COXSACKIE — As the Hecate Energy project nears the finish line, the company announced the donation of a firefighting Utility Terrain Vehicle to the local fire department.
The 50-megawatt energy project, proposed for about 400 acres on Farm to Market Road, will use approximately 170,000 solar panels.
Hecate’s application was ruled complete by the state Board on Electric Siting and the Environment in September and the company expects to receive its certificate and begin construction within 10 months, Hecate Energy Development Director Gabe Wapner said.
As part of its host community benefits program, the company will donate a UTV to Coxsackie Hose Company No. 3 when construction begins, Wapner said.
“[Hecate’s] donation of this new firefighting six-wheeler will deliver immediate benefits to our community and the safety of our firefighters,” Fire Chief Shawn Burdick said in a statement. “More and more, we are responding to a wider variety of emergencies, including brush fires and search-and-rescue. This new equipment will expand the services we can offer across our entire territory.”
Hecate also sponsored a 4-hour training session for the fire company and first responders on how to respond to emergencies at solar facilities.
“From what we learned during the January training session, we don’t anticipate any issues with the solar farm,” Burdick said. “But we pride ourselves in being prepared for any emergency and this new UTV will be used to reach places a fire truck typically cannot access.”
The UTV will be equipped with a mounted winch, windshield and roof, specialty safety lighting, safety kit and a firefighting skid unit. In addition to the UTV, Hecate is donating a 20-foot trailer for hauling the UTV to remote locations. All the equipment is being purchased locally at Greene County businesses, according to Hecate.
“We are very pleased to provide this important tool to help enhance Hose Company No. 3’s capabilities,” Wapner said. “It will equip the company to effectively address fires and emergencies that occur on any off-road site. It will also help them respond in the unlikely event that there is a fire or emergency on or near the solar farm. Hecate Energy is proud to play a role in helping Coxsackie’s volunteer firefighters keep the community safe.”
The Chicago-based company proposed a $4 million to $6 million local revenue program, to be allocated to the town, school, county, fire department, ambulance squad and library over the project’s 35-year lifespan, Wapner said. The facility is expected to begin operating in 2022.
Hecate has donated to the public-art project’s Hoot of the Owl Committee and donated $2,000 to Coxsackie-Athens Central School over the past two years to provide grants for graduating seniors, Wapner said. The project is expected to create about 122 full-time construction jobs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 63,574 tons per year, aligning with the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s goals to have a 40% emission reduction by 2030 and an 85% reduction by 2050.
“These projects, they’re great community members and neighbors that generate a significant amount of revenue to the community while essentially using no municipal resources,” Wapner said. “We’re excited to develop the project in Coxsackie and we know a number of people are excited to have the project as a quiet neighbor that pays significant revenue to the community.”
Mark Flach, owner of the land on which the solar farm will be constructed, is in favor of the project.
“The farming community is in trouble,” he said in September 2019. “The price of commodities and milk is low. We are turning one-third of our farm into solar to keep our farm sustainable. Without solar, our farm would probably go to auction.”
Many local farms have fallen by the wayside, Flach said.
“We are the last working farm on the road,” he said. “Solar will be the answer to [this] problem. It’s clean, renewable energy.”
Hecate is leasing the property from Flach.
“We are leasing 400 acres of a 1,200-acre farm,” Wapner said. “The rest of the land will be used for agriculture and environmental conservation. Mr. Flach wanted to diversify his income.”
Hecate plans to recycle many of the materials and restore the property to its previous conditions at the conclusion of the project. While the farm is in operation, the public will be able to use hundreds of acres of conservation easements and trails.