Flipping the switch on one of the largest solar farms in the Hudson Valley is just the latest — and biggest — energy-conserving steps taken by Poughkeepsie-based Arnoff Moving and Storage.
“We’ve already been doing several things to go green as much as possible,” says company President Michael Arnoff. “We often use 80 percent postconsumer-use packing material, and provide plastic, reusable containers to reduce cardboard consumption. We also do things like encourage customers to recycle moving materials, such as packing peanuts and bubble wrap, which they can return at our facilities after use. “We’re making our truck use more energy-efficient, too,” he adds. “At least 20 percent of our fleet is now modified with diesel engines.” With nearly 200 trucks and vans on the road, that’s a big green boost for the Arnoff company — which has offices and subsidiary businesses throughout the Northeast.
“But we’re especially excited about the new solar farm,” says Arnoff. The farm sits atop the company’s sprawling warehouse on Route 22 in Millerton. “We bought the site in 2005; at that time it was a brownfield — a waste disposal site.” They cleaned up the land; got state approval to develop the site; then built the Millerton facility, which includes warehouse space, offices, and mini-storage units.
Arnoff says it’s a perfect spot to go solar. “It’s got a flat roof, and no shade close by, making it ideal for solar panels.” The 88-year-old family business — which Arnoff co-runs with his wife Lisa — spent about $525,000 on the project. “It’s a big initial investment, so we wanted to be sure it made financial sense,” says Arnoff. “We wanted to help reduce the company’s carbon footprint, but it also helped that there are government tax-credit and other incentives to encourage projects like this.”
The company, which has 250 employees, partnered with Salisbury Bank for financing, and turned to Rhinebeck-based Hudson Valley Solar to set up the solar-station installation. “Hudson Valley Solar led us through the technical aspects of the entire project,” Arnoff notes. The solar grid went into operation last May. It consists of an array of photovoltaic cells that can produce about 96 kilowatts — enough to supply about 75 percent of the building’s energy needs. By comparison, “an average house might draw about one kilowatt,” says Arnoff. “We expect it to pay for itself in the first few years. We can provide surplus energy to the electric company, and eventually it will provide income for the business.”
Like many residents of the Northeast, Arnoff notes that initially he was unsure whether the Valley offers enough sunlight to make solar energy viable. “But I learned that solar facilities tend to perform well in upstate New York,” he says. “Even though we have about one less hour of sun every day compared to, say, Miami, systems can actually perform better here. That’s because high heat, like in the south, actually can have a negative impact on solar systems.” The Millerton solar farm already has triggered queries from other folks in the region who are curious about solar power. “Some local prep schools are interested, and people have been asking us all sorts of questions,” Arnoff says.
“The way we look at it, solar power can be a win-win for everybody,” he concludes. “We want to keep the ball rolling and encourage more use of green energy throughout the Valley.”