WAYNE COUNTY—Announced Thursday, new solar projects look to harness the power of the sun to offset energy costs in two Wayne County locations this year.

Jack Barnett, president of the Clean Energy Co-op and the Wayne County Board of Commissioners recently signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the construction of a 34.5 kilowatt, 115-panel solar array atop The Stourbridge Project building located at 646 Park Street in Honesdale, pending successful fund raising, grant applications and other due diligence.

Barnett explained the project is expected to cost around $65,000 and provide an estimated 60 percent of the building's energy usage.

Under the agreement, Clean Energy Co-op will fund, design, build and maintain the array for 25 years, and the county will purchase all energy produced from it during that time.

“Based on early estimates..., we think that's about 10 cents per kilowatt hour,” said Barnett, noting the price, once finalized, will be locked in for the duration of the agreement.

After 25 years, the agreement can be renegotiated, the array removed or its title transferred to the county, said Barnett.

Should the county exit the agreement early, “...all we ask for is repayment of all our incurred expenses and the initial investment,” he added.

In the event the building is sold within that 25-year span, the responsibilities, terms and conditions for the array would be transferred to the new owner.

Barnett explained this agreement is similar to the Co-op's first solar project completed in 2015 on the roof of The Cooperage Project.

“That project actually won an International Renewable Energy Council award nationwide in 2016 as the best renewable energy community project in the country,” said Barnett.

Of the project, Commissioner Wendell Kay stated Thursday, “This...is part of an overall strategy that Joe's been working very hard on--energy conservation within the county buildings and county campuses--designed to modernize things, gain efficiencies and, of course, save money over time.”

Noting the project fits into the “entrepreneurial spirit” at The Stourbridge Project, Commissioner Joseph Adams said, “It's a great project for what we're intending to have happen in Wayne County, but especially at the Stourbridge center. It's a very exciting project. For all the right reasons it's the right direction for us to go.”

In a Clean Energy Co-op press release, Susan Shaffer, Executive Director of The Stourbridge Project stated, “This is an exciting partnership that embodies technology and community, and utilizing renewable energy is an investment in the future. This aligns with the mission of the Stourbridge Project and having a display to explain and monitor the solar array will be engaging for those who visit or work at our innovation center.”

Von Oechsler Farm

The second solar project announced Thursday will take place on the Von Oechsler Farm in Damascus.

The Co-op assisted farm owner George Oechsler in applying for a United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) grant to help fund construction of a 22.7 kilowatt ground-mount solar array.

If the grant is awarded, the Co-op will also provide a 15-year loan for the matching funds to accomplish this task.

Barnett explained at Thursday's Commissioners meeting that Oechsler is a poultry farmer and “...a retired New York City Firefighter who has suffered various medical conditions from his exposure at the 9/11 site...

“He discovered for his health he needed to be in a rural environment doing things to take care of himself. And particular he found growing his own food, raising his own food, buying food from local farmers was the best for him.”

On the reasons for seeking solar power on the farm, Oechsler stated in a press release, “In a nutshell, we must end our addiction to fossil fuels and other energy sources that damage Mother Earth irrevocably.”

More information about the Clean Energy Co-op is available online at www.CleanEnergy.Coop.

—Information from a release was used in this story.