EDITORIAL: Moratorium on solar projects a wise step

Duanesburg and other communities need to get out in front of growing industry
A county solar farm in Glenville in 2015.
A county solar farm in Glenville in 2015.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

You don’t have a problem … until you have a problem.

By then, it’s often too late to get a handle on it.

So Duanesburg officials should be commended for wanting to get out in front of a potential problem with the proliferation of solar arrays — those giant fields of blue solar panels that have become more common in the region in recent years.

While solar power is essentially a benign, non-polluting form of energy generation by itself, these solar arrays have raised concerns about aesthetics and impact on sight lines, impact on property values, pollution from removal of vegetation, buffer zones and fencing, and the usual issues related to industrial building projects such as setbacks, site maintenance and removal of equipment at the end of its useful life.

Communities should want to encourage solar energy, but it doesn’t mean they should give carte blanche to any project, given the potential impacts on the community and neighboring property owners.

The town is considering a six-month moratorium on new projects until it can get regulations in place.

Many times, communities inappropriately use moratoriums as a tool to stop unwanted projects as a last resort when they realize they have no rules in place to legally prevent them.

That’s not the case in Duanesburg, as there are no solar projects pending. So the moratorium is timely and fair.

But the moratorium doesn’t necessarily have to last six months. It could be shorter, depending on how quickly the town can hear from residents and how long it takes to put the new ordinances in place.

Fortunately, other communities have already enacted similar regulations that the town can use as models for its local law.

Also, the New York State Energy Research and Development (NYSERDA) has a Solar Guidebook of model solar project regulations for local governments available online at https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All%20Programs/Programs/Clean%20Energy%20Siting/Solar%20Guidebook.

No need to reinvent the wheel.

Other communities — particularly rural communities with large amounts of open space — might want to consider following Duanesburg’s lead and updating their comprehensive plans and planning and zoning regulations in anticipation of further growth in this industry.

Governments are always wise to anticipate development trends and to put regulations in place early to protect themselves and their citizens from unwanted development.

That’s what Duanesburg officials are doing here.

It’s the right step to take.

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