment of about $12,000 per windmill per year. The city will get somewhere in the tens of thousands per year from the entire solar project.

“I think this is more a symbol of our rebirth as a green, progressive, resilient city,” said Lackawanna’s Development Director Fred Heinle.

There’s still plenty of room for something else.

“It’s a thousand acres of waterfront property that I’ll just say is polluted,” said Mayor Szymanski, “To dig into this property, you may be digging into a bigger problem than you initially thought, so a lot of companies are staying away from here.”

Lackawanna’s City Council is planning to hold a public hearing on August 11, and then take a vote on a Zoning Board recommendation to allow the plan to move forward this fall.

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