Farm field would hold 11,000 panels
By Gwendolyn Craig
Ticonderoga is becoming a hub for harvesting sunshine after the Adirondack Park Agency approved the sixth large-scale solar facility in the town in less than three years, the most permits APA has issued in any town in the park.
The latest project the board approved on Friday is a 5-megawatt solar facility near Old Chilson Road on vacant agricultural land. Pivot Energy plans to install about 11,050 photovoltaic panels on about 24 acres leased from landowner Bruce Crammond. It would provide enough power for about 1,250 New York households, APA staff said.
The town has yet to issue its own approvals. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for 6 p.m. on June 2 at the Community Building’s basement conference room. Town Clerk Tonya Thompson said the hearing will also likely be broadcast online. A link will be posted the night of the hearing on the town’s website. Town Supervisor Mark Wright did not immediately return the Adirondack Explorer’s phone call Friday.
Devan Korn, an environmental program specialist with the APA, said the panels will be surrounded by an 8-foot-tall woven wire fence within which sheep will graze. The town requires a decommissioning plan, and Korn said it is also part of the APA’s permit condition.
Korn showed the APA board photos of the existing landscape, followed by photos with renderings of the solar panels.
APA board member Andrea Hogan asked Korn how many of the five previously approved solar projects have been built. Korn said none so far. The APA issued its first solar permit in the town in the fall of 2020.
Hogan said after the solar panel facilities have been built, she would like to see a photo from the crest of Route 74, “one of the most beautiful views.” She wanted to see the impact of the solar projects.
The latest permit generated three comment letters, none in support. One came from Crown Point resident Joe Kozlina, who said he is pro-solar, but not on farmland or in forests.
“We need all the open lands and forests and ag lands we can get,” Kozlina wrote.
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APA seems to have a formula in place–and one that has hopefully managed to escape the Cuomo administration’s crusade against local oversight in solar siting (see Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act)–that is ostensibly helping to fold local environmental and rural character concerns into the utility-scale solar planning process. But these projects are not the same as residential development projects and should not be regulated as such. Construction of a 24-acre solar farm, as complicated as that is, is not a one-and-done deal. There are decades of ongoing maintenance that will be needed.
Does APA have the gusto to oversee these projects on a continuing basis? At first glance, it may appear so. For example, the Draft Permit Application for this project states: “Other than as described in the Maintenance and Vegetation Management Plan, the application of any pesticides or herbicides within the lease parcel boundaries shall require prior written Agency authorization.” (https://www.apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2022/05/Regulatory/P2021-0296-DRAFTPermit.pdf) …However, buried in the referenced “Maintenance and Vegetation Management Plan”–immediately following the reassuring discussion about “pollinator friendly seed mix” and “rotational grazing” (and the not-so-reassuring plan for mass application of herbicide to help the seed mix establish)–we find that APA’s stipulation against unregulated herbicide use is essentially an empty facade: “Since weed seeds remain viable in the soil for number years, site and weed management is a long-term process. Treated areas will be monitored annually and re-treated if necessary, using typical weed management practices and procedures.” (https://www.apa.ny.gov/Mailing/2022/05/Regulatory/P2021-0296-MapsPlans&Sims-Final.pdf) …In other words, Pivot Energy can use as much herbicide as they’d like, for as long as they’d like. (Of course, by the time most of us have had a chance to review documents like these, the public comment period is already closed.)
There is not really an established set of Best Practices for this industry, especially for anything like the Adirondack environment, and it shouldn’t really be the responsibility of APA staff to write them. But someone needs to. And once such guidelines exist, we need to ensure that APA has the capability to enforce them.
Pat Smith says
Most of the legislation written by the state regarding solar has been crafted to take to take away much of the local government control over siting, maintenance, PILOT and host agreements ect. The push to use open, easily accessible farmland is enormous. Even if the land is unused now it will be needed in the future. Please research 2050 food supplies and world populations. It has been recognized for years that around 2050 the world will not have enough productive farmland left to feed everyone.