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Town of Byron solar project manager underscores 'benefits' during virtual open house

By Mike Pettinella

The Excelsior Solar Project in the Town of Byron will deliver “tangible benefits to the community,” said Keddy Chandran, project manager for Excelsior Energy Center, during a virtual open house tonight.

Chandran informed viewers and listeners of the 280-megawatt, 1,700-acre Article 10 project through a PowerPoint presentation for about 30 minutes. After that, he answered submitted questions with help from engineers Dan Marieni and Michael George, attorneys Michelle Piasecki and Sam Laniado, and consultant Kaitlin McCormick for another 30 minutes.

He outlined several benefits of the program, both to landowners who have signed lease agreements and to town residents, and also touted his company’s community engagement – citing frequent formal and informal meetings, and a willingness to include a 5-megawatt Community Solar area specific to Byron and a Host Community Agreement to fund local initiatives.

Excelsior Energy is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, a sister company to Florida Power & Light, Chandran said. Next Era Energy has wind and solar projects in 32 states and Canada with more than 23,000 megawatts in operation.

Chandran said that half of the Byron project acreage will be covered in solar panels. Some of the remaining land will be used to place equipment to provide 20 megawatts/4 hours of energy storage (batteries).

If everything proceeds according to the current timeline, it would be operational in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Key aspects of Chandran’s report are as follows:

Community Engagement

He said Excelsior Energy representatives have met with county and town planners and the Byron Town Board, held first responder sessions, talked with residents on 14 occasions at the Byron Hotel and Trail House, and have made several donations to the community.

The Host Community Agreement is a vehicle for the company to fund local projects as requested by residents, he said. Those could include measures to preserve the agricultural base, maintain the rural character, support senior and youth activities, and sponsor green energy projects.

Chandran said the 5-megawatt Community Solar addition would enable business, residents and government to enter a program that produces credits leading to lower utility bills.

“We’re excited to be able to incorporate that into the project for the residents of Byron,” he said.

The Article 10 Process

Calling it “an exhaustive process … with a rigorous number of analyses,” Chandran said the project is at the Study Scope Stipulations phase, which leads to the filing of the formal application (expected to take place sometime in September).

Michelle Piasecki, attorney for Harris Beach, said seven more phases will follow: compliance determination; intervenor funding ($280,000 is set to come to the town and other stakeholders); a public hearing; evidentiary hearing to settle any disputes; recommended decision of Administrative Law Judges; decision by the NYS Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment; and construction/compliance.

Benefits to Landowners and the Town

The list of benefits on one of the presentation slides included: that solar is cost competitive; is clean, renewable energy; creates no pollution; creates jobs; provides payment in lieu of taxes to the taxing jurisdictions; supports farmers and the local economy; and preserves the land.

Chandran said one of the myths is that solar ruins the land. On the contrary, he said, the land will be available for farming even if the solar project is decommissioned in about 30 years.

Consideration of the Landscape

He said that designers are integrating an existing snowmobile trail into the site, and are keeping tree stands in place, with connections to a game trail to consider the well-being of wildlife.

Job Creation

With a $40 million investment, Chandran said the project will create 290 full-time equivalent jobs during construction and three or four permanent high-tech positions. Additional jobs will be available for routine snowplowing and mowing.

He also said that about 70 employees on farms enrolled in the program will benefit by the consistent revenue stream – payments from Excelsior Energy to the landowners. He pointed out that about 10 percent of the prime farmland in Byron is being used.

Officials answered the following questions submitted by those participating in the open house:

About the Battery System

In case of problems with the battery storage system, emergency training will be provided to mutual aid by NextEra’s power generation division at the outset and then every year.

They said there is low risk of potential leakage or damage since high-quality products are used, and if a battery did leak, it is enclosed in a housing unit. Additionally, the company’s monitoring system features remote problem identification from its Florida headquarters.

About Solar Panel Noise, Fencing

The solar panels, made of silicon, make “subtle” noises when they rotate, and that takes place for five to 10 seconds every 10 to 15 minutes. The fencing around the perimeter will be 7-feet high, which will be lower than the trees being planted over time.

Residents were advised not to go inside the fenced in area for any reason, but to call the company phone number or a town official if something needs to be retrieved. Setback area maintenance is the responsibility of the landowners.

About Visual Simulations

Within the next several weeks, a detailed visual analysis of the layout will be made available, with and without screening, and at three different distance zones.

The presentation can be viewed by going to

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