NextEra outlines benefits of proposed solar farm

Kris Scornavacca speaks during a virtual open house webcast to discuss the proposed solar farm in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena.

MASSENA — From new jobs to new taxes, the construction of a solar farm in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena could bring several benefits to local communities, according to company representatives.

Kris Scornavacca, Bill Boer, Dan Marieni and Sam Laniado, representing NextEra Energy Resources LLC, took part in two virtual open house webcasts on Wednesday to discuss the project and explain the potential benefits to local communities.

Mr. Scornavacca is the project developer, Mr. Boer is the environmental manager, Mr. Marieni is the project engineer and Mr. Laniado is the legal counsel from Read and Laniado LLC.

NextEra Energy Resources, through its subsidiary, North Star Energy Center, is proposing to develop, build, own and operate a facility that will produce 180 megawatts of power.

“Probably the question that’s on everyone’s mind that’s called in or participating today and watching here is, ‘Why did we choose this location, and how does a solar project really work?’ The first thing we have to do is find a few main ingredients,” Mr. Scornavacca said.

Those ingredients include enough available sun to capture the radiation to produce enough electricity to make the project viable. He said a team that researched the area determined there was enough solar radiation to make the project viable.

They also need available transmission to transport the electricity to a useful place. In this case, Mr. Scornavacca said they would be transporting it to the New York Independent System operator, who in turn would distribute that power throughout the state.

“We were able to find a location near a NYPA (New York Power Authority) substation in the town of Massena that has enough capacity” to transmit the electricity, he said.

Land is also necessary for a viable project. Mr. Scornavacca said the project area is 2,200 acres, but the actual solar facility area encompasses 961 acres. The majority of the solar panels will be located in the town of Brasher, with some also located in the towns of Massena and Norfolk. He said they have partnered with local landowners to have access to the project area, but the land will still belong to the landowner.

“We need a sizeable portion of land for the location of the infrastructure. We’re really looking for landowners that want to be partners with us because that’s what landowners are. We were able to find some very strong partners locally that we’re able to work with,” Mr. Scornavacca said.

Those landowners, he said, would have “a financial incentive to work with us.”

He said a project like the proposed solar farm creates a “significant number of news jobs” not only during the construction phase, but throughout the life of the project.

“Once we get to construction there will be a significant number of jobs that are created throughout that process. There will be opportunities to support the project after construction as well,” he said.

Mr. Scornavacca said they anticipate 200-plus full-time jobs will be created during construction, from equipment operators to laborers to truck drivers.

“It’s a significant undertaking that’s going to require a lot of partnerships with local subcontractors as we work through the process and get to a point where we can construct the project,” he said.

He said they would be contracting with an Engineering Procurement Construction contractor who would be responsible for filling jobs starting locally “to the maximum extent possible.” They will need to adhere to the state’s prevailing wage requirements, which means they can expect a significant amount of employment opportunities to be filled by union workers, then filled out by the remainder of contractors that can provide necessary services.

Once construction is complete, Mr. Scornavacca said there would be two to three permanent positions that are typically high tech in nature.

Outside of permanent employment during the operational phase, there would be requirements for additional services and supplies, such as mowing vegetation and managing snow.

Once the project is constructed, he said taxes would benefit the local communities, school district and county.

“Those taxes are directed straight back into the community, the county, the school district and the local town level to be used as those communities see fit. It’s a significant amount of revenues to those communities that can be managed locally ... for the betterment of the community,” he said.

Under the current timeline, the operation would begin in the latter part of 2023, he said.

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