MOREAU — Another solar company has its eye on Moreau’s expanse of vacant space.
If this one’s projects are approved, it would essentially max out National Grid’s local substation, meaning no other solar arrays could be built, except large installations that connect to a transmission line.
The National Grid transmission line runs through the town’s agricultural district.
The Town Board heard a presentation from US Light Energy at Tuesday’s board meeting. CEO Mark Richardson said he wants to build a 10 megawatt array at 65 Reynolds Road, the former Tee Bird South Golf Course, and a 5 megawatt array at the town’s closed landfill on Butler Road. Both would be community solar projects.
Those arrays would connect to the National Grid substation, which can handle an influx of up to 17 megawatts of solar power. The two projects would take nearly all of the substation’s capacity, meaning that future projects would require the developer to pay for upgrades to the substation.
The plan would not affect two proposed large arrays of 20 megawatts or more on local farms. Large arrays must connect to the National Grid transmission line, which means they can only be placed near the existing line.
The Town Board still has not decided how it will handle solar arrays in town. Town code allows them only in the industrial park, and the town has put a moratorium on all ground-mounted arrays while the board considers expanding the allowed locations.
US Light Energy is getting ready so that it can start work as soon as the Town Board votes on a new solar array law. National Grid has already given “preliminary approval” to the Reynolds Road site, Richardson said. He added that he could build the landfill project in four to six months, after getting town approval.
Supervisor Todd Kusnierz said the town likes the idea of the landfill project.
“The board is very interested in the development of a possible solar array off of our closed landfill,” he said.
Richardson proposed a lease of $7,000 per megawatt at the landfill, as well as a payment in lieu of taxes of $3,500 to $5,500 per megawatt. He wanted to put 5 megawatts on the landfill, but said the steep slopes on the sides of the landfill cap could restrict him to slightly less than that.
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The lease would be for 25 years, with three five-year extensions, and a decommissioning plan that includes recycling almost all of the equipment.
At the Reynolds Road site, his company would sell solar to the community at a guaranteed discount of 10% off of the regular electricity rates, he said.
However, neither plan can move forward until the Town Board develops new regulations on solar arrays.
Kusnierz has met with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the town attorney. They are preparing a draft law, he said. No workshop on the law has been scheduled yet.
The two farmers who want to build large solar arrays on agricultural land were also present at Tuesday’s meeting, and both urged the board to allow solar on farmland.
“I’d really like to see the farm saved,” said Laura Killian, whose family wants to build a 20 megawatt solar array on 60 acres off West River Road.
She would use the land under the solar panels for wild flowers and bee population support, she said, as well as possibly cow grazing. The money would be used to rehabilitate the old barns on the farm, giving the family space to grow wild mushrooms and have a warming hut for winter snowshoeing tours.
“Our preference is to have that, over any development stuff,” she said.
Farmer Rachel McDermott, who wants to build a solar array on 24 acres at the edge of a farm, near residential properties, also spoke. She seconded Killian’s remarks.
“I think that’s the heart of what we want to do. It’s not just me that’s trying to keep the family farm,” she said.
She bought a farm off Old West Road in Moreau and wants to build a brewery and bar there. She wants to grow grains, produce the beer at the brewery and sell to customers. Neighbors have not welcomed the idea.
Neighbor Marianne Hodgson told the board that the Killians had a much more acceptable plan.
“It’s a lot different to hear plans from a farm that wants to do snowshoeing than a farm that wants to do a brewery,” she said. “One sounds a lot safer ... a lot more like what a country town is used for.”