‘Solar City’: Westerlo reviews two large array proposals

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
West of Shepard Farm, beyond the second tree line on the right, is the location for proposed solar arrays on the property surround the former resort.

WESTERLO — Public hearings regarding the fate of proposed solar arrays at two different locations in Westerlo will be held on Tuesday evening. One off of Route 405 parallel to a homeowner concerned about glare, and another at the former resort Shepard Farm, on Route 32.

The Long Island-based company Costanza Solar LLC had submitted an application to the planning board in August, the first solar applicant since the town approved its solar law in March.

The two-megawatt array would be constructed by the California-based solar company Cypress Creek Renewables, and would encompass about 20 acres out of a 129-acre plot of land off of Route 405. Jamal Nixon, a zoning analyst for Cypress Creek Renewables, told The Enterprise in August that its solar arrays average 10,000 panels over 20 acres.

According to Nixon, the arrays will be located at 198 Sunset Hills Road, which is 100 feet uphill from Route 405.

The company expects to produce 3.6 million kilowatt hours per year, which it intends to sell to Central Hudson Gas & Electric, according to an application, Dorothy Verch, chairwoman of the Westerlo Planning Board, said in August.

On Sept. 26, the Westerlo planning board held the first of its three public hearings for Costanza Solar, the second continuing to Oct. 24, and the third to be held on Nov. 28. The September hearing was adjourned because certain items were still outstanding, and neighbors within 500 feet of the proposed array had not all been reached, according to meeting minutes.

 

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer
The new owners of Shepard Farm have agreed to
lease property to Borrego Solar. The spot for one of these arrays cannot be seen beyond the farther tree line, one of the reasons one of the owners, John Dolce, said the spot would be ideal.

 

Verch said the October meeting had been adjourned because the planning board still needed information on stormwater runoff on the access road, a report from Cypress Creek on the amount of visible glare from the arrays, and an approval from the Westerlo Fire Company.

A neighbor on Strawberry Lane — a road which runs parallel to the array’s location — who is trying to sell property there, objected to the array being built, believing the panels will be visible from the property for sale. Verch said there are 100 feet of trees between the property and the solar panels. The neighbor is represented by attorney Brian Henchey, who did not return calls before press time.

Shepard Farm solar plans

Borrego Solar also anticipates building a solar array in Westerlo, on property that formerly was the location of Shepard Farm, a resort that peaked in popularity in the 1940s and 1950s before closing in the 1980s.

Shepard Farm LLC is owned by John Dolce, a Rensselaerville Town Board member and Westerlo business owner, and by construction-company owner Steve Haaland. The two bought the site of the resort Shepard Farm almost a year ago, with the hopes of fixing the former hotel buildings and renting the space to local businesses.

Dolce also had floated the idea this winter of renting the expansive property to farmers or solar companies, noting that the center of the property is not visible from nearby roads or most homes.

The company would be renting property to Borrego, which would build and operate the arrays. The arrays are expected to be located on uphill areas east and west of the former hotel buildings, including one behind the treeline.

Verch said the west parcel is mostly fields; on the east side there are marshes, woods, flat earth and ledges with a 50-foot drop. Because of the ledges, the array on the east parcel would be beyond the wetlands and about 100 feet from the property line, she said.

Verch,  planning board member Doyle Shaver, and solar project manager Mike Doud were given a five-hour tour of the property by Dolce on all-terrain vehicles in order to map the lot lines for the subdivision, she said. This did not complete a tour of the property, and so Verch returned for a second tour of the 200-year-old buildings.

The property was recently resurveyed, she said, and will now be divided into three parcels: one for the first array, one for the second, and one for the remaining property that will include the former hotel and movie theater. Over 17,000 panels will be on each array; the power will go to Central Hudson and Cable.

Shepard Farm LLC will also have a public hearing on Nov. 28 for an application for a subdivision of the property. If approved, Borrego can begin its application for building solar arrays.

Borrego also successfully applied to build arrays in Knox last summer, and was approved to build two-megawatt arrays on David Whipple’s property to power the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute’s Albany campus.

Verch said that the three-phase power lines that were set up to supply power to now-closed businesses like a garage in Westerlo or Greenville Polish in Greenville can now be used to support the large power supply from arrays; she surmises that this is why the town is seeing several proposed arrays.

“I guess Westerlo is going to be renamed ‘Solar City,’” she said.

 

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