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August 31, 2020 - 8:55pm

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 www.excelsiorenergycenter.com.

August 31, 2020 - 8:12am


Borrowing the title track of Bob Dylan’s 1979 album, there’s a Slow Train Coming” to the Town of Byron in the form of a 280-megawatt, 1,600-acre, New York State-supported solar energy system that seemingly can’t be derailed.

Despite the dim prospect of preventing a significant amount of the town’s farmland from becoming a sea of solar panels, longtime Ivison Road resident Jim Lamkin said he isn’t giving up.

Lamkin has led the charge for the opposition group known as the Byron Association Against Solar by rallying community members to sign petitions, fill out surveys and, generally speaking, express their feelings to the Byron Town Board and to project developer Excelsior Energy Center, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC.

“We sent out a questionnaire and 319 of them came back opposed to this,” Lamkin, 74, said. “We feel that it is important for the Town Board to hold a meeting to get a sense of what everyone wants – even if they have to take a straw vote. They haven’t done that up to now.”

The Excelsior Solar Project is one of more than 50 solar or wind proposals currently moving forward under Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law.

Article 10 makes it tougher for municipalities to restrict solar projects larger than 25 megawatts since it gives the NYS Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment much power over construction and operation.

Lamkin said he and other BAAS members are well aware of this.

“Basically, our hands and the Town Board’s hands are tied, without any say as to where the project is located, setbacks, how much land is used or any other conditions,” Lamkin said.


Byron residents on both sides of the issue can learn more about the project, which also comes with 20 megawatts of energy storage, at a Virtual Open House today. Two one-hour sessions (with the same format) are scheduled for noon and 6 p.m.

According to information from Excelsior Energy, company officials will provide an update and answer questions.

Citizens can tap in to the meeting(s) either by phone -- call 1-866-807-9684 and ask to “join the Excelsior Energy Project call” -- or to view online, click here, fill out the contact information, then click on the “Join Webcast” link.

Lamkin said he is upset over the fact that plans call for a solar array to be placed directly across the street from his home. However, he said that his concerns reach well beyond his property.

 “Even if I weren’t directly affected, I would be against this,” he said. “It will change our town forever by wasting valuable farmland. Solar panels will be put adjacent to their properties and those homeowners won’t receive any tangible benefits.”


According to a map provided by Excelsior Energy Center, solar panel arrays will be spread along and near several roads, including Transit, Bank Street, Walkers Corners, Starowitz, Cockram, Batavia-Byron, Caswell, Ivison, Gillette, Tower Hill, Swamp and Bird, as well as Route 262, Route 237 and West Shore Trail.

Lamkin said that farms signing lease agreements with Excelsior Energy include Brooke-Lea, Call Lanes, Richard Colby, CY Properties, L-Brooke Farms, Lea-View Farms, Legacy Lanes, Charles Sackett and Star Growers.

Electricity generated by the system will be moved via transmission lines to Downstate locations.

When mentioned that landowners have the right to sell or lease their property, Lamkin said, “I understand that it’s their land and they do to a point.”

“But zoning laws are made to protect property owners from something not compatible with the surroundings. This Article 10 trumps over all zoning laws, and the solar company has offered the landowners so much money.”


He said he also has issues with Town Board members who are relinquishing their land to Excelsior Energy. While no specific dollar amount has been disclosed, Lamkin believes landowners are being offered $1,000 an acre or more.

Town Councilwoman Suzanne Fuller said she was hoping to provide a 16-acre parcel on Caswell Road, but apparently it has been deemed unacceptable for the project.

“We (she said that Town Councilman Josh Kent’s family is leasing land) have obtained legal advice and it has been determined that we can vote on the project,” she said. “It is not a conflict of interest.”

Fuller said she wants to see the town benefit as well as the landowners.

“The town can really use the money,” she said. “The PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement with the county, school district and town will lower our tax rate. Otherwise, the income just isn’t here.”

Lamkin said he hopes the second and final ad-hoc member seat on the Siting Board is filled by a Byron resident.  Previously, Genesee County appointed Norman Pawlak of Bergen.

“We have been waiting since January to have the other member assigned and to date there has been no action by the state or the governor,” he said. “When our case eventually goes before the Siting Board, our lack of community representation puts us at a significant disadvantage.”


The Town Board can do more to determine the pulse of its residents on this matter, Lamkin said.

“I cannot believe that if a significant portion of the town residents were against it, and the board got behind them, that this project could not be stopped,” he said. “Statements like the one made by (Supervisor) Pete Yasses that ‘there’s no stopping it’ and the apathy of the community will allow Excelsior to force this project into the town.

“I, along with many in the community, voted for Mr. Yasses on his promise that he would work to stop this project. He has not listened to the people but instead has been influenced by the potential windfall to the town.”

Yasses said he has been listening, holding Zoom meetings every month – “COVID-19 has really hurt us,” he noted – and making himself available for public comments.

“Other than the BAAS group (which Lamkin says has about 270 members), we haven’t heard any opposition,” Yasses said. “This is being shoved down our throat. If Jim has to be mad at anybody, he should be mad at (Governor) Andy Cuomo.”

He added that revenue to the town from the project could reduce the tax rate and provide the funds needed to build a new Town Hall and highway garage.


Lamkin said that BAAS has been unable to make any headway with Keddy Chandran, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources.

“We try to explain our views, but with him it’s all lip service,” he said. “All you hear from him is that everything is perfect, everybody is going to be happy and this is such a wonderful thing. He’s a master of overcoming objections.”

In the end, Lamkin said the solar project will “destroy the community – removing valuable farmland, costing agriculture jobs and decreasing property values. What’s that going to do for the image of Byron?”

Matthew Lamb, co-owner of Oakfield Corners Dairy which has been operating for more than 50 years, called solar a “divisive issue,” adding that he can’t pay anywhere near what the solar company is paying for land that he rents to feed his cows and also to spread the manure.

“Prime farmland being converted to solar -- while the economics are strong for the individual who gets to do that, it creates hard feelings,” he said. “If you can find the marginal farmland, I think it is an easier argument to make.”

Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, speaking as a private citizen, said the Article 10 proposal flies in the face of recent comprehensive planning.

“Our county was one of the first counties to have a Smart Growth Plan and it has always been a leader in protecting farms. Now about 20 percent of the Town of Byron is being turned into a ‘glass field’ and several thousand acres of prime farmlands are being taken out of service,” Hens said.

“I think once folks realize the magnitude and appearance of this project they will be shocked and upset. Pretty soon this area will just be one big battery for New York City.”

Click here for a related story -- solar farm proposal in the Town of Florida (NY).


Top photo -- Jim Lamkin stands across the street from his Ivison Road, Byron home, in front of a field designated for solar panels. Bottom photo -- Lamkin holds the map of the Excelsior Solar Project. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

August 18, 2020 - 4:14pm

In the 18 months since the announcement of a large scale, 280-megawatt Excelsior Solar Project in the Town of Byron, the principals involved have engaged in considerable posturing and legal maneuvering.

Excelsior Energy Center, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources LLC, based in Vero Beach, Fla., is proposing to construct 1,600- to 1,700-acre solar electric generating facility under Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law.

The Article 10 law directs the NYS Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment in regard to construction and operation of solar project larger than 25 megawatts.

Four steps are part of the Article 10 process:

  • Public involvement program (informational meetings and open houses);
  • Preliminary scoping statement (details of the project);
  • Formal application to the siting board;
  • Siting board decision (to issue or deny the certificate).

About a year ago, the Byron Town Board hired an attorney to navigate the process.

Byron Town Supervisor Peter Yasses on Sunday said the board is taking a “neutral approach” as it updates its solar ordinance prior to Excelsior Energy’s submission of its final application to the state.

“We’re trying to get our zoning laws in place so that it won’t impact the people so much,” Yasses said.

The Byron Town Board’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 26.

NextEra Closes in on Application Filing

Keddy Chandran, project manager for NextEra Energy Resources, today said his company is finalizing its formal application and expects to submit it by the end of September.

“We’re sort of nearing the end of that process after having incorporated the thoughts and input from various folks in the Town of Byron, residents, leadership and the planning board,” he said.

Chandran noted that NextEra recently distributed an informational mailer to residents that reveals “the status of the project, the conceptual map of the project layout and answers some general, frequently asked questions that we come across.”

Meanwhile, an opposition group of about 140 members known as Byron Association Against Solar secured legal counsel in an effort to, according to its website, “protest the large solar and wind projects that turn our valuable farmland into solar or wind projects that support New York City.”

Yasses said the proposed project has divided the community.

“It’s like the politics we’re seeing (at the national level) right now,” Yasses said. “Some people are for it and some people are against it. Some people are neutral. The people who are against it are strongly against it, and the people who are for it are strongly for it.”

The supervisor said he believes the system eventually will become a reality.

Yasses: There’s No Stopping It

“This is (Gov.) Andrew Cuomo’s pet project and we were told by the experts, our attorneys, that there is no stopping it,” he said. “It’s always good to have an opposition group, but it’s coming.”

Just last week, the siting board responded to a letter from BAAS attorneys objecting to Excelsior Energy’s desire to “forego the two open houses prior to filing its application, which are part of the company’s Public Involvement Plan.”

BAAS took the stance that Excelsior Energy should hold off on filing the formal application until after in-person open houses are conducted.

Per the letter, BAAS was “concerned that Excelsior is using COVID-19 as an excuse to deprive the public of the opportunity to learn about the project in person.”

“This action also serves to deprive Excelsior of the opportunity to understand all local concerns … which should play a prominent role in Excelsior’s proposals for studies necessary to quantify the environmental and economic impacts of the Project,” attorneys wrote.

The siting board ruled that the “public information sessions be held, but for protection of the public and participants that the sessions be conducted online” and that ample notice be given of the dates and times of the virtual sessions.

BAAS Wants an In-Person Meeting

Eric Zuber, a Byron Town council member and BAAS spokesperson, said the town board wasn’t informed about Excelsior Energy’s intentions until a couple hours before its Aug. 12th meeting.

“They put that notice out there at the 12th hour. They want to have a meeting by video; we really would like to have it an outside public place – at the rec hall or in the parking lot,” he said.

Acting on the siting board’s ruling, Chandran advised that two virtual open houses will take place on Aug. 31, with times to be announced. He and other members of the NextEra team will be on the available via the web platform.

Chandran said that although the solar project will consist of 1,600 to 1,700 acres, only about half of that area will be covered by solar panels.

“There’s road spacing in between (so) the actual impact is far less than that,” he said. “We have been working with the community tremendously over the past year, taking some of the concerns of the locality into account.”

Specifically, Chandran said major tree stands will not be disrupted – “keeping the rural character and landscape the same,” he noted – and that "some of those tree stands will be connected with game trails to allow free movement of wildlife between clusters of trees.” He also said that space will remain for snowmobile trails.

“We think that it’s a great layout for everybody,” he offered.

Zuber: The Science Points to ‘Harm’

Beyond that, Zuber, owner of a large dairy farm, said the project will “take away the best land in this town.”

“I see all the railroad cars filled with garbage being shipped from New York City through our area, to be dumped to the east, and now they want to take our land,” he said. “They’re treating us worse than they treated the (American) Indians.”

Zuber, said that “the science” shows that the project will do more harm than good.

“The governor is for renewable, but the sad thing is if you really look at the science, and get really in depth, this project is actually bad for climate change. It will make more carbon than what it will prevent,” he said.

“People don’t realize, the corn crop in America produces more oxygen than what the Amazon does. Taking the good land out of production, and then they want to put these solar panels on, they’re going to have to burn 20 percent of the electricity to boost the voltage high enough to push it down an antique line that was put in in 1956. Scientifically, the whole thing is a bad project.”

Zuber said BAAS supports the smaller solar farms that are cropping up in the area – those that supply energy to the local grid – but “it’s these big monstrous projects that want to take the very best ground and pump electricity 300 to 500 miles, it’s just ridiculous.”

He compared it to transporting water through a hose.

“The best way to describe it is that moving electricity is the same as moving water. If you run a three-quarter inch garden hose from here to New York City and try to pump water to New York City, there’s only one way that you can pump it through the garden hose and that’s by taking it to a tremendous amount of pressure,” he reasoned. “And that’s what voltage is. To push that electricity with that voltage that far, it’s absurd.”

‘Constructive, Respectful Conversation’

Chandran, when asked about the challenges dealing with those who oppose the project, said, “I wouldn’t say that they’re challenges.”

“We’re always engaging the community regardless of whether there is opposition or not. We have heard their concerns, just as we have listened to everybody’s concerns. So, I wouldn’t call it difficult. It’s just natural and we want to continue to have constructive, respectful conversation with them,” he said.

Zuber said BAAS is seeking professionals to conduct an agriculture impact study – the effects of taking “the best ground out of production.”

“Excelsior doesn’t want to look at agriculture at all. This thing is a job killer. For every man working on a dairy farm, there’s nine jobs down the line. We’re not going to milk cows in this town anymore; it’s going to cost 400 to 500 jobs,” he said.

Chandran disagreed with Zuber’s assessment, stating that the project will support around 70 farmworkers on the five or six farms that have entered into land leasing contracts with NextEra.

“In helping to diversify their income streams, we’re helping to insure their operations can continue into the future, and that supports their jobs. It’s a really good thing for them,” he said. “Also, this project will be creating a tremendous amount of jobs in the area, and generating revenue for the local economy. I don’t know where he is getting that information, (and) I’m not going to Mr. Zuber’s math on that.”

No Begrudging the Farmers

Zuber, however, said he doesn’t “begrudge” the farmers who have signed on.

“They’ve offered them a ton of money, so they’re going to be rich. It’s a business decision for them,” he said, mentioning that Starowitz, Yunker, L-Brooke, My-T-Acres and Leaton farms are the primary beneficiaries. “But if you talk to any other farmer besides those, they’re against it. But, I don’t begrudge them. Hell, we probably should have signed up, took the money and got out of town.”

Zuber also brought up a matter of $98,000 to be split between the town and BAAS in “intervenor funding” that has yet to be received by either party.

“We were supposed to get that money four months ago,” he said.

The Town of Byron and BAAS appealed to the siting board in late July via their attorneys to halt the solar project until the funds were distributed by New York State. The siting board, however, ruled against them, writing “there is no reason to believe that the funds will not ultimately be disbursed.”

“Unlike a delay in disbursement which can be cured, if the siting board ultimately approves the project, a delay could have a financial impact on the project’s revenues and earnings that could not be cured. Accordingly, the motions of BAAS and the Town are denied,” the siting board determined.

Intervenor Funds Total $378,000

Chandran said that Excelsior has posted $98,000 to fund the costs of local parties and municipalities during the pre-application phase, and the project will further post $280,000 to fund the costs to review the application and participate in the Article 10 proceeding.

“Half of the funds are reserved for municipalities, which includes Genesee County and the Town of Byron. The other half of the funds are open to be disbursed to local parties, including without limitation, supporters, opposition and municipalities,” Chandran explained. “Funds must be spent on efforts to contribute to an informed decision as to the appropriateness of the site and facility, and the funds must be made available on an equitable basis in a manner which facilitates broad public participation.”

Disbursement of the funds is controlled by the Department of Public Service and the State Comptroller, he said.

On a separate front, Town of Byron’s lawyers in late July wrote to the state Department of Public Service, arguing that they had concerns over 18 of about 40 stipulations of the project’s Final Scoping Statement.

According to the letter, the issues focus on Excelsior Energy’s compatibility with local laws and existing community character, visual impact, and effects on the farm economy and the town’s archeological resources.

“Byron is fully prepared to litigate any and all issues related to these and other concerns,” attorneys wrote. “Unfortunately, to date, Excelsior has shown little interest in working collaboratively with the town or its residents to address these issues.”

Chandran mentioned NextEra’s significant investment into the project and its sponsorship of organizations and events in the community.

“We are employing people all across the state to work on this project – surveys on the ground, engineering, analysis and a tremendous amount of effort goes into designing a project of this nature,” he said.

NextEra Supports Local Endeavors

Over the last year, NextEra has made several donations, including a $10,000 gift to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 program and, just last week, a $3,000 gift to the Town of Byron for a fireworks show.

“It’s just the way that NextEra likes to do business … we love to get involved in the communities where we are,” Chandran said. “Personally, I tutored a number of middle school kids (last summer) during the Genesee County Business Education Alliance Math, Science, Technology Camp. I taught basics of electrical engineering, brought solar panel kits and walked them through a set of lab exercises. We ended up donating those kits to them.”

Chandran said that after the application is deemed compliant, the siting board has 12 months to render a decision.

“There are a lot of mini-steps in between. (It will be) several months after that until we’re able to break ground. The project is planned to be commercially operational in Q4 (the fourth quarter) of 2022,” he said.

Previously, Chandran acknowledged that NextEra is seeking a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) with the Genesee County Economic Development Center “to direct revenues beyond what the land generates in its current use.”

Jim Krencik, GCEDC director of Marketing & Communications, said his agency is “actively engaged on behalf of Genesee County and the Byron-Bergen School District, along with the Town of Byron, to negotiate a PILOT for the proposed Excelsior Solar project."

Chandran expressed his elation in bringing such a project to the Town of Byron.

“We’re excited to bring the benefits and more, including all the jobs it’s going to create and benefits to the locality,” he said. “We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation with everybody who would like to have one, including the residents of the Town of Byron, leadership and even the opposition.”

September 12, 2019 - 11:42am
Video Sponsor

NextEra Energy Resources held an open house at the South Byron Fire Hall on Wednesday, giving area residents an opportunity to learn more about a proposed 1,500- to 2,000-acre, 280-megawatt solar energy project in the Town of Byron.

Project Manager Keddy Chandran discussed the project with The Batavian during the open house (video).

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