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Company Seeks to Streamline Solar Panel Project in Southeast

By Holly Crocco

A public hearing will be held Aug. 24 at Southeast Town Hall regarding a proposal that has been in the works for more than a decade, to put solar panels on the town’s former landfill site.

According to Town Supervisor Tony Hay, the project was abandoned by SolarCity, which initially started the project but was unable to fulfil its commitment after putting almost $1 million into it.

In 2020, Ameresco, Inc., took over the project, and is hoping to begin construction by spring at the latest.

“This is a project long-coming on the town’s closed landfill,” explained John Ahearn of Couch White, LLP, during the Aug. 10 Southeast Town Board meeting.

He explained that since the project is being completed through a lease with the town, the process is a little different than what a traditional development project would face.

“Essentially, what it is, is it allows the town board to review a set of factors and determine whether or not this project would count as a public purpose for the town site, in which it would not be subject to the town’s traditional zoning process,” said Ahearn.

If it is determined that the project counts as a public purpose, it would stay with the town board for all review, in consultation with the town’s engineering firm.

The town board would have the ability to say the project would not have to follow traditional zoning requirement or go before the planning board for site plan approval, and instead go through the process with the town board and then proceed through the building process.

“It streamlines the process, and my recollection is that the current zoning for the landfill, ironically, would not allow the solar facility by right, so we would have to do some additional zoning steps, if that were the case,” said Ahearn.

Steve McDonough of Ameresco, who is the project manager, explained that the 2.3-megawatt AC project would require less than 1 acre of tree clearing. The entrance will be through Lower Mine Road, and a 7-foot fence will be constructed around the perimeter.

Due to the existing concrete ballast blocks, the landfill cap won’t be penetrated. “That’s one of the key things when you’re building on a landfill,” said McDonough.

A Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement has been established with the town, county and school district, and lease payments have been agreed upon, which will escalate 2.5 percent per year. In addition, the town will receive credits on its energy bill at a 5 percent discount.

“Our hope is that with the approvals from DEC, DEP and the town, we’re hoping to get that wrapped up in September and we’re hoping to start construction,” said McDonough. “We may wait until the spring.”

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