Scenic Hudson’s mapping system could be applied to Adirondacks
By Gwendolyn Craig
Hudson Valley nonprofit, Scenic Hudson, has built a mapping tool to help municipalities with siting large-scale solar projects. The tool could help the Adirondack Park Agency as it grapples with an influx of solar applications.
The tool was discussed at the APA’s July board meeting, introduced to commissioners by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. NYSERDA’s Jennifer Manierre, of the clean energy siting branch, and Tracy Darougar, of the build-ready program, provided the APA resources and guidance on solar projects in a presentation.
Scenic Hudson’s siting technique uses geographic information systems, a kind of digital mapping technology. It includes layers like local towns’ zoning, agricultural districts, proximity to transmission lines and utilities’ hosting capacity.
Check out Scenic Hudson’s solar mapping tool at: https://www.scenichudson.org/our-work/climate/renewable-energy/welcome-to-scenic-hudsons-solar-mapping-tool/.
The result helps developers and local governments see prime locations for solar arrays and estimate the amount of power that the existing infrastructure can handle. While the map focuses on the Hudson Valley, some of the layers are statewide, like the utilities’ hosting capacity and where the transmission lines are located. All of the data are publicly available, and some of it is live-streamed so that the map is automatically updated.
“It’s a great tool for planning,” Darouga said.
APA Chairman John Ernst suggested the agency could do something similar for the park.
“I would like to see that,” Ernst said. “I don’t know how difficult that is to extract from the Scenic Hudson map.”
That’s exactly what Scenic Hudson staff would like to see happen, and they don’t think it would be difficult for the APA to do. The nonprofit intended for a state agency or any other group to replicate its process and use it locally. Hayley Carlock, Scenic Hudson’s director of environmental advocacy and legal affairs, said the organization saw “this void in having tools like this” and got to work in 2019. Funding came from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act passed in 2019 recommends the creation of such a tool. Carlock said Scenic Hudson offers a blueprint for NYSERDA or any other public agency or nonprofit to recreate the tool.
It’s already getting replicated in communities outside the Hudson Valley. Alex Wolf, conservation scientist at Scenic Hudson, said the town of Cazenovia in Madison County was an early adopter. Working with the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, the town used nearly all the same mapping layers in Scenic Hudson’s tool. They added their own on top, including the town’s zoning. The result was a map that showed suitable sites for solar projects locally.
APA commissioners for years have been considering how to balance protection of rare agricultural land in the park, natural vistas and wetlands when approving large-scale solar projects. Carlock said communities across the state are facing similar kinds of pressures to consider land conservation, community values and renewable energy.
“Our goal here was definitely not to be a tool to help people say ‘no’ to solar, but to say ‘yes’ and find the right places,” Carlock said.
Does the software tool highlight brownfield sites?
New York State has an abundance of brownfield sites of former industrial plants. Generally there are transmission lines around these wastelands. In Syracuse we have thousands of acres of the former Allied Chemical waste beds and capped dredgings from Onondaga Lake. I was in Niagara Falls recently and there are huge abandonded industrial sites. Benson Mines seems like a good candidate site; the transmission lines are still there.
Yet the obvious preference for solar developers is to build on agricultural lands or scenic open spaces. I am all for renewables, but how about having preferences for brownfield sites and restrictions on other areas? Or improve incentives for residential systems (our 5KW system has zeroed out our supply charges for 13 years!) instead of incentivizing large developers.
Former Dacker says
Great points,Upstate. In addition to brownfields, all former industrial sites should be evaluated for solar array potential.
Park Ethics says
IT’S CALLED “THE ADIRONDACK PARK!” It’s WILDERNESS! SOLAR AND WIND POWER ARE ENERGY INDUSTRIES and DO NOT BELONG ANYWHERE IN THE PARK! Restrict Solar to solar powered roof shingles within the park! and wind power to micro-wind next to a house to power only a small battery for the house. INDUSTRIAL SOLAR AND WIND SHOULD BE RESTRICTED TO OUTSIDE THE PARK AND ON THE ROOFS OF UGLY Shopping Malls etc.
Clearly, the human species intends to destroy all of nature and replace it with technology, which is not living-it’s really just Dead material. Nature is LIFE.
Tourist Family says
If our family from Long Island were to go to the Adirondacks and see just 1 solar array, we would consider our drive to a spoiled “wilderness forest” to have been a waste of time, and WE WILL NOT RETURN TO THE ADIRONDACKS. We will look at online photos of Adirondack forests instead of wasting time driving to see them destroyed and replaced by solar or wind or cell towers etc. Even if you screen them, but they are there, we won’t go to the Dacks for vacations. We’ll boycott the Dacks
An industry accepted number is 12.2% capacity. What that means is an array that is stated to have 100,000 watts actually produces 12,200 watts. It is much lower due to the location.
In AZ it is high, NY low and USA average is 12.2%.
12,200 watts per hour, between 10am and 2pm sounds like a lot.
Consider NYS peak load is 33,500 Mega Watts, that is 33,500 x 1,000,000
Some guy from northville says
Solar farms might as well be paved parking lots. You want renewables in the ADKs? Maybe geothermal, or wind, or hydro. Solar may be green but it’s not exactly beneficial when you’re requiring the removal of native flora and fauna. There are plenty of places to derive solar power, like the roofs of buildings. The Adirondack park is not one of them.