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September 22, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, batavia, news, notify.

It's about time to get the show on the road, said supporters of two proposed solar projects on Alexander Road in the Town of Batavia.

The two property owners willing to host the solar farms told Town of Batavia planners Tuesday that the projects are important to them, and a representative for the firm that will install and operate the farms said he would like to finalize a deal soon.

Brian Madigan, the company’s senior permitting manager, sought clarity from planners on what issues remained to be addressed as part of the permitting process.

"I'd like to be sure that I have addressed all of the concerns," Madigan said during the Planning Board meeting. "I want to submit in a timely fashion (a letter addressing all pending concerns) and make sure that you get hard copies, and you have ample time to read it all. It's been, you know, two years for us. We'd like to move on."

"But," responded Board Chairwoman Kathy Jasinski, "it hasn't been two years for us. We do this with all solar projects. We just want to make sure we're doing it right."

The proposed projects are a 14-acre, 3-megawatt solar farm on a 29-acre parcel at 9183 Alexander Road and a 10-acre, 1.6-megawatt system at 9071 Alexander Road.

The planning board did approve on Tuesday the environmental review, passing what's called a "negative declaration," meaning the projects do not pose any significant environmental risk.

As Madigan tries to address any final concerns, he's also still negotiating a host community agreement with the Town of Batavia and the Genesee County Economic Development Center.  The agreement would ensure payments to the town of solar power generation.

"I have some concern over the timing of being able to get that host community agreement, to get the IDA, the town board and our team all together before your next meeting on October 4," Madigan said. "We are committed to working in good faith to come to an agreement. We presented draft terms to the town, but I'm not sure -- at the pace at which, you know, meetings come together and given our journey thus far -- I'm really hopeful that we could make that final execution of a number (amount of payments in the Community Host Agreement) a condition of approval since it is a town board function ultimately. That for purposes of the planning board, we get a condition that we have to make the town board and the IDA happy."

As much as Madigan wants to tie a bow on the project, the Hylkema family might be even more eager to ensure the solar farm for their property is approved. 

Kerry Hylkema said the solar farm on their private property represents a level of financial security they do not currently enjoy.

Her husband John, she said, is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and he worked in security for the Department of Homeland Security before reaching his required retirement age of 57 after 26 years of service. He is a cancer survivor who was exposed to contaminants at the 9/11 site shortly after the towers fell, and for six months following the attack.

"The income generated from this project makes up for the loss of half of his retirement should something happen to him," Hylkema said. "This secures my family's ability to stay in our home. At the end of the day, this project hurts nobody, is a benefit to the environment, and it keeps the land a viable option for farmland in the future. Please approve this solar project so we can finally plan for our future."

At a previous meeting, several community members spoke in opposition to the projects, and Dan Reuter, the owner of the property for the other proposed project, seemingly addressed some of the objections raised at a previous meeting.

"I'm an engineer by trade and I like to go by facts and not what we can all jump on in this internet rabbit hole, and come up with ideas that might be skewed in our favor," he said. "For me, it's all about facts. It's all about the truth. And you know a lot of these people that have been complaining really need to go to valuable resources, credible sources for information."

He said the projects are in compliance with all of the requirements.

"I don't see a reason why this should not be allowed to go through based on where we are today," he said.

Jasinski said she expects the board will be in a position to vote on final approval at its next meeting.

Top photo: Dan Reuter speaks to the Town of Batavia Planning Board Tuesday alongside Kerry and John Hylkema. Photo by Howard Owens.

 

June 23, 2022 - 4:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, Cypress Creek Renewables LLC, batavia, news.

img_1856solarproject.jpg

Three poles at each entrance of a pair of proposed solar projects off of Ellicott Street Road in the Town of Batavia will be less of an eyesore than four, members of the town planning board decided on Tuesday.

At one time, the developer, Cypress Creek Renewables, proposed four poles.

At Tuesday's meeting, project attorney Mark T. Sweeney, after a lengthy discussion of the topic, asked the planning board to commit to three poles if that is truly their desire.

"What we would ask then is that the board clarify the condition of approval to require us to have a maximum of three poles per project," Sweeney said. "Then we can agree, we can accept that and redo a redesign for that. What we really need tonight is to be able to walk away knowing what it is we have to do. So that would be my ask of you as a board is to clarify and modify that condition of approval so that we can do that."

The number of poles is not a straightforward design decision, Sweeney explained during Tuesday's discussion.  The equipment that is mounted on the poles can be placed on the ground but at much greater expense.  The design must be approved by National Grid. The ground-mounted equipment is big and bulky and must be fenced in. And ground-mounted equipment is a special order and supply issues are delaying delivery.

Introduced in June 2019, the proposal from Cypress Creek Renewables LLC calls for the construction of two solar farms on property owned by Don Partridge at 5117 Ellicott Street Road.

  • A 5-megawatt array on 18.2 acres of a 65-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar I;
  • A 4-megawatt system on 19.6 acres of a 71-acre parcel of otherwise agricultural land, known as Trousdale Solar II.

The four-pole plan Cypress Creek came up with for each project -- and that received a nod of approval from National Grid -- helped the company balance competing factors and the company sought to maintain that balance, Sweeney said. 

"There's a balance, you know, in what SEQR requires," Sweeney said. "The site plan evaluation requires a balance of the impacts versus the cost. One of the things we were looking at is just that element of it. I understand if there's a particular impact that is to be avoided, or identified that we weren't aware of, that's one thing, but just simply ground-mounting something at a significant cost would be -- for no significant benefit to the environment, from a visual standpoint -- would be in our position, something we've tried to avoid. "

When the equipment is ground-mounted, it must be placed on a two-foot-high base, Sweeney said. The equipment enclosure is six feet tall.  And because it is electrical equipment, it must be surrounded by a fence. 

"You do have some residual visual impact resulting from that installation," Sweeney said.

Board members asked why there couldn't be three poles at each location since other solar projects have been able to meet that requirement. 

Sweeney said he couldn't answer that question.

"I understand completely where you're coming from, and having consistency with other projects," Sweeney said. "I don't know why those projects have three. I don't know what their equipment lineup is. I assume that it's substantially similar, but it might be different. The project size might be different panel types, inverter types -- there's a whole level of engineering that goes into what may cause the number to be different. It could be that it could have been an earlier project that got a higher incentive from NYSERDA by being in a different block. So they had more money available to spend on that type of thing. There may not have been any landscaping associated with that project. They could take the money from the landscaping budget and put it into that. There are all kinds of different things of which we're not aware."

To help mitigate the visual disturbance of four poles, the poles were designed to be back from the roadway and screened from view by landscaping.

In the end, board members decided they would rather see only three poles on each site.

"I think even four poles with all the lines and all the stuff hanging out from them, it's just going to be an eyesore, not only for people who live there, but just driving by," said board member Jonathan Long. "It just doesn't fit in with the character of the neighborhood. In my opinion, saying that it's a cost to the project is, in my opinion --  this is going to be there 20-plus years, part of the scenery there; it's not going to go away. So the upfront costs are minor compared to long-term impacts."

Once Sweeney said he would like board action affirming they would accept three poles instead of four, a motion was made and passed.

Photo: Bridget Cuddihy, project developer for Cypress Creek, and Mark Sweeney, project attorney. Photo by Howard Owens.

Previously: 

January 26, 2022 - 11:22am
posted by Press Release in elba, Oakfield, Hecate Energy, solar, solar farms, Cider Solar Farm.

Press release:

Hecate Energy announced today that the application for its proposed 500- megawatt Cider Solar Farm in the towns of Elba and Oakfield, New York has been deemed complete by the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES). If approved by ORES, Cider Solar Farm would be the largest solar project permitted and constructed to date in the State of New York.

Established by Section 94-c of Executive Law, ORES is the newly established state office charged with implementing the timely consolidated review and permitting for major renewable energy facilities in New York State. Its acceptance of the Cider Solar Farm application is the first time ORES has deemed a renewable energy application complete.

“This is the first 94-c application to be deemed complete by ORES, which is a significant milestone for renewable energy in New York,” said Harrison Luna, Cider Solar Farm’s project developer. “The establishment of ORES and the 94-c permit process underpins the state’s commitment to supporting sustainable power, and we’re fortunate to be in a position to use it to bring clean, homegrown electricity to Genesee County. We are encouraged both by the transparency brought to the permitting process by ORES and the comprehensiveness of that process, and we believe this project will be an excellent addition to the next generation of sustainable power supply in New York State.”

The completed permitting application for Cider Solar Farm was extensive and comprehensive. It included 6 bound volumes and more than 96,000 pages of detailed analysis of data from studies assessing the proposed project’s effect on the host communities. Surveys were commissioned regarding a wide range of environmental, cultural, land use, and socioeconomic considerations such as wetlands and streams, wildlife habitat, nearby traffic patterns, cultural resources, noise and vibrations, visual effects from nearby areas, site security, and other potential concerns.

If approved by ORES, Cider Solar Farm would be built on nearly 3,000 acres in the towns of Elba and Oakfield in Genesee County. It is expected to create over 500 construction jobs and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year – enough to power over 120,000 average New York households. Clean energy from Cider Solar Farm is expected to offset 718,694 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is equivalent to the annual emissions from 141,794 passenger vehicles.

“For years people have talked about bringing economic development to upstate New York. This milestone is a very positive sign to other developers who are considering bringing their investment, jobs, and sustainable energy projects to this region,” said Luna. “The New York State Legislature, Governor Hochul, and ORES are to be commended for following through and making this happen. Together with the renewable energy industry, we are finally bringing long-term, sustainable economic development to the upstate region.”

To learn more about Hecate Energy and the proposed Cider Solar Farm, visit the project website at www.CiderSolarFarm.com.

December 20, 2021 - 11:42am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, town of batavia, solar farms, Wendel.

After taking several months to review the Town of Batavia’s regulations governing the installation of solar systems, a seven-member committee working with a Williamsville consulting firm is ready to share its recommendations with the public.

An informational session is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Dec. 29 at the Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The final draft of the town’s revised Solar Energy Local Law is available for viewing on the Town of Batavia website.

Town Board member Chad Zambito is the chair of the committee that also includes Town Building Inspector Dan Lang, Town Zoning Board members Steve Tanner, Don Partridge and Paul McCullough, Town Zoning Board of Appeals member Brittany Witkop and town resident Nancy Brach.

Drew Reilly of Wendel Companies served as the group’s consultant.

Zambito said the committee used the New York State Model Solar Energy Law as a basis for the town’s law, with some modifications. He said he hopes to receive feedback from residents at next week’s meeting.

According to the document, the town has the authority to develop a solar code through town law and Section 20 of the Municipal Home Rule Law of the State of New York, which authorize the town “to adopt zoning provisions that advance and protect the health, safety and welfare of the community, and, in accordance with the Town Law of New York State, to make provision for, so far as conditions may permit, the accommodation of solar energy systems and equipment and access to sunlight necessary therefore.”

It advances a five-fold “statement of purpose” – emphasizing the need to capitalize on renewable energy, reducing electricity costs to residential and commercial customers, increasing employment and business development, mitigating solar’s effects on agriculture and the environment and linking to the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

The revised law also lists solar term definitions, time frames, safety guidelines, decommissioning (end of use) procedures, maintenance/fees and enforcement/penalty provisions.

The bulk of the document is devoted to “permitting requirements” for the four levels of solar systems – Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4.

  • Tier 1 systems are defined as roof-mounted solar panels and new building-integrated systems, and are must meet design, glare and height guidelines.
  • Tier 2 systems, such as accessory structures, also have to comply with glare, setback, height, screening, visibility, equipment placement and lot size requirements. Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 systems are permitted in all zoning districts and are not subject to site plan reviews as long as the specific criteria are in order.
  • Tier 3 (larger) systems are permitted through the issuance of a Special Use Permit within the Agricultural Residential zoning district. They are subject to additional requirements, including maximum percentage of land use, written application, public hearing, underground utility lines, vehicular paths, signage, glare, lighting, tree cutting, screening/landscaping, noise, decommissioning and security.
  • Tier 4 systems along the line of those proposed for widespread areas in Byron and Oakfield/Elba, also need a Special Use Permit. These may qualify for a Solar Energy System PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) and will require a Host Community Agreement as determined by the Town Board. Additional restrictions on large-scale Tier 4 systems include submission of an Agricultural Impact Statement, Economic Impact Analysis and Host Community Agreement proposal.
June 9, 2021 - 2:15pm

Press release:

Hecate Energy today announced that it has filed an application with the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) to construct a 500-megawatt solar farm in the Western New York towns of Elba and Oakfield, representing the first new application to be submitted under the state’s new permitting process for large-scale renewable projects.

If approved and constructed, the Cider Solar Farm would be the largest solar project ever built in New York State.

The $500-plus million-dollar private infrastructure investment is expected to create over 500 construction jobs and will be capable of supplying 920,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year – enough to power more than 120,000 average New York households.

“This project provides a concrete example of the scale and speed with which we must move if we are to meet critical renewable energy goals,” said Harrison Luna, Hecate project lead. “We are very appreciative of the leadership demonstrated by Elba and Oakfield town governments for this important ‘model’ project.

"Our discussions have helped us understand how to plan the project considering the unique priorities of the communities where we want to become neighbors. Those officials have helped us balance the needs of the communities with the needs of the project.”

“Cider Solar will do more than create clean renewable energy to drive the new economy; it will also deliver significant new revenue to the local governments for decades to come and help fund essential services such as the volunteer fire departments, first responders, and Haxton Memorial Library in Oakfield."

Initially, the project sought leases and options for approximately 4,000 acres of land in the towns of Elba and Oakfield in Genesee County. As the understanding of local priorities grew clearer, detailed siting and study efforts allowed Hecate to refine the project’s footprint to approximately 2,800 acres of land across the two towns. Energy from the solar project is projected to offset over 420,000 tons of C02 per year, the equivalent of taking over 92,000 average cars off the road annually.

“Hecate Energy has been an excellent partner with our community since day one,” said Donna Hynes, Elba Town supervisor. “They’ve kept us informed and part of the process every step of the way. This project will bring welcomed jobs and needed revenues to the area for decades to come, while serving as an example for how to make renewable energy development part of a long-range economic plan.”

“This project will provide significant green energy into the grid,” said Matt Martin, Oakfield Town supervisor. “The commitments and financial resources Hecate brings to our community are welcomed additions. With the benefits to the town, the school district, and the local landowners involved, we are thrilled to be partnering with a leader in clean energy, and one that has a reputation of following through on its promises. We’ve been glad to have a cooperative relationship with the project thus far.”

New York State’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act, which includes Section 94-c of the Executive Law, enacted in 2021, created the new ORES and rules for the permitting of large-scale renewable energy projects. It is intended to enhance the siting and construction of projects that are environmentally responsible, cost-effective, and delivered in a timely manner with input from local communities.

Hecate’s Cider Solar 94-c Application, prepared by Buffalo-based Stantec Consulting Services in coordination with the law firm Foley Hoag LLP, is the first new application submitted to ORES under 94-c regulations, representing an important milestone in the State’s project permitting progress.

June 1, 2021 - 11:02am

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors will consider approving final incentives for a $345 million solar project in the Town of Byron, and construction of a campus-wide electrical substation at the Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP). Both matters will be discussed at the agency’s June 3 board meeting.

NextEra Energy Inc. is planning a $345.55 million Excelsior Energy Center utility scale solar farm project to be located on multiple agricultural properties in Town of Byron. The project is a 280 MW (AC) solar generation system, and a 20 MW 4-hour energy storage system, that will be interconnected with the electric grid.

The project will provide enhanced property tax payments via a 20-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) and host benefit agreements. The project will contribute $6,500/MWAC in total PILOT/host benefit payments annually + a 2 percent annual escalator over the 20-year term.

Resulting property tax-type benefits of the project in the Town of Byron, Byron-Bergen Central schools, and Genesee County are estimated at over $45.2 million.

NextEra Energy is seeking approximately $32.7 million in property and sales tax incentives. A public hearing on the proposed agreement was held April 19.

Plug Power Inc. is planning to invest $55 million toward a campus-wide substation at STAMP. The substation will enable 100 percent renewable, reliable electricity at less than $0.035/kwh to future tenants in partnership with the New York Power Authority and National Grid.

The proposed substation investment is in addition to the $232 million Plug Power is investing to build a green hydrogen manufacturing facility at STAMP. The facility is estimated to create 68 full-time jobs.

Plug Power is seeking approximately $2.8 million in sales tax incentives related to the substation construction. A public hearing on the proposed agreements will be held at 10 a.m. on June 3.

The GCEDC Board meeting is at 4 p.m. and because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the meeting will be conducted via videoconference and can be viewed online at www.gcedc.com.

April 28, 2021 - 8:19am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, town of batavia, solar farms.

Small-scale solar projects are on hold in the Town of Batavia until municipal officials, working with a paid consulting firm, can find the right ingredients to ensure a fair and effective solar ordinance.

Town Building Inspector Dan Lang took some time out of his busy day Tuesday to update The Batavian on the status of the new code, which he hopes will be drafted and approved over the next few months. In January, the town placed a moratorium on solar farms without establishing an end date.

“We’re putting out bids for a consultant and want to make sure it is the right fit for the town and matches up with our comprehensive plan,” Lang said. “We want to remain solar-friendly but we also want to make sure that we’re putting them in the right areas.”

As is the case with determining real estate values, the phrase “location, location, location” applies in the solar arena, Lang said.

“We have much to review and to sort out, but I can tell you that we’ve been tossing around the idea of incentive zoning for these systems – a tiered approach where you have your best locations, followed by areas that we would allow but would come with more restrictive setbacks and guidelines,” Lang explained. “Then, finally, a third tier where we really don’t want solar on prime farmland but if you’re going to put it here, this would have to be in a specific spot (and likely costlier for the developer).”

Part of the siting process is to identify areas where the transmission power lines have enough capacity to hook into the grid, Lang said.

Thus far, the Town of Batavia has approved five solar projects, all of them active and sitting on parcels of 20 acres or less and generating 2 to 5 megawatts of electricity. Those five are on Bank Street Road (on land owned by Thomas Lichtenthal), on Lewiston Road (two, Call Farms) and on Pearl Street Road (two, Dan Miller).

Five more are at various stages of construction and/or review and are yet to be activated. Those are on West Main Street Road (two, Fred Bowman), on Batavia-Stafford Townline Road (Daniel Underhill), on Galloway Road (Wayne Dunham) and on Ellicott Street Road (Donald Partridge).

Another five are in limbo, Lang said, due to the moratorium and the effort to adopt a new solar ordinance.

Lang said town officials have learned much through the process of approving the five systems, notably that they weren’t up to speed on the amount of buffer and screening needed to hide them from neighbors, and that they would have been better served by limiting the number of utility poles.

That’s where the consultant comes in.

“From experience, we realize we need to reach out and have a consultant come in and tell us some of the better areas for the solar – more or less, what companies will be looking for as far as transmission lines that have the capacity to move electricity from solar farms,” Lang said.

He admitted that it has been difficult keeping up with an industry that is constantly changing.

“For example, we’re finding that we can get away with more underground lines instead of looking at the ugly utility poles,” he said. “No matter what, it continues to evolve and then there is the matter of battery systems and battery storage to deal with. It’s all moving at a rapid pace.”

Lang said the objective is to respect the landowners’ right to put solar on their property while producing cleaner and greener energy in a location that doesn’t negatively impact the surrounding community.

“We realize – and this is a big thing – that supplemental income for the farmer who wants the solar there is important and we encourage that because that’s the highest and best land use value for them,” he said. “And we’re trying to find areas where it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and not intrusive to the neighboring properties.”

Currently, the town requires a decommissioning bond on every project, Lang said.

“If something does go south with it, the system will be removed. It really is a farmland protection. If it is removed five or 10 years from now, you have soil that has been untouched and ready to go again for farming,” he said,

Lang acknowledges that solar projects draw complaints from those who live next to the proposed site.

“We’ve heard them all – they’re an eyesore, they pollute the land and so on,” he said.

When a consultant is selected and a new ordinance is drafted, the plan will be reviewed by county and town planning boards before going to the Town Board, Lang said. Until then, more meetings of a six-person committee that includes Lang will be scheduled and citizens are invited to send their opinions via email to [email protected].

Other members of the committee are Town Board Member Chad Zambito, Town Planning Board members Paul McCullough and Donald Partridge, citizen representative Nancy Brach and Zoning Board of Appeal Member Brittany Witkop.

March 24, 2021 - 4:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, cider soler farm, livestream, video.
Video Sponsor

Cider Solar Project - Virtual Open House presented by Hecate Energy

Or the meeting can be accessed directly through Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/98566949504

December 30, 2020 - 7:16pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, Batavia Town Board, solar farms, Article 10.

The Batavia Town Board this afternoon called for a “timeout” as it attempts to keep up with the changing landscape of the solar farm industry.

During a special meeting via Zoom videoconferencing, the board passed a resolution to hold a public hearing to consider Local Law No. 1 of 2021 entitled, “A Local Law, Establishing a Town of Batavia Moratorium on Solar Energy Systems.”

The public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Batavia Town Hall on West Main Street Road.

The board also voted to declare lead agency status with regard to an environmental review per the State Environmental Quality Review Act and will prepare an assessment form for this action.

Supervisor Gregory Post said that several key changes have taken place since the board passed the town’s solar ordinance five years ago.

“This is something that probably was going to be addressed during the course of the past 2020 year along with a revisit to our comprehensive plan and other things that were budgeted in our planning budget,” Post said. “We continue to work to be an energy efficient community – and have received a lot of grant money as a result – but so much has changed and now is the time for a review.”

Post pointed to the following aspects pertaining to community and large-scale solar projects that must be considered:

  • New York State Article 10

“In my opinion, solar farms also serve as an ag protection plan in that the ground remains fertile and available for farming in the future,” he said. “But now, New York State has jumped in with Article 10 and started taking over towns' rights.”

He said that “giant corporate entities” are taking thousands of acres without local participation or control, specifically mentioning huge projects in Byron, Oakfield and Elba.

“I’ve also talked to the Town of Le Roy Supervisor (James Farnholz) and he was expressing some frustration in that they had spent an enormous amount of time and energy to come up with a solar law, only to have the governor and the state change it almost on the same day they were prepared to adopt it,” Post offered. “And it caused them to have to go back and revisit it.”

The supervisor said there’s much to learn about Article 10 (and a new state regulation to replace it).

“That’s another reason to hold things up until we all are better understanding of the Article 10 process and the changes to Article 10, and the experiences of other communities that are in Article 10,” he said. “Planning and zoning board members need to be educated about this stuff because it is a big deal and it is bound to be more time consuming than expected.”

  • Building More Than What is Needed

Post said the recommendations of so-called experts has led developers to “overbuild capacity.”

“They’re building solar and wasting energy because the price to develop solar now is so cheap … instead of building what you need, they build 130, 150, 200 (megawatt) -- maybe three times what you need, and if you don’t have a place for it, that’s all right because it’s cheap to build,” he said. “That wasn’t the thinking five or six years ago.”

  • Battery Storage

Post said the advancement in battery stations likely have expanded the solar farm feasibility map.

“At the outset, we were comfortable that there would be very few places available for solar development because of the need for the connectivity to part of the grid that was able to handle the output,” he explained. “There was essentially a limitation on the number and locations of solar because National Grid’s network wasn’t able to connect all these farms – it had to be where there was capacity and those places on that map were limited.”

Now, Post said that he and the town’s engineering staff suspect that the mapping has changed.

“With these battery things, maybe you can store it up and feed it back in little bits and quantity. So, we have to address it,” he said.

  • ‘Hidden’ Costs to Municipalities

Post said increasing administrative costs are cause for a discussion about whether a tax should be imposed upon solar farms, which (to varying degrees) already are subsidized by tax dollars. Currently, the town does not tax property owners who are leasing land for solar.

“Again, five years ago we didn’t expect there would be any cost to service a solar farm. They got a driveway cut, and they don’t request any services from the town. There’s no need for police or fire or highway or water or sewer. Essentially, it’s like driving past a field of alfalfa – there’s nothing there. So, we weren’t looking to exploit that because we didn’t anticipate any costs,” he said.

Today, the town is “really seeing how expensive the administration of these applications is – with the engineering review and the decommissioning bonds and our attorney’s fee, and just the overall cost of the community’s resources because we are stretched thin,” he advised.

Post said he had no opinion either way but sees the need to get people to the table to look at the cost issue.

He said the moratorium will not affect solar projects that are in the pipeline – it should be noted that the town has permitted numerous solar farms thus far – and that “anything new coming in can wait 90 days or so.”

“Once the public hearing is held and we pass the moratorium, hopefully we will have more public participation … and hopefully we will be in a better place with COVID and have a better idea of our revenues,” he added.

August 11, 2020 - 10:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Town of Alabama, news, solar farms, notify.

If solar farms are coming to the Town of Alabama, local officials have determined that they would rather have some local control than letting the state have all the power.

Monday night, the town board approved a local ordinance that will allow the town to set some parameters on solar farms and perhaps keep the largest of them off good farmland.

"The planning board struggled with this over the months and months," said Supervisor Robert Crossen. "The town board did, too. None of us are about losing farmland but we with Article 10 saying this will happen, I guess my view is that this is part of what you have to do to stay in the game. If we don't participate in it, then we won't have a lot to say."

In other words, without adding Section 624 to the town code, the town won't have any say in the planning and siting of solar farms in the town.

Article 10 of the Public Service Law, passed in 2011, lays out the process for permitting new major electric-generating facilities, giving the responsibility for permitting and siting resides with the State Energy Siting Board. Without local building codes, local jurisdictions have no say in the size, scope, location, setbacks, visual screens, or decommissioning plans for the facilities.

"Our regulation attempts to put a footprint in the sand and say this is what we’d like to see," Crossen said after the meeting.

While the new law sets code standards for small installations for the personal use of solar energy on residential, commercial, and farm property, the key aspects of the new law cover what are considered Tier 3 and Tier 4 solar farms.

A Tier 3 installation is one of up to 1,500 square feet but generates more than 110 percent of the electricity used by the property it is installed on.

A Tier 4 installation is more than 50 acres in size.

Crossen said the town hopes it can use the new law to avoid large industrial installations but indicated the final decision will be part of the Article 10 process.

The town put in place a moratorium on new solar farms while it reviewed its options and Crossen said now that the new law is in place, he expects to see applications flowing in.

"We are well aware that there are many companies that are ready to propose many projects," Crossen said.

There are potential economic benefits to the town, in the form of fees (perhaps as much $5,500 per megawatt), as well as the county and the school district, for any commercial solar projects installed in the town.

The new ordinance also requires large projects to negotiate a host community agreement that should generate additional revenue for the town.

The sole resident to speak at the public hearing prior to Monday's town board meeting was resident Dave Bencic who questioned the town's commitment to protecting farmland by enacting a law that would permit solar farms on prime farmland.

Trustee Kevin Fisher recalled all the work that went to creating the town's farmland protection regulations but conceded town officials were hemmed in by state law.

"So much for home rule," Fisher said.

"So much for home rule, correct," Crossen said. He then called for the motion to adopt the new law. It passed unanimously.

October 2, 2019 - 6:48am

Town of Batavia officials, in conjunction with the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District, are looking at adopting guidelines for solar farm developers to follow when it comes to pollinator habitat plantings on ground-mounted mudrzynski.jpgsystems.

Appearing at the Batavia Town Planning Board meeting on Tuesday night at the Town Hall, Bradley Mudrzynski, district manager for GCSWCD (photo at right), presented a draft of a plan that covers topics such as the need and importance of pollination, planting process, maintenance and performance standards.

“The main thing is for flexibility (in the plan) – having the ability to plant in the fall or spring with either stock mix or through a seed contractor,” Mudrzynski said. “In the end, (you’re saying) the seed mix should look like this, with these characteristics.”

Mudrzynski’s plan supports the Town’s concern over losing prime farmland to solar development – even if temporarily – and the Town’s view that “pollinator habitat plantings can mitigate farmland losses and increase ecosystem services provided to farms in the form of pollination.”

Discussion with the planning board ultimately came down to the percentage of the solar farm that should be seeded, where to locate grass mix in the solar array and enforcement of the guidelines as they pertain to special use permits issued by the Town.

“When you spec out a 10-acre site (for example), what percentage of the solar array do you want planted down?” Mudrzynski asked. “Between the rows? Around the outside? Thirty percent? (The point being) finding a good and reasonable acreage or percentage.”

Working off a solar site pollinator habitat scorecard from the state of Vermont, planners initially said they were in favor of a 46 to 60 percent vegetative cover for each solar project. After more discussion, they agreed on 80 percent of the lot, including putting grass mix under the solar panels.

“And this (level) would cover those solar farms already approved since none have more than 20 percent (of the total space) for access roads,” said Steve Tanner, a planning board member.

As far as enforcement once the guidelines are formally approved, planners decided to include the pollinator piece in the special use permit and to require developers to work with GCSWCD or an “agreed-upon equally qualified consultant” such as a landscaper or architect to perform periodic inspections.

Planners also talked about the importance of developers contracting with licensed herbicide applicators to ensure that performance standards are achieved.

Following the 20-minute discussion, Planning Board Chair Kathy Jasinski said she will share the draft of the plan with other Town leaders and asked Mudrzynski to return to the next planning board meeting on Oct. 15 with an updated version.

In other developments, the planning board:

-- Voted to extend the State Environmental Quality Review process and tabled the developers’ application in connection with a proposal to build two 20-acre, 7.2-megawatt ground solar systems at 8050 Oak Orchard Road (Route 98).

The request by Borrego Solar Systems LLC has been in the works for quite some time, hampered by the fact that it seeks to site the solar farm on land that is in the Town’s Planned Business Development District.

Requirements of the PBD District center on a development of at least 100 acres – a measure put in by Town officials to ensure large-scale commercial projects that would benefit the Town and preserve the agricultural viability of the land.

Jasinski said that the board will take no action “until we get more information” from Borrego. She said she expects the developer to come in with a new application, which could result in having to redo the SEQR application as well.

Extension of the SEQR was mutually agreed upon by both the planning board and Borrego, as required, she noted.

-- Received an update from project officials Dan Yanosh and Tom Healy on the revisions made to their proposal for a 19.8-acre, 4-megawatt ground-mounted solar system at 3565 Galloway Road.

Last month, the plan by Bright Oak Solar LLC to place solar panels on property owned by Wayne Dunham was met with solid opposition from neighbors on Galloway and Lewiston roads, with comments focusing on lack of screening, decreased property values, and potential negative effects on the environment and aesthetics.

Yanosh and Healy presented another visual of the layout, this time noting that they added screening (trees) along the front on the southeast side – in response to an objection from the adjacent property owner – and increased the size of the culvert in front and reduced the number of poles from five to four.

Jasinski advised them that no action will be taken until they meet with town engineers and zoning officers to review the changes.

She did say the matter would be put on the board’s Oct. 15th meeting agenda as long as she receives a report from the aforementioned town officials before that date.

June 29, 2019 - 10:25am
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, solar farms, Town of Batavia Zoning Board of Appeals.

solar_farm_plan.jpg

A plan to build a 5-megawatt solar farm on Ellicott Street Road in the Town of Batavia is not sitting well with area residents, who shared their views with the property owner at a neighborhood meeting on Friday night.

About 25 people gathered at the home of Bill and Nancy Brach at 5168 Ellicott Street Road to discuss the pros and cons of solar farms in general and to gain information about the specific project proposed by Donald Partridge, owner of a large dairy farm on that road.

“To be honest, probably some of us would like to see if there’s any way to keep this particular project from taking place,” Nancy Brach said.

She was referring to Partridge’s application to put a 36-acre solar farm on land located at 5103 Ellicott Street Road, about a half-mile southeast of Shepard Road – on the left-hand side as you head out of Batavia toward East Bethany.

Brach cited concerns over adverse health effects, proximity to residences, unattractive appearance, negative effect on property values and taxpayer subsidies in her opening statement to the group.

Currently, Partridge’s proposal is on hold since it was denied by the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for being over the maximum size allowed (20 acres). It could be resubmitted, however, if it were modified to show two separate 20-acre parcels or if the ZBA were to reconsider its decision on a variance.

To his credit, Partridge (and his wife, Pat) attended the meeting and stood his ground. And to his neighbors’ credit, the meeting progressed in a respectful, civil manner.

Partridge said that he proposed one 36-acre solar farm instead of two 20-acre units to eliminate the need for two sets of poles and other hardware. He also said that he moved it back from its original location.

“We sought a variance to make it more efficient and when (Trousdale Solar) engineers came back to me with the first design, it was tight up to Folger’s pine trees,” he said.

The proposed site is about 150 feet from the property line of Richard and Jolene Folger at 5105 Ellicott Street Road.

It also is within the sight line of the property of Steve and Mary Smith at 5107 Ellicott Street Road and is not far away from an ARC of Genesee Orleans group home down the road.

While Partridge said his goal was to be “less intrusive to everybody,” that apparently isn’t enough to convince the Smiths and the Folgers.

“We’re concerned about the safety of these solar farms, especially being near residents,” Mary Smith, mentioning the need for “filters” and the possibility of stray voltage.

“It’s not so much about useable energy; what are the effects of this electricity on individuals?” her husband added.

Folger said he needs more accurate data to make an informed decision.

“My biggest objection is that there are too many unknowns,” he said. “How does it affect people’s health and property values? And the Town doesn’t have a handle on setbacks (believed to be 50 feet from a neighboring property).”

Partridge, a member of the Batavia Town Planning Board, acknowledged that he will make a “super income” from the project, much more than he would make if he farmed the land.

He added that he would make sure the soil quality would be retained and is committed to green energy, noting that he has three private windmills on his farm.

“Our resources are limited – gas, oil and coal – and someday will run out,” he said.

The neighbors also voiced their displeasure with the way the Town communicates with area residents when projects such as these pop up.

“We feel the Town was a bit underhanded in notifying us (prior to board meetings). It was a last minute thing,” said Kathy Antonelli, of 5061 Ellicott Street Road, who has been assisting Nancy Brach in this effort.

Toward the end of the meeting, Mary Smith provided Partridge with a ray of hope.

“If you would consider moving it (the solar farm) back a ways (from the road), we would be very grateful,” she said.

Photo: Donald Partridge, right, and Steve Smith look at a map of the site of a 36-acre solar farm being proposed by Partridge on Ellicott Street Road. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 26, 2019 - 12:35pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, town of batavia, solar farms, Brach Machine Inc..

The solar farm boom is upon us, which means that more and more rural residents are looking to their municipal leaders to inform them of rules and regulations pertaining to these green-energy producing systems.

That’s one of the reasons why Nancy Brach of 5168 Ellicott Street Road in the Town of Batavia is inviting her neighbors to attend an informational meeting at 6 p.m. this Friday (June 28) at her home. She said the meeting will take place rain or shine, and dessert will be provided.

“We’re having this meeting due to a lack of communication about these projects and to learn what is allowed,” Brach said. “Why are people not notified beforehand? And if something does come up again, we want to have contact information to reach these people (who live near a proposed solar farm site).”

Specifically, Brach and other Ellicott Street Road residents who attended a Batavia Town Planning Board meeting last week were upset about a proposed solar farm installation on land owned by Donald Partridge.

They felt they hadn’t received adequate advance notification of the project, which ended up being denied by the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals due to the proposed size of 40 acres.

“So this could have taken place with no input at all if not for two people who printed out fliers and left them at our houses last weekend,” she said. “And that is not right. Bill (her husband) and I now read the (legal) notices in the paper, but I doubt we would have noticed that even if we had seen it.”

The Brachs are owners of Brach Machine, which is located at 4814 Ellicott Street Road.

Town Engineer Steve Mountain said the application by Truesdale Solar for the Partridge property could be resubmitted if it were reduced to conform to code (maximum of 20 acres).

He added that if a vote needs to be taken again, the same property owners within 500 feet of the proposed site would be notified by mail.

Although Brach’s home is more than 500 feet away, she believes more should be done to let people know about these projects other than being on the Town’s website.

Brach’s concerns over solar farms go beyond notification methods, however.

“Our meeting will be for awareness,” she said. “These projects benefit two parties -- the person leasing the property and the company installing the solar equipment. The town and the people of the town do not benefit.

“And the funds for these projects come from the taxpayers. These projects do not pay for themselves, they are only profitable with the subsidies we, as taxpayers, fund.”

She decried the expenses to the Town involved in zoning, planning and legal costs, and said that the projects are not self-supporting and should not be permitted until they are.

“And the 20-year bonds may or may not be enough to dismantle the equipment when the time comes, if they even last that long. Plus, people lose the beautiful country vistas that they hoped to enjoy for a lifetime.”

Brach said she thought that the Town of Stafford had a policy “more protective” of the rights of its residents, and hoped that some of Stafford’s ideas could be incorporated into Batavia’s policy.

In the end, she hopes Friday’s meeting will mobilize residents to speak out.

“As a taxpayer, I resent paying for projects that are not profitable just to benefit an individual and a company,” she said. “Luckily, I can afford it. But there are many people who cannot and we need to stand up for them, and for what is right.”

June 23, 2019 - 12:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in Event, solar farms.
Event Date and Time: 
June 28, 2019 - 6:00pm

Meeting notice from Nancy Brach:

Solar farms are all the rage now aren’t they?

The consensus seems to be that taxpayers are paying the folks who lease their land for these farms and the solar companies. They are installing equipment with a fairly short useful life and possible ill effects on our health, and changing our beautiful country landscapes into something less appealing.

Without the subsidies, they would not cover their costs.

August 3, 2018 - 12:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, batavia, business, GCEDC.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) voted to approve incentives for the construction of two 2MW community solar farms for a combined total of 4MW at 2901 Pearl Street Road. The developer, Pearl Solar LLC will invest approximately $6 million investment and will receive incentives of approximately $472,000 in sales and property tax exemptions.

“While we were concerned about the fact that the project will only create one job, there are other temporary economic impacts such as construction and installation jobs as well as benefits to the local community in approving a renewable energy project of this nature,” said GCEDC Board Chairman Paul Battaglia. 

Among the benefits of the project include: an enhanced property tax payment through a 15-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) resulting in approximately $311,000 in property tax payments to Genesee County and the Pembroke school district; energy discounts of 10 percent for local residents who sign an agreement with the company to purchase solar energy from the project(s); and, a community benefit agreement in which Pearl Solar will make a $50,000 donation to the Genesee County STEM2 STAMP workforce development program when the two projects are completed.

“This project fits into our local economic development strategy and marketing alignment as we are finding that renewable energy is becoming a preference item for site selectors or companies conducting site location searches,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde. “The project also will have no carbon footprint, providing environmental benefits to local residents and just as important it aligns with Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative.”

November 16, 2017 - 4:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, solar, news, notify.

solarfarmconstructnov162017.jpg

The state provides a tax exemption to industrial solar projects and until recently county officials didn't realize they had any say on whether to allow these exemptions.

Typically, the projects are built on farmland and the county can continue to tax the property at the established assessed value, but if the solar farm increases the assessed value of the land -- typically 10 acres -- then the property is exempt from taxes on the amount of the assessment increase.

The options for the county are to opt-out, through a local law, on the tax exemption, or establish a PILOT on projects on a case-by-case basis.

PILOT stands for Payment In Lieu of Taxes, and typically a PILOT ramps up the amount of payments made as a percentage of the increase in assessed value over a period of years.

Under state law, the solar farm properties are exempt from taxes on the increase in assessed value for 15 years for county, town and school taxes.

"I think everybody should be able to do what they want with their land but the real issue is the state telling us what we can’t tax them on," said Legislator Andrew Young during a discussion of the issue during yesterday's Ways and Means Committee meeting. "Because of that reason, I think we should at least do something to maintain a little control."

By consent, the committee agreed to have County Attorney Kevin Earl draft a local law to have the county opt-out of the exemption.

There are three solar projects under construction and all three were started before the county learned it had the choice to opt-out of the exemption or establish a PILOT.

The issue came to the county's attention because the builders of a fourth project on Pearl Street Road came to the county and volunteered to pay a PILOT.

That caused Legislator John Deleo to wonder why the company would volunteer for to make PILOT payments.

"I think they know counties are going to start taxing everybody, so they’re going to get ahead of it and don’t want to get stuck with the full no-exemption later on," suggested County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens.

It's unclear if the county can go back to the projects already under construction and void the exemption or require a PILOT.

The company with the project on Pearl Street Road told county officials that not only did they anticipate building other projects in the county, but that officials should expect more solar companies seeking farmland for solar farms locally.

The developers typically lease the farmland at $6,000 a year for 15 years.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said that should be a big concern to legislators.

"My fear is we have pretty reasonable land costs here and that these are going to pop up everywhere and it’s open season because Geneses County hasn’t really established any kind of policy regarding (solar farms)," Clattenburg said. "If other counties do start doing it, then we’re going to get the brunt of it all."

Legislator Shelly Stein noted that two of the three solar farms going in are on "wet land," less than prime farmland, and that she's aware of four projects proposed in Le Roy that were turned down by National Grid because the nearest power station is over capacity already.

Hens said the typical project is 2.5 megawatts and costs $5 million to build.

How they should be assessed has yet to be established.

If the Pearl Street Road project goes forward and PILOT is instituted, it won't produce any revenue for the county before 2020, maybe in 2019.

Kevin Andrews, deputy county treasurer, said the PILOT payments won't help the county increase its overall tax levy.

"There’s no overall revenue benefit to the county at that point," Andrews said. "It’s more of a shift so the solar companies are picking up a little extra versus the rest of the taxpayers."

Photo: Taken today of a solar project under construction off State Street Road near West Saile Drive.

October 13, 2017 - 11:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, solar farms, solar energy, news.

staffordsolarspeakeroct122017.jpg

Derek Meister, of The Meister Consultant's Group Inc., and trainer for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, spoke in Stafford on Thursday night for the town's committee studying the impact of potential solar farms.

Meister provided details on the implementation of the Unified Solar Law. The law is a template for local jurisdictions who wish to approve regulations for large-scale industrial solar plants on farmland.

This was the third in a series of talks sponsored by the solar committee. The committee is gathering all the information it can on solar farms, including community, environmental and economic impacts.

The town is halfway through a six-month moratorium on new industrial solar installations in Stafford, giving the committee time to complete its work.

April 14, 2017 - 1:22pm

Mercy EMS is finding its current ambulance staging area at St. Jerome's on Bank Street a little cramped and not conducive to keeping ambulances ready to roll in all kinds of weather, so it's planning a new 11,500 square foot facility off Route 98, just north of the Thruway, in the Town of Batavia.

The new facility will cost about $2 million and the site plan was reviewed and recommended for approval last night by the County Planning Board.

"There’s no space," said Mercy EMS General Manager Bill Schutt of the current location. "We’re in essentially four old hospital rooms there. There’s very limited parking space, obviously, if you’ve been there. In winter times, it’s especially difficult. Ambulances have fluids in them, medications that need to be kept warm, so you’re trying to run heaters inside them to warm them while parked outside. We don’t have any space there to hold meetings, do training, any additional private spaces, very limited crew space."

The new facility will have eight interior parking bays and additional spaces with electrical hook-ups for ambulances to park outside in emergency overflow situations.

The location, 2.2 acres being split out from an 8.6 parcel, is part of the Gateway II project on Call Parkway, just off of Oak Orchard Road.

Schutt said the new location will have no effect on response times.

There will also be expanded crew space, a meeting and training room.

The new location will also include a purchasing department that will house regional purchasing for Mercy Flight.

Also on Thursday's agenda:

  • The board recommended approval of two new commercial buildings on a parcel just north of Home Depot, abutting the Thruway, at 4181 Veterans Memorial Drive. The buildings will be a 12,600 square foot facility that will house medical offices and a 7,500 square foot building that will contain three spaces. Two will be restaurant spaces. The $1.2 million project is being undertaken by Holland Trotta out of Rochester.  A spokesman for the developer told planners that the large space was originally intended for a well-known local restaurant, but those plans changed. The signage on the architectural drawings in the planning board packet for the smaller building show an urgent care business and a Mexican chain restaurant, Qdoba Mexican Eats.
  • The board recommended approval of a conditional use permit for 17.4-acre, 2-megawatt solar farm at 2901 Pearl Street Road, Batavia. 
  • The board recommended approval of a nine-month moratorium on the planning and construction of solar farms in Stafford, giving officials time to review policies and zoning plans for such facilities.
  • The board recommended approval of a site plan review for a new 29,456 square foot paddock at Batavia Downs to be constructed on the east side of the race track. The previous paddock was removed to make room for construction of the new hotel. Currently, stables, are being used for paddock space. Paddocks are where horses and drivers are prepared for each race and return to after the race for washing and testing (winning horses are tested for banned substances, as required by the gaming commission). 
February 10, 2017 - 1:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in solar farms, batavia, news, business.

Two solar farm projects in the Town of Batavia were recommended for approval by the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night.

One project is at 3833 W. Main Street Road. It is an 11.6-acre project on a 83.5-acre parcel.  

The other is at 8169 Bank Street Road, Batavia. It is 11 acres on 93.3 acres.

Both projects are being developed by Forefront Power, formerly SunEdison, with Forefront agreeing to leases of 25 years with the property owners.

The projects are expected to produce enough electricity each to power the equivalent of 300 residential homes.

Timothy P. Ahrens, in charge of project development for Forefront, said the projects will help create additional renewable energy sources for the region.

The projects will be eligible for state and federal incentives to help offset the costs.

Planning Board members asked questions about what happens to the farm if it's ever decommissioned and Ahrens said part of the agreement with the landowners is to remove all of the infrastructure and return the land to its prior use.

Both lots are less-than-prime farmland.

Pending final approval by the Town of Batavia, Ahrens said Forefront hopes to begin construction by the fall.

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