Open houses shed light on solar project

Attendees of the open house held by Boralex at the Town of Watertown Fire Department learn about the Greens Corners Solar project plan on Tuesday in Watertown. Julia Hopkins/Watertown Daily Times

ADAMS — The Quebec developer behind what could be the largest solar project in Jefferson County plans to erect another, smaller, one in southern Jefferson County.

Boralex Inc., Kingsey Falls, Quebec, aims to construct a 19.99 megawatt facility spanning 170 acres west of the village of Adams in the towns of Adams and Ellisburg. According to a powerpoint it provided for its Jefferson County projects, Boralex wants to begin construction of the project, named Sandy Creek Solar, in March 2021 and make it operational in November 2022.

Andrew Buckley, development manager, said Sandy Creek Solar will interconnect into the electric grid through a 115-kilovolt line that runs through the area. The commercial solar facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power about 2,600 average-sized houses. Boralex also estimates the project will create 50 temporary construction jobs and one full-time employee, Mr. Buckley said.

Landowners have signed leases for Boralex to build and operate its solar facility, which is typical for the company. Mr. Buckley said while the company has leased enough acreage for its project, he was open to the possibility of negotiating additional land leases with other nearby property owners.

“We’re generally open to all new solar opportunities in the area, in terms of landowner partnerships,” he said.

The Sandy Creek Solar project encapsulates only a sixth of the size of the company’s other proposed Jefferson County facility, the 120-megawatt Greens Corners Solar project proposed for construction south of the city of Watertown. Greens Corners could be the largest solar project planned for development in Jefferson County.

The developer hosted open house sessions Tuesday and Wednesday for its proposed Greens Corners project. Ellisburg Town Supervisor Douglas W. Shelmidine, who co-owns of Sheland Farms, attended the open house. Mr. Shelmidine said he wanted to learn more about how commercial solar development affects land use. A portion of the Sandy Creek Solar project lies in the town he manages. He said he was concerned about the possible loss of tillable acreage to solar panel installations, and hopes to find a harmony between farming and energy generation.

“We’ve talked with smaller projects (about my farmland), but we’re not willing to give up tillable land to do it,” he said.

Staff from Boralex pitched the possibilities for incorporating agriculture uses into its solar projects, describing them as “dual-use.”

Mr. Buckley said his team has considered planting flora used for habits for pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, as well as for grazing. Boralex uses sheep to graze land around one of its solar farms in France.

“We’re generally very interested in exploring dual-use options, continued agricultural use in our projects,” he said.

Boralex has applied for the ability to sell renewable energy certificates to the state Energy and Research Development Authority, which provides income. It hopes to learn whether NYSERDA approves its application this month, according to its powerpoint.

The Quebec developer operates about 2,000 megawatts of wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass facilities in the U.S., Canada and France.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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