YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Solar permitting legislation was reintroduced at last week’s Town Board work session as two solar carport projects continue to move forward.
“Solar still remains a very intense area in the development of our region in New York State,” said John Tegeder, the town’s planning director. “This is still a hot, hot area in development, in particular in the town. We happen to be in an area of Con Ed that still has some available land, and that makes it attractive for this part of the county.”
The first such project is proposed for the Granite Knolls Sports Complex. Sunrise Solar Solutions is looking to lease airspace above the facility’s parking lot for at least 25 years, with two five-year options to follow. The solar company would pay Yorktown $60,000 annually (increasing 1.25 percent every year).
The carport, in addition to shading cars, would serve as a community solar farm.
“All that energy is going to go on the grid, and it will be available to Yorktown residents,” said Doug Hertz, CEO of Sunrise Solar Solutions. “Yorktown residents will have the first opportunity to buy into the system.”
The solar farm would only be available for Con Edison customers, who would get 10 percent off their bills.
“We’ll try to provide you with as close to 100 percent of your energy need at a discount to the price you’re currently paying,” Hertz said. “For every $100 that you’re paying Con Ed, if you subscribe to the system, you will be paying $90 for that energy.”
The carport would produce between 1.25 and 1.3 megawatt-hours of power per year.
Councilman Vishnu Patel questioned the proposed 1.25 percent growth rate on the lease, saying the return on investment seemed small.
“Your return on investment is infinity because your investment is zero,” Hertz countered. “All you’re doing is leasing some air rights and we’re providing an amenity. We’re providing some shade to the cars underneath and the town will get revenue off of that.”
Because the project is being proposed on town parkland, it would require permission from the New York State Legislature. The legislative calendar has been thrown off due to the coronavirus, but this year’s session was originally scheduled to end in June, meaning lawmakers may need to act swiftly to approve the process known as parkland alienation.
“We need the state to approve the alienation in order for this to go through,” said Town Supervisor Matt Slater. Hertz added the alienation process needs to move “very, very expeditiously.”
The town’s Parks and Recreation Commission, though, wants the town to pump the brakes. Matt Talbert, a commissioner, said the commission still has several questions about the project, such as wind load and construction disruption.
“I know we’re in a time crunch, I just wonder if we can get a meeting so we can get these questions answered with the commission, so we have everyone on board,” Talbert said.
The carport project is still in second gear, but the parks chief, Jim Martorano Jr., is already lobbying for his department to reap the benefits. Slater said it’s too early to discuss how the money would be used.
IBM also returned to discuss its solar carport project proposed for its Thomas J. Watson Research Center on Kitchawan Road (Route 134). The tech company is seeking the town’s assistance to fast-track the project by skipping an environmental review at the state level.
That could be done if the Town Board declared the project a “Type II” action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, essentially meaning the project would have “no significant impact” on the environment.
This is needed, said Dennis Phayre, business development director at EnterSolar, because a grant window will close in a few weeks, and its loss could jeopardize the project.
The IBM carport would cover 8 to 10 acres and about 1,300 parking spaces, Phayre said. It would pump out 5.4 megawatt-hours per year.
“It would provide IBM and its employees with solar energy credits and provide some greater reliability to the grid as a distributed generation asset in a somewhat stressed area of Con Ed’s network,” Phayre said.
The Town Board also reviewed revisions to legislation governing battery storage facilities.
Swarnav Pujari, chair of the Climate Smart Communities Task Force, explained the importance of battery storage.
“Fundamentally, where battery storage plays a really big role is in solving the problem that the sun sets in the evening and only gets up in the morning, but we use power 24/7,” Pujari said. “So, in order for us to actually make a full transition toward renewable energy, battery storage allows us to use that solar power or wind power that might be coming from a farm miles away or within our community.”
Battery storage is also useful in dealing with brownouts and blackouts. As an example, Pujari mentioned the November wildfires in California, where PG&E cut off power to millions of people.
“Rather than businesses and homes being in the dark for weeks on end with only 48-hour notice, that could all have been avoided with battery storage,” Pujari said.
Tegeder, the town’s planning director, proposed a revision to the legislation, which would limit the size of these facilities in residential areas. The battery storage units would not be allowed to exceed 15 percent of the lot’s total area, or 33,000 square feet, whichever is less. Fifteen percent of 1 acre is 6,534 square feet, meaning lots 5 acres and above would be capped at the 33,000 figure.
“This way, you won’t get this very large array of batteries in a residential zone,” Tegeder said. “You will promote and get batteries that make sense for the surrounding area that it serves.”
A public hearing on the revised battery storage law will be held Tuesday, June 16.
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