4:18pm

Wed April 27, 2011
Energy

Business park offers solar power as sweetener

Business parks - clusters of low slung brick buildings with tinted glass windows - are nothing new. But a developer in Tonawanda is putting a new twist on the old model.

Solar - here?

The sun shines in this part of the country, sometimes. But western New York doesn't necessarily have a reputation for it.

That's the headwind for the Riverview Solar Technology Park - a place where businesses can get their electricity from the sun, in exchange for locating at sprawling site near the shores of the Niagara River.

"It's a huge challenge. The biggest challenge in western New York is that there's the perception that solar doesn't work in our region. We're going to demonstrate otherwise," says Daniel Montante, whose group TM Montante, owns Riverview.

Last December, the site saw the installation of a 25 kilowatt array at the business park. It's on stilts, about as big as half a basketball court, and deer graze under it. Montante says that will offset 75 percent of the electricity needs of the industrial building next to it, which is full of tenants.

"And even on a rainy day ... we're generating electricity," Montante points out.

Montante says his group plans to install 150 kilowatts before this year is out, which will power a second mostly-empty building on the site. He says he hopes the draw of buying electricity generated from a panel within view of your office window will convince tenets to sign up.

That - and the fact New York has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. Solar, Montante says, is finally starting to come into its own.

"We're approaching a point where we reach what we call 'grid parity,' where the long term cost of solar electricity is no different than it would be if you were deriving your electricity from a traditional fuel mix," Montante says.

So far, Riverside has attracted a few companies to its spread near the south Grand Island bridge, including railroad company CSX and Electro Sonic, an electronic components distributor that moved from Ontario specifically because of the draw of buying clean energy.