Details of solar projects outlined

Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — A town of Massena solar energy ordinance that’s been several months in the making could be finished soon.

Town council member Robert Elsner has been working on the ordinance that will govern large solar farms that want to set up in the town, as well as residential solar installations.

Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said it’s taken time to incorporate changes from the town Planning Board, St. Lawrence County Planning Office and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“They had some input. We were going back and forth about how they thought it should look. We put those in,” he said.

They had sent what they believed was a final draft to NYSERDA, who offered suggestions that were incorporated into the document.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said the town also had to address changes that were made by the state Legislature to the approval process.

“The previous process called Article 10 was quite lengthy. The governor, somewhere in between drafting it and getting it ready, changed it and made it easier for solar companies to get approval,” he said.

Mr. Elsner said the local ordinance was “kind of in limbo” because of the changes.

“The first of the year, New York state came out and adjusted some of the regulations to make things more simple and uniform,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have something we can put out to a public hearing next month.”

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said that, although they have already held one public hearing, another one is required because of changes in the ordinance since that hearing.

“It’s changed significantly enough that we have to have another public hearing,” he said.

The town is serving as the lead agency for the State Environmental Quality Review process that’s necessary before the law can take effect.

“We still have to have a SEQR. It has to be done by a professional,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

Mr. Elsner said they’re not sure yet how the ordinance will impact a company that plans to build a solar farm in Norfolk, Brasher and the town of Massena. North Side Energy Center, LLC, plans to develop, construct and operate the solar energy center on private property leased from owners. The project area includes approximately 1,606 acres of land.

“We have no idea right now because we haven’t seen anything from that project. We have no idea what they planned,” he said.

North Side Energy Center has been proposed by a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which will serve as the project’s sponsor.

According to a fact sheet provided by the company, the solar project is expected to create more than 200 construction jobs, and they plan to support the local economy through the purchase of regional goods and services.

As part of the approval process for that project, Mr. O’Shaughnessy said the three towns needed to submit names of individuals who could serve as ad hoc public members of the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment.

“They are the ones that drive the process through to get approval for the large-scale solar farm from the state level. What they require is a committee to review the siting process and make sure it’s going in the best possible area,” he said.

They were required to submit four names each to the Senate and Assembly, and those will be narrowed to two from each town. Massena’s nominations are Tony Zappia, Douglas Premo, David W. Grant and Anthony M. David.

“They do get a stipend,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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