RIC Energy back at it again in Knox, this time at new property

— From Google Earth

The red line shows the approximate shape of the 66-acre Knox parcel on which RIC Energy is hoping to install a 5-megawatt solar facility.

KNOX — After its Knox solar farm proposal fell through earlier this year, RIC Energy is trying again, but with a new project on different land.

RIC project manager Christopher Ross told The Enterprise this week that the company is hoping to build a 5-megawatt solar facility at 1953 Thompsons Lake Road, a 66-acre parcel that contains open fields and shrubland. The parcel is owned by Ruth and Harry Koch, according to the town’s tax rolls. 

The Kochs could not be immediately reached by The Enterprise.

“The site … is mostly flat, open field,” Ross said. “There’s a bit of shrubland that would need to be cleared. But the topography, the landscape, is dramatically different from the first project.”

He said the technology of the system will be different as well. Instead of a fixed-tilt system, this new one would have panels that track the sun as it arches across the sky. 

“That technology nets a higher production than the fixed-tilt alternative,” Ross said. The company appeared before the Knox Planning Board on Nov. 11 to go over application materials before it officially proposes the project.

The proposed site is just down the road from where the company had originally wanted to build a 4.4-megawatt solar facility, near where Thompsons Lake Road intersects with Whipple Road. The new location appears to be near fewer homes. The original project was controversial with some residents, who feared excess noise and environmental damage.

The original project was not recommended for approval by the Albany County Planning Board because of a number of factors, though there was reason to doubt the board’s judgment because it had, among other things, misinterpreted a law that it cited as a reason for the town to reject the proposal. 

Ultimately, the proposal failed because Knox Planning Board member Debra Nelson, who would have cast the deciding vote to approve the project, disappeared suddenly from the online meeting due to a family emergency. Following negotiations between the Knox attorney and one from RIC, it was determined that the vote was binding despite the unique circumstances and that the energy company would have to resubmit the proposal to allow a second vote.

Instead, the company retooled, taking some of the criticism of the original project to heart, Ross said.

“We received a lot of feedback from the town planning board,” Ross said, “and so we did look for another site better suited for solar based on that feedback. It did not fall on deaf ears; let’s put it that way,” he said of the criticism.

Ross added that the original project has been shelved and “doesn’t have a future at this point.”

More Hilltowns News

  • The United States Postal Service had issued flyers earlier this year about a potential relocation and was seeking input from the community about what sites might be suitable. 

  • The Carey Institute for Global Good had jettisoned much of its core programming during the pandemic years while it figured out its own future. It has now changed its name to Hilltown Commons, and partnered with three different local organizations that now call its Rensselaerville campus home. 

  • Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s proposed budget, with a 5.09 percent tax increase that required it to be passed with a 60-percent approval rate, failed to reach that threshold by a mere eight votes. The district will have to decide whether to have residents vote on a new budget in June, or move directly to a contingency budget. 

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