New Scotland asks Guilderland to place more conditions on solar project

— From Borrego Solar Systems

The New Scotland Planning Board is asking the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals to put in place a procedure to handle potential glare complaints about a proposed 8.84-megawatt solar array from a neighboring property or driver along Krumkill Road.

NEW SCOTLAND — Borrego Solar Systems wants to install an 8.84-megawatt large-scale, ground-mounted, solar array on about 90 acres of land owned by JL Development that straddles Guilderland and New Scotland. The entire array is located in Guilderland, but a 200-foot-long driveway to access the site as well as the necessary utility infrastructure would be located in New Scotland.

The proposal is currently before the Guilderland Zoning Board of Appeals, the lead agency on the project. But, after Guilderland sent the project to New Scotland for comment, it was decided a full application to the planning board would be necessary. 

A cluster subdivision had previously been proposed for the site, but the owner hadn’t been able to get that project off the ground because of an inability to connect to the town of Bethlehem’s water system.

Even though the owner withdrew the subdivision application, the way the solar proposal was configured in New Scotland, it wouldn’t have precluded the landowner from coming back before the board with another development proposal.

In July, when the town met with Borrego Solar, planning board attorney Crystal Peck raised issues related to the State Environmental Quality Review Act and the segmentation of the review process. There had to be a “full review,” Peck said at the time. “You’re not supposed to segment it.” There were development plans for part of the 87-acre site, she said, yet “it is all one parcel.”

The town got a letter from the developer withdrawing his application, but Peck had some concerns with the phrasing of the letter. Reading a portion of the letter, Peck said, “I have been working with Borrego Solar to ensure, in the event the cluster design becomes a reality in the future, the design intent of the cluster we work so hard on does not go to waste.”

Peck then said to the board, “That last sentence does cause me concern because what it’s doing is it’s withdrawing but it’s still saying we plan to develop and plan to develop on a cluster.”

But by the Sept. 14 planning board meeting, the cluster subdivision was no longer an issue. New Scotland had completed its environmental review of the proposal and provided its recommendations to the town of Guilderland so it could finish its coordinated review.

 

Recommendations

The first recommendation had to do with segmented review for the proposed cluster subdivision, which was going to be on the New Scotland side of the property. 

The New Scotland board advised Guilderland that the property owner had formally withdrawn the cluster subdivision application; therefore, a combined SEQR review of the large-scale subdivision project would not be required.  

Another recommendation said, if there’s a glare complaint from a neighboring property owner or driver along Krumkill Road, there needs to be a procedure in place to mitigate the concern and that it be addressed in a timely manner, which could include modification of the approval and/or financial sureties.

“I mean, it’s hard to tell the town of Guilderland to come up with a whole procedure for the town of Guilderland,” planning board member Christine Galvin said. “But I think, if we communicate to the town of Guilderland, what our concern is, and we request that they require a complaint-resolution procedure and/or financial security to mitigate any glare complaints subsequent to installation that they can figure out exactly how they want to do that.”

New Scotland also asked for a decommissioning plan for the solar array.

The project has a proposed life of 25 years with four five-year option extensions.

There are triggers for decommissioning in New Scotland’s solar law. 

Galvin asked what event triggers the decommissioning.

New Scotland Building Inspector Jeremy Cramer said, with its previous large-scale solar applicant, U.S. Solar, the town required a performance report for the panels themselves.

“And that’s done on an annual basis so that we can compare the performance on a year-to-year basis,” Cramer said; that way, the town knows if the applicant is staying above the 50-percent productivity metric.

If the applicant falls below that 50-percent threshold, it would either trigger the decommissioning clause in the contract or force the applicant to look at the system, and repair if necessary, to ensure that it’s meeting the 50-percent performance criteria, Cramer said.

Galvin asked that Borrego supply the town with similar reports. 

Garrett Frueh, the town’s engineer, recommended that the Galvin’s request and recommendations he’d made about the stormwater pollution prevention plan and the decommissioning plan be applied directly to the site plans because that “seems to be where the prior hiccups have occurred,” Frueh said, “with some of the plan sets not getting updated with conditions.”

Whether New Scotland will have the power to invoke the decommissioning clause remains to be determined. 

“My guess would be that’s still something that needs to be worked out before the final decision is granted for the project,” Cramer told The Enterprise on Friday.

New Scotland is likely to play wait-and-see on the decommissioning clause, Cramer said, to see if Guilderland places its own conditions on the project’s approval.

However, if Guilderland doesn’t place any decommissioning clause on Borrego, it’s “more than likely” New Scotland would have the authority to, if not decommission the project itself, to bring the project owner back in front of the  Guilderland zoning board or New Scotland Planning Board to address the issue. 

“Now, that being said,” Cramer explained, most solar companies don’t let their panels output fall to 50 percent. If it’s gotten to that point, he said, it’s typically something else, like the business has failed.

More New Scotland News

  • “The majority of school districts in the capital area, they are not allowing indoor use by outside organizations; they’re not allowing indoor use during high or substantial transmission rates,” Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri said on Oct. 4.

  • For 2022, the town is proposing a tax rate of $1.55 per $1,000 of assessed value for all New Scotland property owners — including those who live in the village of Voorheesville — up from $1.52 per $1,000 of assessed value this year.

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