COPAKE — Officials will continue to take public comment on changes to the town code regarding the proposed Shepherd’s Run 500-acre solar farm.

Comments will be accepted through next Thursday, town officials said.

Hecate Energy identified a 900-acre area for the project that extends south of state Route 23 and county Route 7. The company’s proposal calls for the installation of 200,000 solar panels that would take up 500 acres and would generate 60 megawatts of electrical power.

The ongoing discussions about the proposed solar project continued Thursday night with a public hearing to discuss proposed revisions to the law governing construction and siting solar power generating facilities.

“We will accept written comments until next Thursday at noontime,” Copake Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said. “Go to the website, review the law and take a look at the summary of the law and if you have a comment you would like to suggest you can send us an email.”

The proposed revisions include dividing solar facilities into four distinct classifications based on their size; for example, bigger projects such as Shepherd’s Run would be considered a tier-4 solar facility.

The revised town code would also require all solar facilities, regardless of their size, to be evaluated for the impact they would have on local resources.

In Copake’s case, this includes Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center and Sanctuary, Taghkanic State Park and Copake Lake, as well as an abundance of prime farmland available in the town.

“The idea is to really ensure that whoever is reviewing the project, whether it’s the town or the state, is taking a hard look on the impact of the things that matter the most to this town,” said Benjamin Wisniewski, a partner in the Loughlin Group law firm.

The Loughlin Group represents Copake as town officials respond to the Shepherd’s Run project proposal.

Wisniewski explained there is also language in the proposed revisions that would help to ensure that the state would apply the law as it is written, Wisniewski said. In large projects like Shepherd’s Run, the state has final say on certain aspects of a project, but by default the state has to apply the local laws.

Some of the other proposed revisions look at farmland protection and limits how much good farmland would be allowed to be converted.

The proposed revisions add requirements for siting battery energy storage systems

associated with solar energy facilities. The change would not allow large battery energy storage systems to be situated on more that 10% of any parcel of land that has been classified as prime farmland.

“There are also some technical revisions having to do with what happens when a project maybe dies early and we’re left with tens or hundreds of thousands of solar panels that no one is using,” said Wisniewski. “We tried to tighten the law to make sure that the town can afford to have those removed.”

The town of Copake will continue to allow the public to submit written comment on the revisions until Thursday, Sept. 17. The proposed revisions are available on the town’s website. Any members of the public who wish to submit a comment on the matter can send an email to townofcopake@fairpoint.net.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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