Knox may purchase land to install solar farm

The Enterprise — Noah Zweifel

Grant collaborator Amy Pokorny shows Knox Councilman Karl Pritchard a document during a special meeting in which the town board discussed building a solar farm on one of three properties. 

KNOX — The Knox Town Board is considering three locations for a solar farm it hopes to build, using most or all of the $130,000 granted by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

In order of desirability, the locations are:

— A property not yet owned by the town that Supervisor Vasilios Lefkaditis said would be “ideal” because a three-phase power line runs nearby and the solar farm would be hidden from public view;

— A lot on Stage Road which had previously been used for a landfill. The lot receives single-phase power. It is currently owned by the county but Lefkaditis indicated at a Feb. 21 special meeting that the county is willing to deed the property to the town. “The last conversation I had with [Albany County Executive Daniel] McCoy’s office, they’ll convey it 1, 2, 3,” Lefkaditis said. The spokeswoman for Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy’s office, Mary Rozak, told The Enterprise that, although no formal request has yet been submitted by Knox, there has been a “preliminary discussion” and, if a formal request is made, the county would “defer to local control”; and

— Behind the town’s baseball field along Route 156. The property is owned by the town and three-phase power is accessible, but a farm there would be more visible than on the other two properties.

Lefkaditis would not disclose the location of the private property, the first on the town’s list, nor its rough cost.

“We should have more clarity very soon,” Lefkaditis told The Enterprise in an email.

Lefkaditis also said in his email that building a solar farm near a 3-phase line will “enable the town to build an array that would be cash flow positive from day one.”

National Solar Technologies estimated the cost of a solar farm at $128,272, according to a quote Lefkaditis showed the board.

Currently, though, the town is waiting to hear back from NYSERDA about an extension to its contract, which stipulates that the town must have a project execution plan in place by March 31, Amy Pokorny said at the meeting.

Pokorny was a key figure in securing the grant for the town in 2017, when she was a member of the town board. Knox is one of four towns in the Capital Region to receive $100,000 as part of NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities initiative. An additional $30,000 came from NYSERDA’s LaFarge Mitigation Fund following a settlement between the state and federal government concerning LaFarge, a cement company in Ravena.

If Knox doesn’t use all its Clean Energy Communities money by March 31, it will lose whatever is leftover. Pokorny said at the Feb. 21 meeting that the town requested an 18-month extension, which would allow them enough time to secure the properties they need and submit plans for NYSERDA’s approval.

When asked for details about Knox’s extension request and the likelihood of approval, a spokeswoman for NYSERDA said, “The request is being reviewed by NYSERDA with a decision expected before the contract expires.”

The spokeswoman, who declined to have her name in print, said that if Knox is not able to use the money, it will be disbursed to another municipality in the region.

At its Feb. 18 meeting, the town board authorized the purchase of new light-emitting diodes to be installed at the town’s baseball field. The amount authorized is $8,000, though Lefkaditis said at the time that that amount was to allow wiggle room and that the actual cost might be lower, leaving the bulk of the money unspent. 

“I think we all agree that we’re going to fast-track something if we don’t get the extension,” Lefkaditis told the board members present. 

Last week, Councilman Kenneth Saddlemire told The Enterprise that the reason for the town’s delays in developing project plans was that it needed to wait for NYSERDA to complete an energy audit of the town and point out areas that need improvement.

Hedging his bets, Lefkaditis downplayed the disadvantages of building a farm on a single-phase line at the meeting, saying that a lower performance system will still cover a majority of the town’s energy usage.

“Let’s keep moving forward,” Lefkaditis said as the meeting concluded. “That’s the goal.”

More Hilltowns News

  • Anthony Esposito, who lost his house along State Route 145 in Rensselaerville when an SUV crashed into it, setting it on fire, said he had made several requests for guide rails because he had long been concerned about cars coming off the road. The New York State Department of Transportation said that it has no record of any requests.

  • A Spectrum employee was killed in Berne in what the company’s regional vice president of communications called a “tragic accident” while the employee was working on a line early in the morning. 

  • Determining the median income of the Rensselaerville water district will potentially make the district eligible for more funding for district improvement projects, since it’s believed that the water district may have a lower median income than the town overall.

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.