Rotterdam adopts 12-month moratorium on solar arrays


ROTTERDAM — Town lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously approved a yearlong moratorium on large-scale solar arrays, making Rotterdam the latest municipality to adopt such a measure as it reassess its laws regulating the energy-producing systems. 

The Town Board adopted the moratorium in a 5-0 vote following weeks of input from residents, who urged lawmakers to adopt the measure over concerns about the long-term impact solar arrays pose for the town.  Many residents expressed worries that allowing the structures without further regulations does not align with the town’s updated comprehensive plan, which lawmakers also approved Wednesday.

In approving the measure, board members said the moratorium is not anti-solar, but rather a necessary pause to allow the town to review and update its existing ordinance to ensure it meets all facets of the rapidly-expanding industry. The town’s existing solar law was adopted in 2017.

“This is a pause to consider all the details,” said Evan Christou, who introduced the moratorium last month. “At the end of the day, we need to be prudent and we need to make sure that our legislation has kept up with this fast-moving industry.”

The moratorium comes months after East Light Partners of Massachusetts submitted plans to construct a 20-megawatt solar array along Sandborn Road, sparking intense backlash from neighbors in the area who argue the project would disrupt the bucolic nature of the neighborhood and destroy wildlife habitat.

The proposed project calls for clearing more than 100 acres of a 460-acre forested parcel. With the moratorium now in place, plans for the project are on hold.

Residents, in urging Town Board members to adopt the moratorium, argued the project would go against the town’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted Wednesday following a years of work. The plan calls for preserving “key natural resources and critical environmental areas.”

“Every time property is cleared for buildings or solar projects it destroys the habitat of our wildlife and takes away the beauty of our town — the beauty that makes Rotterdam a nice place to live,” said Gina Regula, a resident who lives in proximity to where the solar array would sit. 

But several residents spoke out against approving the moratorium, including Lynn Pennacchia, who owns the property with her husband.

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Pennacchia said she and her husband have been trying to sell the property for the past decade and have been approached by a number of logging companies and other developers, but have resisted any offers over concerns about how neighbors would be affected if the land were to be clear cut.

She added that the East Light Partners project would allow the majority of the land to be preserved and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting clean energy. 

“This property has been on and off the market since 2012, and the East Light Partners project was the first serious proposal we have come to consider,” Pennacchia said. “It just made good sense for all the right reasons.”

In 2019, state lawmakers approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which established a number of goals to address climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 85% of 1990 levels by 2050 and 70% of electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030.

A number of municipalities have since adopted moratoriums on solar arrays in order to create or revamp legislation regulating the systems.

Duanesburg this month brought forward new solar regulations following a months-long moratorium. Nearby Root, Canajoharie and Clifton Park have also adopted solar moratoriums.

But Jamie Fordyce, an owner of East Light Partners, said the moratorium would stand in the way of progress when it comes to meeting the state’s climate goals, but he said he respects the town’s decision.  

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He noted that his company’s project would create dozens of jobs locally, generating millions in salary for employees in addition to renewable energy, and urged lawmakers to examine regulations recommended by the state.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here,” Fordyce said. 

Board member Joseph Mastroianni said he understands that solar energy plays a role in preserving the environment for future generations, but raised concerns about more short-term impacts that large-scale projects present for the town. 

“The 12-month moratorium is going to allow us to understand particular projects as well as the general environment of this issue,” he said. 

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.

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