Capital Region Communities Study and Adopt Solar Farm Proposals

CLIFTON PARK – With growing concern over the number of solar panels appearing in the open fields of Clifton Park, city council has passed a six-month moratorium on new ground-mounted solar panels.

Approved on January 11, the moratorium does not affect projects already approved or under approval, including the controversial network planned for Hubbs Road. However, supervisor Phil Barrett said the break would give the city a chance “to step back, reassess and analyze” green power generator demands.

“Questions have arisen during these processes that we should address in a comprehensive study and then decide on alternatives to the code to move forward,” Barrett said. “The moratorium gives time for this process to unfold. “

Clifton Park residents oppose solar panels

City planning department director John Scavo, who will lead the study, said the city currently has, or is considering, seven solar panel projects. The first was built on the city’s covered landfill in 2015. One is currently under construction on Grooms Road, and two more are being considered – one on Appleton Road and another on Blue Barns Road.

The solar panel at Anthony Papa’s farm on Hubbs Road, which has upset neighbors who say their property’s value will drop because the panels are unsightly, will go ahead. However, no construction date has been set for the 16,896-panel, 22-acre project.

Susan Burton, who spoke on behalf of the Friends of the Open Spaces of Clifton Park at the public hearing before the moratorium was passed, said her group “enthusiastically supports” the moratorium.

“Let me start by saying that the Friends are not opposed to solar power but believe that these facilities should comply with the residential conservation zoning in West Clifton Park,” she said. “It is this neighborhood that has been heavily affected by commercial solar projects… The development of solar panels threatens to convert the concept of green space (conservation) into a solar panel area.”

The moratorium, in effect until July 11, suspends new demands for 25 kilowatts of capacity and does not halt plans for solar panels installed atop homes.

Barrett said that in addition to residents’ concerns, the moratorium is needed as the number of solar panel proposals continues to rise. He attributes this to state pressure for more green energy.

“Clearly, New York State has made the proliferation of green energy projects a top priority,” Barrett said. “With the seemingly endless amount of subsidies, the pressure will only increase until future ground-based solar panel applications. We expect the pressure to continue. The moratorium will give us time to take a step back and make adjustments. “

Glenville goes solar

At the same time, the neighboring town of Glenville in Schenectady County on Wednesday enacted its first-ever law allowing commercial solar farms.

The legislation created a zoning overlay allowing the development of solar farms on plots of at least 30 acres and located within half a mile of existing substations.

“This is a very limited area where we will allow these solar farms,” said supervisor Chris Koetzle.

The city’s two substations are located on Swaggertown Road and Washington Avenue in Scotland.

The legislation comes after years of discussion, said Koetzle, who called the law a compromise deal that satisfied both the pros and cons of the debate, including residents who had previously raised concerns about cosmetic impacts. .

Encouraging solar development is part of Koetzle’s Solar for Parks initiative designed to embrace clean energy while providing a new source of funding for the city’s growing park system, which includes three parks and two reserves. natural.

“Solar for Parks” will eventually replace the main source of funding for the city’s parks – a recreational subdivision fee of $ 1,000 per lot levied on real estate developers – with a public interest fee for impacting green spaces in the city. $ 7,000 per acre, “a move that Koetzle says will drive hundreds of thousands of dollars into the city’s parks capital fund when paired with payment-in-tax agreements with developers.

With only 3% of the city’s subdivisions built since 2010, the one-off fee is no longer a sustainable model for sustaining a growing park system with increasing demand, Koetzle said.

Over time, the city plans to use the revenues to create an official parks service.

Glenville is already home to a solar installation, a GE solar panel located at the city’s former landfill site on Barhydt Road, which was made possible after the county partnered with GE in 2019 to develop up to nine solar sites in the county.

When fully loaded, Koetzle said the site would save taxpayers nearly $ 60,000 per year, a savings of nearly $ 1.5 million over the 25-year agreement.

No commercial solar applications are currently on hold, but Koetzle expects to see a few applications later this year, now that the legislation has been passed.

The push towards solar is only one part of the supervisor’s clean energy vision.

Glenville has also installed 16 electric vehicle charging stations on the city grounds and will offer a pilot program to test a fleet of electric vehicles. The city has also adopted a feasibility study designed to explore enhancing pedestrian potential.

Numerous upgrades to the city’s park systems are also planned for 2021, including a new 8,000-foot playground at Maalwyck Park designed with an emphasis on inclusion for children of all abilities, as well as a new hiking trail and a launching ramp.

Koetzle, who is due for re-election in November, also aims to build a new six-acre park at Dutch Meadows to honor veterans, as well as a seasonal stage at Indian Meadows to host community events.

About Timothy Cheatham

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