MOREAU — Solar farms can come to Moreau, but they must be regulated, Town Board members said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“I’m very interested to get something in place to make it easy for you to do what you do,” said board member Alan Van Tassel, who added that he thinks the Town Board can develop rules in less than six months.
Supervisor Todd Kusnierz noted that the town can get guidance from laws passed in Wilton, Northumberland and other nearby towns.
“They already have regulations. I think it’s the prudent thing for the town to do as well,” he said.
He wants a “viable plan” that would allow solar farms, he said.
The board unanimously approved a moratorium to stop any solar farm development for six months while members draft regulations.
“It gives the town the opportunity to do it right and get it right,” Kusnierz said.
The moratorium is somewhat meaningless, since solar farms are currently only allowed in the industrial zone. But without the moratorium, property owners could have gone through a complex process of getting permission from the Zoning Board. Now, they must wait until rules are in place, and then they will go through the normal Planning Board process.
Property owner Patrick Killian, who used to farm 500 acres in the town’s agricultural district, was applying to get permission for a solar farm on 60 acres. Now he has to wait.
He supports allowing a specific type of solar array on agricultural land. It’s the type he wants to build on his land, after he considered proposals from more than 10 solar companies.
The array would be made of dual-use, temporary solar panels. The anchors would be screwed into the ground without using concrete, so they could be easily removed. They would be installed high enough in the air that animals, such as heifers or goats, could graze, so the land would still be used. The installation is considered dual use if the land can be used for solar energy and agriculture at the same time.
The income from a solar array would allow him to restore his milking parlor and barns so his daughter could run a dairy farm after college. He got out of the dairy business in 2014 and now raises beef cattle while leasing most of his land to another farmer.
He argued strongly for solar farms, saying it could save farmland from being sold for housing development. His next option, if a solar farm is not permitted, would be to sell off some of his land for housing.
“We’re not trying to put in more developments, not if we don’t have to,” he said. “I understand what you guys are trying to do, to protect the Ag District. ... But if we have to have more houses coming down the road, that’s what we have to do. We still have to take care of our families.”
Solar farms were described in the moratorium as commercial ground-mounted solar, to differentiate them from solar panels for personal use, usually placed on people’s homes.
Those are still allowed during the moratorium.