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As law looms, solar farm company, CH plan talks

February 1, 2019 05:49 pm Updated: February 4, 2019 05:32 pm


HUNTER — Officials are working to draft the town’s first solar farm law while a 2.3-megawatt project is in development for the former Hunter Landfill.

The project — proposed by U.S. Light Energy of Latham — could power between 500 and 700 homes in the Central Hudson Gas & Electric service area of southern Albany, Greene, southern Columbia, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange and northern Putnam counties.

The landfill on Hylan Road in Tannersville contains waste from Hunter and five other mountaintop towns. The site was closed and sealed between 1990 and 1993 and has sat mostly dormant since.

U.S. Light Energy officials will meet with Central Hudson representatives about connectivity and other logistics, Hunter Town Councilman Sean Mahoney said.

The company is working to negotiate lowering the nearly $1 million of interconnection costs with Central Hudson, U.S. Light Energy CEO Mark Richardson said Wednesday.

“They are requiring that we put in prohibitively expensive safety measures,” Richardson said. “We’d like to get some cooperation from the utility.”

Construction on the project could begin in the spring, pending the companies agree on a cost, Richardson said.

“Our engineers are working on it,” he added. “If we can come to an acceptable situation that everybody’s comfortable with and that meets the safety requirements, then we’re absolutely going to build it.”

Richardson did not know the project cost, but said completing the interconnection business will help determine the expense.

“That’s got a big impact on the total cost of the project,” he said.

The slated solar farm is a good use of unusable land, which the town pays to maintain, Mahoney said, adding the energy the farm produces will be offered to residents for a 10- to 15-percent discount.

“This would allow us to generate some revenue and offset our energy costs,” Mahoney said. “This would completely offset that.”

The town will not have to reserve money from the budget or raise taxes to pay for the solar farm, the councilman said. U.S. Light Energy will incur construction and maintenance costs.

“It’s a land lease agreement,” Mahoney said of the project. “It’s a win-win.”

The town established a moratorium on solar projects late last year for officials to can create a solar energy law. Lawmakers are working with the state Energy Research and Development Authority to structure the legislation, Mahoney said, adding the law will help the planning board when deciding on projects.

“We really don’t have a solar law on the books — that’s why we needed to do our due diligence and get this law on the books,” he said. “We want people to know they can do solar, but we want them to do it the right way.”

The moratorium was voted to take effect for six months, but Mahoney hopes the town can lift it within two.

“We’re not trying to delay things at all, we’re just trying to do a good job,” he said.

U.S. Light Energy’s solar farm was approved before the moratorium was enacted, Richardson said.

“We’re essentially grandfathered in,” he added.

Contrary to popular belief, solar developers prefer when municipalities have solar zoning laws so they know what the rules are, Richardson said.

“Once the parameters are established, we can work within them and it makes for a smoother process,” he explained. “I think a lot of the process that we went through with the town helped them to inform some of their thinking on what might make a good solar law.”

Hunter councilmembers are working to make the town a designated Climate Smart Community, or recognized as a community that uses renewable energy to decrease its carbon footprint, Mahoney said.

“We want to decrease our energy footprint, we want to be conscious of sustainability,” he said. “We set a baseline for the amount of energy usage today so we can look for ways to decrease the amount of energy we’re using the future.”

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