Meeting Wednesday on proposed Adirondack array
By Gwendolyn Craig
Solar developer Boralex Inc. is proposing a project more than two times the size of the largest solar facility approved thus far in the Adirondack Park– a 40 megawatt array in the town of Mayfield near Great Sacandaga Lake. The company is hosting a meeting on the Fulton County project where the public can learn more and ask questions.
The open house will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Mayfield Fire House, 28 N. School St. To learn more, go to https://www.boralex.com/projects/foothills/.
Gov. Kathy Hochul first announced the facility in June in a round-up of 22 large-scale renewable energy projects expected to power more than 620,000 homes, generate $2.7 billion in projected private investment and create more than 3,000 jobs.
“These projects will allow us to not just meet but exceed our goal of obtaining 70 percent of our electricity from renewable resources and will further cement New York as a national leader in the fight against climate change,” Hochul said in a news release.
Boralex’s Mayfield solar proposal is called the Foothills Solar Project. It is not a community solar project, a kind of renewable energy system that intends local distribution of power, but rather a facility that will inject power back into the electric grid, according to a Boralex representative. The facility is expected to generate about 80,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually for three decades. The project is expected to create 50 jobs during construction.
The company projects it will create long-term jobs to support operations, though it does not list how many in the public meeting announcement. It also suggests the facility will boost the local economy and provide tax revenue to the town, county and local school districts.The panels will be ground-mounted and developed on separate parcels, according to the meeting notice.
This would be the largest solar project both in energy and acreage in the approximately 6-million-acre Adirondack Park. A Boralex representative said the company has studied about 600 acres in leased land and intends to build panels on approximately 200 acres in Mayfield. In the fall, the state issued permits for a 20-megawatt solar panel project on 111 acres of an old mine tailings pile in the Town of Clifton in St. Lawrence County. In 2021, a 20-megawatt solar project on 100 acres in the Town of Ticonderoga, Essex County received approvals.
While the 20-megawatt projects received Adirondack Park Agency approval, it is not clear if it will have input on the Mayfield project. The APA is a state organization charged with overseeing public and private development in the park.
Boralex said the facility is reviewed under the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES). ORES is a state agency established in 2020 “to consolidate the environmental review and permitting of major renewable energy facilities in New York State in a single forum.” The office oversees projects that are 25 megawatts or larger.
Aaron Enfield, senior planner for Fulton County said because of the project’s size, the process removes locals’ ability to review the solar farm within their municipality. The Mayfield Town Planning Board, for example, is not reviewing the project, he said.
It appears the construction would take place on land classified as rural use. The APA uses a land classification system outlined in a policy document called the Adirondack Park Land Use and Development Plan. These classifications are intended “to channel growth into the areas where it can best be supported to minimize the spread of development in areas less suited to sustain such growth.” The classification “rural use” generally allows for most kinds of development, though it involves preserving an area’s “rural character.”
Boralex said it will conduct various field studies including bird surveys, noise studies, archeological studies and others. It expects permitting activities to continue through 2023 and hopes to submit an official application to ORES later this year.
“All project infrastructure will be situated in such a manner as to respect municipal, state, and federal regulations, as well as taking into consideration feedback from residents and other stakeholders,” according to the meeting notice.
Boralex is working on several other solar farms on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park through affiliate companies. In Washington County, it has proposed a 100-megawatt project in Fort Edward and a 20-megawatt project in Easton. In Oneida and Herkimer counties, it has proposed a 130-megawatt facility in Deerfield, Marcy and Newport. In Franklin County, it has proposed a 250-megawatt facility in Fort Covington.