MASSENA — A solar farm that’s proposed for the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena could provide 200 or more jobs during the construction period, according to the project director.
Kris Scornavacca from NextEra Energy Resources LLC met with the Massena Town Council on Wednesday to update the board on progress being made on the proposed 180 megawatt project.
He said the project would have a construction period of about 12 to 14 months, starting in late 2022 and into 2023, and would have in excess of 200 jobs, potentially up to 250 to 275.
“There are all kinds of opportunities for local people to get involved,” Mr. Scornavacca said.
He said employment opportunities would encompass a wide range of skills, from electricians to laborers. He said there would also be “significant site preparation,” which would include clearing and grading the site and laying foundations.
Mr. Scornavacca said a general contractor will be responsible for building the project, and NextEra’s contract with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority includes encouraging local employment.
“We want them to draw from the local labor pool as much as available,” starting in St. Lawrence County and then expanding north, south, east and west to fill every position, he said.
He said if union workers are available, they are typically hired for the project.
“There’s no benefit to pulling people from outside the state to come and build the project. There’s no incentive for us. I think it’s a great benefit for St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Scornavacca said.
He said there would probably be about two to four permanent employees post-construction. They would be responsible for maintaining the project. But, he said, there were also opportunities to hire contractors for maintenance projects such as snow removal, grass cutting and general maintenance on the site.
He said they originally started with early stage project development in 2016 and filed a public involvement plan in 2017 to develop the project.
“At some point in 2018 we had to put the brakes on it and ironed a few things out,” he said.
They were awarded a contract by NYSERDA in 2019 as part of a request for proposals. That was executed in March 2020 and “that kind of reignited the project,” Mr. Scornavacca said.
“When we started looking for places to develop the project in New York state, there are a few key ingredients you need, and one of those is access to transmission lines. For any of the energy that’s produced by the project, we have to be able to transmit it into the system-wide grid. So you have to have fairly good access to transmission and available capacity on any transmission lines to have a successful project,” he said.
Land was also an essential part of the project.
“What that means is you have to have partners, landowners that are willing to work with us and want to partner with us. Ultimately we were able to settle on a site and partner with some landowners to make this proposed project a possibility,” he said.
Mr. Scornavacca said they were successful in executing some agreements with landowners.
“They’re involved from the beginning. They have a say in how we do things on their land, from development all the way through construction. It’s their land. They’re allowing us to use it,” he said.
In the event of decommissioning, the land would be returned to the state it was before the project began.
The project area is about 2,200 to 2,300 acres, but Mr. Scornavacca said it’s not necessarily where the infrastructure would be located. The project would use 1,200 to 1,400 acres of that land. The majority of the solar panels would likely be in Brasher.
“It’s just a potential area where we can site the infrastructure. That is the land that we’re evaluating now,” he said.
The land is currently zoned as agricultural and receives an exemption. If the project happens, the landowner will lose the exemption, but the liability would be borne by the developer, and the land would be added to the tax rolls.
At this point, he said they have all the ingredients needed to move forward with more advanced development. But additional permitting steps are necessary before it can become final.
Mr. Scornavacca said they would like to hold a community-wide meeting in mid-December to provide more details about the project and answer questions. He said that would likely be held virtually and will be advertised in advance.
“It’s typically a meeting where a lot of questions get answered,” he said.
More information about the project can be found at wdt.me/pCBAKK.