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Coxsackie town, village oppose massive solar project

A map of Hecate Energy LLC’s 50-megawatt solar farm in Coxsackie.
July 11, 2018 11:30 pm

COXSACKIE — The Coxsackie village and town boards both unanimously approved resolutions opposing Hecate Energy LLC’s approximate 400-acre solar project.

The 50-megawatt solar farm would be built in the vicinity of Farm to Market Road on property owned by the Flach family.

The Coxsackie Village Board approved its measure Monday during its monthly meeting after reviewing the project application with counsel and listening to residents, Mayor Mark Evans said.

“Most residents aren’t against solar energy but they are certainly opposed to a commercial grade solar project in our community,” Evans said. “As a board we felt the same way.”

Members of Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar praised the forward-thinking and decisive action by the town and village boards.

“Our elected officials have done an outstanding job of making it clear that siting the Greene County Solar Facility here is unacceptable,” according to Saving Greene’s statement.

The project is not a small solar farm, but is considered to be a major electric generating facility by the state, according to Saving Greene.

“Our elected representatives understand the difference and are taking vigorous steps to preserve Coxsackie’s heritage, economy, and environment,” according to the statement.

Hecate submitted a preliminary scoping statement to the state Department of Public Service on May 29 outlining the project proposal and crucial studies. This provides a siting review of new, repowered or modified large-scale electric generating facilities in a single proceeding rather than require a developer to apply for several state and local permits, according to the state Department of Public Service website.

Evans hopes the state takes the comments submitted by the village into account.

“I don’t know what weight it holds, I hope they would consider that,” he said.

Hecate revised its preliminary site layout for the project to eliminate 117 acres along Plant Road in late June, Hecate Energy Development Director Gabriel Wapner said. The acreage is part of the village, north of the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. Solar panels won’t be installed on the site.

“The village part got knocked out, but my understanding is that it could be added back in later on,” Evans said.

Evans is a proponent of solar energy, but the Hecate project won’t benefit the village because the energy it produces would be sent elsewhere, he said.

“There seemed to be no direct benefit to the residents of the town who have to look at the project for the next 20 years or so,” Evans said.

The state Public Service Commission’s electric siting board will hold a public meeting July 18 at 5 p.m. at the Coxsackie Village Hall at 119 Mansion St., Evans said.

Following the village’s lead, the Coxsackie Town Board approved a resolution at its monthly meeting Tuesday opposing the project, Town Supervisor Richard Hanse said Wednesday.

Councilmen want the town to be a viable place for people to live and have businesses.

“This project as proposed will literally lead to the destruction of so much farmland, so much usable, developable land and will do so much damage to the rural character of our town,” Hanse said. “To me, it’s a slash-and-burn running right down a huge swath of the middle of the town.”

State officials should care what village and town leaders and residents think about the project, but don’t have to, Hanse said, adding the decision-making process is out of the town board’s hands.

“This is counterintuitive to me that there could be such public opposition and yet we could still be impotent before the state,” Hanse said. “The state has the ultimate authority under this plan. We feel like we’re under attack.”

Hecate has made major alterations to the project design which will cover a third of the agricultural land the company optioned, while the remaining land will be used for farming, Wapner said.

“These good-faith efforts have been responsive to community input, however, they have not been acknowledged,” Wapner said. “While the village and town of Coxsackie resolutions are not binding in any way, we wish the village and town would take a more objective approach to making this project the best it can be for the community.”

Hecate continues to engage with local stakeholders to make the project a solar farm which displaces fossil fuel generators, sustains farming and delivers economic contributions to Coxsackie and Greene County, Wapner said.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM