Becker Road solar farm goes before zoning board

— Photo from the application on file at Guilderland Town Hall

Far from the road: A photovoltaic solar array proposed for 4157 Becker Rd. would lower the electric bills for the school district. The site is more than 1,000 feet from the road.

GUILDERLAND — A proposed solar farm on rural Becker Road would save the Guilderland School District $4.5 million in 20 years, Neil Sanders told the zoning board last Wednesday.

Sanders, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, told The Enterprise on Sept. 8 that this year’s electricity cost the district about $666,000. This project will not feed electricity to the district, but will track power generated at the site and reduce the school’s bills accordingly, Sanders said.

The zoning board is now awaiting comments from the town engineer, Delaware Engineering, and will consider the project again at another meeting, possibly in mid-October.

The project is a 2-megawatt photovoltaic solar array at 4157 Becker Rd. that, the board heard, would be set back more than 1,000 feet from the road on the 8.9-acre property. The plan calls for creating an access road alongside and beyond an existing driveway, for 7-foot fencing and a vegetative buffer surrounding the array and fencing.

Tracy Darougar of engineering firm TRC Solutions, writing on behalf of the applicant, Forefront Power, described, in a document on file at Guilderland Town Hall, the site’s visibility as “low.”

TRC’s survey team did not find any locations on Becker Road or Dunnsville Road with an unobstructed view of the site, Darougar wrote. When leaves are off the trees, the site will be visible from Settles Hill Road but is so far away that “visual impact will be minimal,” the document says, due to the area’s topography and existing vegetation.

Darougar told the board Wednesday night, “That’s what’s attractive about this site. It’s very rural.”

The original documents on file with the town mistakenly listed the solar array as being 2.9 megawatts, said Jesse Fraine of Delaware Engineering, but it will actually be 2 megawatts. The panels will all be “fixed tilt,” Timothy Ahrens of Forefront told the board last Wednesday night, Sept. 6, meaning that they will not “track the sun.” They will be located on grass, which will be mowed once every two months or so, Ahrens told the board.

The array would be set up for remote maintenance, Ahrens said. Mowing would be done every six to eight weeks, and the access road would be kept plowed in winter for the sake of emergency access.

Ahrens told the board that the project would have a 20-year contract, with two opportunities for five-year extensions.

Delaware Engineering will now review the application and outline any comments or concerns in a letter to the town, said Acting Chief Zoning and Building Inspector Jacqueline Coons.

The project could be back before the zoning board on Oct. 18, said Fraine.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Continued until its next meeting, in October, a public hearing on a proposal by Dynamic Energy USA to build two 2.56-megawatt solar-array systems, at 100 Miller Rd. and at the adjacent property, 4645 Western Turnpike, because the applicant had received comments from Delaware Engineering and responded to those comments, but the board had not had time to read through the response;

— Continued a public hearing on an application by Rick Rapp for a special-use permit for a multi-use office-residential building at the corner of Western Avenue and Hague Drive. The applicant submitted revised site plans to Delaware Engineering, but the board had not had time to review them, and neither had the public, said board chairman Thomas Remmert. Several neighbors from the nearby development Windmill Estates spoke, expressing concerns about increased traffic and that more stormwater runoff will worsen a problem they say they now experience, of encroaching marshy areas in their backyards;

— Unanimously approved a special-use permit for Trustco Bank at 3900 Carman Road, which is zoned for local business, to make a small addition to the building and move the ATM from the vestibule to the drive-through area; the bank will also refurbish and update the interior, the board was told; and

— Unanimously voted to grant a variance to Raymond and Cathleen Saladis of 23 Ruth Terrace, allowing them to build an addition onto an existing one-car garage, although the resulting two-car garage would extend into the required setback area from the house next door at 21 Ruth Terrace.

The next-door neighbors spoke at the meeting, expressing their concern that the garage will be too close to the shade tree where they like to enjoy their backyard. But the board heard from Coons that the other options open to the Saladises, which include building a detached two-car garage or flipping the existing garage to make it side-loading and expanding it, would potentially create more of a disturbance for the neighbors.



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