Two solar farms and one large roof-mounted array proposed in Guilderland

GUILDERLAND — Two projects that would be the first major solar-energy structures in Guilderland came before the planning board on July 12, and the board has received an application for a third.

The town’s new zoning code, approved in June 2016, specifies regulations about solar-energy structures, but as yet there have been no major solar-energy structures approved or built in the town. One application for a large solar farm on the outskirts of Altamont was withdrawn after the village objected.

At the July 12 meeting, the planning board voted to recommend that Guilderland’s zoning board approve Dynamic Energy USA’s site plan for two 2.56-megawatt solar-array system at 100 Miller Road and 4645 Western Turnpike, adjacent properties that are located north of Route 20 and west of the railway line.

This site is in an RA-3 zone for rural agricultural properties at least three acres in size. Under the town’s new zoning code, major solar-energy system projects are allowed in this zone with a special-use permit. The project, referred to in the application as the 100 Miller Road solar project, is scheduled to go before the zoning board on Aug. 2.

The project would require the building of a 25-foot-wide access road that would continue off the dead end of Miller Road, where one of the properties is located, and would allow for access for construction and for fire trucks.

The planning board also received an application from Forefront Power of California, prepared by TRC Environmental Corporation of Clifton Park, for a 2.9-megawatt solar photovoltaic array that would be installed on an approximately 10-acre portion of the 44.5-acre parcel at 4157 Becker Rd., a project that would benefit the Guilderland Central District by reducing its energy bills. Referred to in the application as the Guilderland CSD-Kuehnert PV Project — the lands are held in trust for the Kuehnert family — this project has been in the works for several years, but it has not yet appeared before any boards.

The Guilderland CSD-Kuehnert project will go to the town’s planning board and the county’s planning board in August, and head to the zoning board in September, according to Jacqueline M. Coons, the town’s acting chief building and zoning inspector.

Finally, the planning board considered an application by Monolith Solar Associates — although no representatives from the company appeared at the meeting — for a site-plan review for a rooftop solar array on two self-storage buildings at Metro Movers at 2703 Curry Road.

Coons said that the scope of this project is a total of 160,000 watts, with a 91,000-watt array on one building and 70,000-watt array on the other building. The board voted, 6 to 0, with member James Cohen abstaining, to recommend approval to the zoning board of appeals.

Coons told The Enterprise that, even though many homes in Guilderland have roof-mounted arrays that require only a building permit, the Curry Road project requires a special-use permit because it produces more energy than can be used on the property itself. So, instead of being considered an “accessory structure,” as would most home solar panels, this set of arrays would be considered a major structure, the same category as a large solar farm.

By contrast, the average accessory structure installed on a home rooftop in the town provides just five to 10 kilowatts, Coons said, adding that at one point the town had been receiving about an application a day from homeowners.

To date, the board has approved rezoning to agricultural property owned by Vetto Vaitulis at 2825 Curry Road; Vaitulis had planned to install a solar farm on about 20 acres of his 47-acre property, but the town has not since received any application for a special-use permit. There is no deadline for for him to submit the application, said Coons.

Vaitulis told The Enterprise this week that he is still looking for a solar company to work with.

In September 2016, the town considered an application from U. S. Solutions for a nine-acre, two-megawatt solar farm off Route 156 just above the village of Altamont, but that application was withdrawn in October after Altamont’s village board voted to recommend that Guilderland’s zoning board disapprove the application, meaning that a supermajority vote would be needed for the project to proceed.

Other business

In other business, the planning board:

— Approved, 7 to 0, an application from Brenden Ragotzkie to open a butcher shop and deli in Cosimo’s Plaza. The shop, located at 1800 Western Ave. in the corner site that formerly housed Planet Beach, will offer fresh meat including the shop’s own handmade cold cuts. There will be no in-store seating, and orders will be to-go only, said Ragotzkie, who previously owned Uncle Jimmy’s Market in Altamont.

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