After a meeting with the town of Florida Planning Board earlier this week, a California solar company is looking to move forward with plans to install massive solar panels on a portion of a parcel casino developers had interest in last year.
Borrego Solar Senior Project Developer Amy McDonough said seven solar panels, or arrays, would fill the 75-acre parcel near Exit 27 of the New York State Thruway. The arrays, which are extremely long but only about 10 feet high, would feed power into the electric grid and create a renewable source of energy. She says they would not destroy the agricultural aesthetic of the town.
“We are in the beginning stages of the process right now,” she said. “I think we were able to ease the nerves of some town officials during the presentation and clear up any misinformation that they had.”
Borrego has not leased or purchased the property yet, as it is still developing relationships with local and county officials.
McDonough said the arrays have a lifespan of about 20 years, and she is eyeing the spring of 2016 to install them in the town. She added that the town has reached a crucial point in time where they are forced to make difficult decisions to remain viable.
“The town is struggling with its farming identity, and because farming doesn’t look the way it did 30 years, they must change their approach,” she said. “By installing arrays on the site and not a parking lot or some large construction, those 75 acres may be used for farming when the life of the contract expires because the property will have not been damaged at all.”
Clairvest Group Inc. and the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. had plans last year to use the land to construct a $250 million casino, but the project never got off the ground because the developers were unable to complete the casino application.
Borrego officials have discussed entering into a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement in which the town and county would split $1.6 million over the span of 20 years. The town currently collects roughly $6,000 per year in property taxes on the land.
McDonough said the project has not been finalized and is still being discussed with Montgomery County officials. She was unsure how many jobs the project would create, noting the company designs the modules and seeks permits from governments but doesn’t construct the equipment.
“Once the panels are set up, we only need a few employees to perform maintenance on them, so it is tough to tell if this will create any jobs locally,” she said.
“This would greatly benefit the town because of the increased tax revenue,” McDonough said, adding the project is entirely funded by federal and state incentives.
Mick Mullens, an attorney representing the owners of the parcel, said this would be a “significant project” that could help bring revenue to the town.
“With the state encouraging renewable energy, this would be a great project and a good example of a step in the right direction,” he said, adding the landowner is on board with the proposal
Town Supervisor Eric Mead could not be reached for comment. The board will meet April 20 to discuss the project and receive input from the public.