I support the solar law as written. The rumors are false that the Planning Board can waive environmental regulations for an applicant for a solar energy system and that the town collaborated with applicants in writing the law.
There was no collaboration between the town and any applicant in writing this law. The Planning Department and the town attorney wrote the solar law. This is the fourth draft. It was based on several laws in townships in New York that have solar energy projects.
The law does NOT give the ability to the Planning Board to waive any existing environmental regulations. The Planning Board has the authority to give special permits, but applicants must comply with all requirements of the town’s existing environmental regulations. Additionally, in this law, landscaping, screening, and fencing are required. There is a bond required for decommissioning the solar energy system in the event that it stops producing thus restoring and re-vegetating the parcel.
This law is not about solar versus trees. Owners of residential parcels have the right to develop their land. Do we want housing or solar arrays? This law is to regulate solar development so that Yorktown can have both small-scale and large-scale solar energy. Small-scale projects are under the authority of the Building Inspector. Any large-scale projects must go before the Planning Board and through the SEQRA process.
Solar farms produce a significant amount of power and reduction of our carbon footprint. In New York State, a 1MegaWatt system powers an average of 164 homes. According to the EPA, one acre of trees will sequester .85 metric tons of CO2. A 10-acre parcel that is completely forested will sequester 8.5 metric tons of CO2 per year. If that parcel hosts a 1 MW solar farm, which will require only 3 acres of solar, the savings in emissions from solar is 935 metric tons of CO2.
We should not spend more weeks or months in rewriting what is a good law. There are several solar companies actively pursuing solar farms in Yorktown. After 2019, the federal tax rebates on renewable energy projects will drop significantly which will impact the ability for these companies to go forward.
We have a chance to make Yorktown a climate leader in New York. This law enables our town to increase renewable energy in a meaningful way while following all existing town laws that protect our rights as property owners.