Developers eye landfill for solar farm

One of the parcels where a potential solar farm could go in Hudson.

HUDSON — The Common Council has three developers interested in building a solar farm in the city.

Nexamp, BQ Energy Development LLC and AC Power submitted expressions of interest in Hudson’s proposed solar farm. However, all three developers suggested using the the capped landfill, which drew criticism from Hudson’s Conservation Advisory Council.

The request for expressions of interest submission deadline was Oct. 22, according to the city website.

The properties sought for solar farm development include the former Atlas Brickyard, which has 10 acres of developable land, and the North Second Street extension, which offers 5.3 acres. Portions of each property consist of wetlands.

The Solar Farm Ad Hoc Committee heard the idea from Public Works Commissioner Peter Bujanowt to gauge interest.

“Our goal here is to try to get a solar company interested in this unique location with a unique challenge,” Bujanow said.

The North Bay, where the potential sites are located, consists of tidal marshes, clay bluffs and stream-fed forested ravines that fosters a rich habitat, according to the draft proposal. The surrounding 120 acres also include brownfield industrial remnants and a 20-acre landfill that closed in 2000.

The area has generated interest in the development of walking paths, as well as a bird and wildlife sanctuary, according to the draft.

The request for expressions is intended to help the city assess the level of enthusiasm from developers and site users, measure interest in alternative methods of developing solar energy in the city, and solicit leads from firms and individuals looking to assist, according to the draft.

Nexamp said the proposed areas are made of “wetland environments, existing built environments, secessional forest and steep grades” that would make the installation difficult.

“It immediately became apparent that the most advantageous approach for development would be a landfill solar approach, focused on utilizing the capped city landfill in the northeast section of the development area,” according to Nexamp’s expression of interest.

Nexamp developed a solar farm on a landfill in Ontario, California, which was completed in 2017. It was “one of the first landfill solar projects in California to achieve commercial operation,” according to Nexamp. The company also developed a landfill in Niagara.

BQ Energy has experience in developing solar projects on landfills.

“BQ Energy has developed 55 megawatts of solar on these types of sites in the last five years,” according to BQ’s submission to the city. “Out of that 55 megawatts, 31 megawatts have been located on landfills and 24 megawatts have been on brownfields.”

“We are arguably the most experienced and successful landfill solar developer in the US,” the company said.

Nexamp aruged the landfill is the best option.

“In contrast to some opinions, we believe that a solar farm on top of the landfill provides the highest and best use of the land,” according to the expression of interest. “Taking a closed landfill and putting it into productive reuse as a solar farm can be very beneficial as it is both environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible. It is also important to note that there is no such thing as a perfectly safe landfill.”

AC Power has also developed solar projects on landfills, according to its expression of interest, including having developed four operational solar facilities in the last five years.

“In summary, AC Power believes the area proposed in the North Bay is a contribution to the beauty and ecological diversity of the City of Hudson and greater Hudson River ecosystem,” according to the company. For these reasons, we do not believe a solar facility within Parcel I would best contribute to the City of Hudson’s goal of advancing the community’s environmental sustainability and leadership.”

Conservation board member David Konigsberg said having solar panels on the site could hinder plans for public use.

“We’ve been pretty clear in our opposition to siting solar arrays on this open space and our opinion that in a dense city with very little public open space and shrinking by the day, that we shouldn’t be industrializing space like this,” Konigsberg said. “But instead, we should be focusing on hardscape and rooftop opportunities in a city like this.”

Common Council President Thomas DePietro said the developers have been told about the advisory council’s concerns.

“They’ll know there’s opposition,” he said.

The landfill area is owned by Columbia County, Konigsberg said. Because it is early in the process, DePietro said there are chances that the landfill piece of the request could be removed.

“Well, since it’s just an RFEI, I think what happens next is you then actually have to develop an RFP. And that so I mean, there’s so many stages where it could be just chopped off,” he said.

According to the request, the city intends to lease the properties “as is,” meaning developers determine if the area as it stands is feasible for a project. The chosen developer will lease the site for 25 years after it’s determined that the site is viable and will be responsible for removing equipment from the site at the end of the lease term.

“Solar developers are interested in creating solar farms if it’s in their best interest, so we’re saying to them, ‘We have these two parcels. They’re located here. We have some sensitivities. Can you do anything with these two parcels to make it work for you as a business as well as the City of Hudson?’” Bujanow said.

DePietro said the process is still in its beginning stages and may not even happen.

“We’ve been very open about this from the moment we thought about it and to just see how it evolves,” he said. “And trust me, it is not something that will just steamroll its way through. It won’t happen.”

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