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Three More Solar Projects Proposed In County

The Chautauqua County Planning Board is currently reviewing three more solar projects.

During this week’s Planning Board meeting, members were told about a solar project at 5246 Route 76 in Ripley, one at 9824 Route 60 in the town of Pomfret, and one for Angell Road in the town of Hanover. Last month Hanover officials discussed the Angell Road project and in November Pomfret held a public hearing on the Route 60 project.

All three projects are proposed to be 5 megawatts or less. The one in Ripley is different from the 270-megawatt solar project proposed in the same town. That project has been on delay for more than a year. County Planning Board Chairman Douglas Bowen, who is also the town supervisor for Ripley, said because of the size of the proposed 270-megawatt solar project, the state must give its approval for it to move forward.

“Anything over 20 megawatts goes to state review,” he said.

In a presentation to the county Planning Board, senior planner Matthew Bourke discussed some of the criteria used when evaluating solar projects.

He said the Planning Department looks at agricultural impacts, visual impacts on neighboring residences, impacts on trails, if it creates loss of forestland, what the solar law is for that municipality, and what the decommissioning plan and estimated costs are. Generally the county Planning Department helps determine if the project is of local concern or needs additional approvals. If it’s of local concern, it goes back to the local municipality for final approval.

Other issues the county Planning Department routinely examine include wetland impacts, airport impacts, if there’s a flood zone, the road access details, the maintenance and operation plan, and to make sure there is a plan for pollinator-friendly planting after the solar project is constructed.

Bourke discussed the Angell Road project further. He noted that the solar project’s site is 50 acres but the project will be placed on 12-13 acres of land. The top half of the site has vineyards in it, but where the project is being placed is vacant farmland.

That project has a decommissioning cost of $67,500, which is estimated at $120,000 in 30 years, using a 2% inflation rate. This particular decommissioning estimation does not include salvage value.

Pantelis Panteli, deputy director of Public Facilities, said the decommissioning of renewable energy projects is an issue for many municipalities. “We’ve asked New York state to come up with a policy to protect us. We want something to protect all the counties,” he said.

The county Planning Department has been reviewing a number of solar projects lately. Going back to May, there were at least five others that were brought before the Planning Board. One was at 4542 Baker St. in Busti, one on Barnes Road in Stockton, one at 4545 VanBuren Road in Pomfret, and two solar projects in the town of Portland, both near the intersection of Route 20 and Pecor/Fay Street.

According to Bourke, the Planning Department determined all five of those projects to be local concerns and provided informal comments to each municipality for each project. It was up to each municipality to approve the project.

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