It is essential to understand what the host community benefits agreements between the town and community solar companies are and are not.
They are not agreements with EDF Renewables, which seeks to build a 240-megawatt solar project known as Rich Road Solar.
That process is many months later and the town has much less influence.
These are agreements with six of seven site-approved 5-megawatt or smaller solar projects scattered around the town and developed by several companies.
William M. Buchan, the attorney working with the town on solar projects, explained the formula for councilors at their last meeting.
“The parties reached a financial agreement based upon a formula of $1,500 per megawatt AC for 15 years with an annual escalator of 2%,” Mr. Buchan said. “A 5-megawatt project will generate $220,500 from a combination of permit fees and a 15-year from the PILOT and the host community benefit agreement.”
The host community benefit is the direct result of the Town of Canton issuing a moratorium on solar development five years ago.
At a town board meeting in 2018, town attorney Eric Gustafson said a solar project developer had approached the town.
“I don’t know if inquiries is the right word. There’s been some interest expressed, but nothing concrete,” Mr. Gustafson said. “The town board decided it was time to start looking at regulations to get ahead of the curve to make sure the town was protected in the event someone was going to be looking here, which is probably inevitable.”
The moratorium was the right move.
At the board’s last meeting, Town Supervisor Mary Ann Ashley said the town’s foresight made the outcome better than it could have been.
“Had we not seen this coming five years ago and put a moratorium in place so that we could study it and create a law, it would still happen and we wouldn’t get any benefits,” she said. “I commend everybody for seeing it coming and all the work that has been put into it.”
That foresight is being relied on again with another moratorium the town enacted to help stay ahead of rapidly advancing technology.
A moratorium on the construction of anaerobic digesters is in effect until June.
An anaerobic digester is a facility that uses anaerobic digestion to convert livestock manure and feedstock into biogas which is burned off-site to produce electricity.
In August, the town’s attorney, Eric J. Gustafson said. “There are very few towns with anaerobic digester laws within the state of New York. It is primarily covered by the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation). But there is some indication that maybe Canton could be the source of one of those facilities and I think they are going to become more and more popular.”
The solar sites, once built, have a passive impact on Canton. We might see them as we drive by, but they will generate very little activity.
A digester, however, is a factory. Raw materials go in and a product comes out.
Being prepared has helped the Town of Canton make the best of the influx of solar power projects.
The anaerobic digester law must be as good or better than the solar law.
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