HUDSON — The proposed Shepherd’s Run solar project has some people upset after recent meetings.
Earlier this week Hecate Energy, the developer behind the proposed project slated for Copake, held two open-house meetings to discuss the project and recent developments.
The proposed 360-acre, 60-megawatt facility has been a contentious topic because of its size and the impact that it could have. Copake enacted a zoning law in 2017 that prohibits projects like this to be built if they are larger than 10 acres.
The organization Sensible Solar for Rural New York is made up of local residents who oppose the project. Several members from the group were on Wednesday’s virtual meetings.
“At the end of the day it is all smoke and mirrors,” Darin Johnson, director of Sensible Solar for Rural New York, said Thursday. “The fact that on both of the open houses they spend 30 or 45 minutes talking about bees and pollinators and we spent less than a few minutes talking about the visual impact of the project I just think speaks volumes.”
Hecate Energy Project Developer Alex Campbell discussed recent updates for the project such as some of the ideas Hecate had for incorporating plants and pollinators into the project, and planting shrubs and evergreens to help conceal fencing.
Johnson said a recurring issue has been in local residents not being heard by the company.
“Alex Campbell has really been the only boots-on-the-ground person that has had any visibility in the community at all,” Johnson said. “He continues to go around and tell everybody what they want to hear. And he’s listening, but they’re doing nothing with what they hear. So I think that’s the concern.”
Hecate’s recent announcement about the project’s siting process was also discussed. Last week Hecate announced it was moving forward with the state’s new siting process called 94-C.
New York state allowed for projects in the first phases of development to either opt into 94-C, which all new projects will be using, or to continue to follow the previous siting process, known as Article 10. In March, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the new regulations were adopted by the state to dramatically accelerate siting and construction of major renewable energy facilities across the state.
The new law established the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting to consolidate review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities in a single forum. Opportunities exist for local input and that “no application will be deemed complete without proof of consultation with the host community regarding procedural and substantive requirements of applicable local laws,” according to the website. The Siting Office is required to consider any applicable local law when making a determination.
The article 10 process from 2012 until 2020 has yielded 13 certificates Campbell said Wednesday.
“The fact that Hecate now is going to be moving to 94-C is just another proof point, 94-C really takes community considerations for the most part out of it and leaves the decision making pretty much up to ORES,” Johnson said.
He said the communities need Hecate Energy to meet with local residents and officials.
“We continue to demand Hecate Energy, and not Alex, but the real folks, that are planning this project, the decision makers, come to Copake and sit down,” Johnson said. “Back in February, I had a discussion with Alex on the phone where I suggested that we bring in — and Sensible Solar would pay for it — but we bring in a third-party facilitator and we bring the town, Sensible Solar, Columbia Land Conservancy, Scenic Hudson as well as maybe some landscape and agricultural experts and we have a day-long meeting and we roll up our sleeves and we identify what are the primary issues and what would be the road map to resolving those.”
Copake Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said she did not watch either of Wednesday’s open-house meetings on the advice of legal counsel.
She said the town board has spoken with Alex Campbell on many occasions, but they have not had a meaningful conversation with the leadership of Hecate, and they want to meet with them — with documents, information and maps to be available in anticipation of such a meeting.
“That’s what we’re looking forward to,” Mettler said. “We would like to meet with the people in Hecate who are in decision-making positions, who can speak with authority and who can come to the table and come to some sort of a meaningful compromise that would meet both the needs of Copake and would address the climate change concerns that all of us share.