GLENVILLE — The town is considering a new law that would regulate any large commercial solar electricity arrays proposed in Glenville.
A proposal Supervisor Chris Koetzle presented to the town’s Environmental Conservation Commission for review this week would allow large solar farms — photovoltaic arrays potentially much larger than the Schenectady County-owned Hetcheltown Road project — but require them to be located within a half-mile of one of the town’s two electrical substations.
Locating a project near a substation makes it easier to connect the solar farm to the larger power grid.
“Talking to developers, they really need to be near a substation anyway,” Koetzle said.
The law, which would require Town Board approval after a public hearing, would also require that large solar farms be located on properties of at least 30 acres, and would include requirements for setbacks from the property line and visual screening of the solar panels from neighbors. It would also set requirements for dismantling solar arrays if they are no longer being used.
Koetzle said the town has been approached a number of times over the last year by developers interested in commercial solar development, though none has yet pursued plans. Developing a law regulating them follows changes last year that spelled out rules for residential solar projects.
“We’ve been looking to update our solar law, and last year we spent a lot of time looking at the residential,” Koetzle said. “We always wanted to get to large-scale solar next, but then we delayed this year by the pandemic, but now we’re ready to pursue it.”
New York state policy encourages solar energy development, offering municipalities draft guidelines, some of which Glenville is using.
As of late last year, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority said the state was producing two gigawatts of energy — enough for about 244,000 homes — from solar energy. The state’s goal is to reach six gigawatts of production by 2025, which NYSERDA said would generate approximately $5.4 billion in private investment, up to $500 million per year in statewide energy savings, and more than 10,000 new jobs.
Koetzle said the proposed town law is intended to strike a balance that supports solar development in Glenville while also closely regulating it.
“We want to encourage solar and alternative energy production, and also address the aesthetics that residents may have concerns about,” he said. “There’s quite a bit as far as making sure there are sufficient setbacks and sufficient screening. We spent a lot of time trying to find a balance, and I think we found it.”
The two electric substations in town are at Swaggertown and Bolt roads in the rural part of the town, and on Washington Avenue in Scotia. The law would create overlay districts in a half-mile circumference around those substations where large-scale solar would be allowed. Potentially, Koetzle said they could be located on properties with a lot of wetlands or which have other constraints that make them unsuitable for residential or commercial development.
“A lot of folks want to put them in. If you don’t have a law, they could go almost anywhere,” Koetzle said. “This would somewhat limit where it can happen.”
Specific projects would require approval from the Town Board. While alternative energy facilities don’t have to pay property taxes, Koetzle said he anticipates the town would be able to negotiate payment in lieu of taxes agreements with developers
Once the Environmental Conservation Commission and town Planning Board make recommendations, the Town Board will need to hold a public hearing, but Koetzle said he is hoping the Town Board can take action by early February.