RIC Energy revives original Knox project with modifications

— From RIC Energy
This diagram shows the layout of a 4.4 megawatt solar farm that RIC Energy hopes to build on 1688 Thompsons Lake Road, in Knox. 

KNOX — Not long after it got approval to build its first solar farm in Knox, RIC Energy has resubmitted an application for an earlier, failed project that senior project manager Nancy Vlahos says makes certain alterations responding to earlier objections from the community. 

“What we’ve done is looked at all the comments and concerns made by neighbors and the county and we improved on the plan and made some revisions to try to address a lot of the comments that were made back then,” Vlahos told The Enterprise this week. 

Vlahos said the company submitted its application for the Thompsons Lake Road project on Friday, in hopes of having it be on the agenda for the planning board’s Feb. 9 meeting, and sent letters to nearby landowners so they “weren’t blindsided.” 

“The project is the same size, same location — there are just improvements in terms of stormwater management, setbacks, landscaping, that sort of thing,” she said.

The original version of the 4.4-megawatt project was first proposed in late 2020 to be built at 1688 Thompsons Lake Road, but ultimately failed due to a highly unusual vote in which Knox Planning Board member Debra Nelson dropped out of the remote meeting just as she was going to cast her deciding vote. 

Because the project had failed to win the approval of the Albany County Planning Board — which noted residents’ objections and the plan’s apparent incompatibility with the town’s comprehensive plan, among other things, most of which RIC contested — five out of seven members of the Knox Planning Board had to vote in favor of the project instead of a simple majority of four in order to override the county’s decision. 

Four members had already voted in favor of the override when Nelson, who had voted in favor of the project prior to the county’s determination, suddenly left the call, explaining later that she had a sudden family emergency.

She declined to tell The Enterprise how she had intended to vote. 

Whether the vote counted was unclear, given the unprecedented circumstances, but RIC tabled the project and went ahead with a different one — a 5-megawatt solar farm on a different parcel along the same road — which was approved by the planning board earlier this year with little controversy. 

This was a relief to certain residents in the area who were worried about living near a solar farm.

Valerie Gaige, along with her husband, Al, and daughter, Alyssa, were concerned about noise and its impact on Alyssa’s cerebral palsy, along with their property values, and are still concerned about the second iteration of the project. 

“I got very little sleep last night …,” Valerie Gaige told The Enterprise this week, after saying she had received the RIC letter the previous day. “If this should go through, there will be three large solar farms in one tiny corner of Knox, probably within a mile radius.”

One of her neighbors, Gaige said, “says she just got her blood pressure under control from the last round with RIC.” 

The application documents for the project can be found on the Knox Town website or at this link.

More Hilltowns News

  • Former Westerlo Planning Board Chairman Beau Loendorf submitted a letter to the Enterprise editor this week bemoaning the town board’s decision to abolish the planning board, among other things. The town supervisor and town attorney both issued responses that defended themselves and turned the blame back on Loendorf and the planning board.

  • The results still need to be certified by the New York State Board of Elections later this month, but official county-level results show that Janet Tweed, a member of the Delhi Village Board, has eked out a roughly 80-vote win over retired teacher and activist Mary Finneran.

  • Berne-Knox-Westerlo Superintendent Bonnie Kane is in her first month in that role, having previously served as the district’s high school principal for two years and as an English teacher before that. 

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