Duanesburg inching closer to adopting solar regulations

Solar panels
Article Audio:

DUANESBURG — Prior to a proposed update to its solar energy law, the town considered banning the energy-producing systems, but ultimately changed course over concerns about a provision in state law that allows large-scale arrays to be constructed without local approval. 

Duanesburg Supervisor William Wenzel said Thursday during a public hearing on the local law — expected to be approved in the coming weeks — the ordinance was drafted to ensure property owners can sell or lease their land to a solar developer while protecting the rights of neighboring landowners.  

State law requires all arrays of at least 25-megawatts to go through a state approval process, circumventing local ordinances, even those that outright ban solar development. The provision can also be applied to projects between 20- and 25-megawatts, though developers can opt to go through the local approval process.

Wenzel said lawmakers feared that banning solar arrays would encourage developers to put forth larger projects, taking whatever say the town might have in the development process out of the equation. 

“It was the contention of the board, of the committee, when we met that to prohibit it would encourage” large scale development, he said. 

The proposed law was drafted by a special committee during a monthslong moratorium on solar arrays, and updates an existing ordinance originally adopted in 2016. 

Duanesburg is one of a growing number of municipalities to adopt a moratorium to update its solar regulations. Rotterdam became the latest last year, and is expected to appoint a special committee to update its own ordinance. 

If approved, the Duanesburg law would restrict solar arrays only to the town’s R-2 Residential/Agricultural district and the C-1 Commercial and C-2 Manufacturing and Light Industrial zones, and would require Planning Board approval and a special-use permit.

The proposal also requires a 200-foot buffer between a parcel where a solar array would sit and a nonparticipating parcel, and a 450-foot buffer between an occupied residence and any solar equipment. 

Recent changes to the law, suggested by the county’s Planning Commission, added a requirement for solar arrays to be inspected annually, and required developers to routinely test private drinking wells within 1,000 feet of where the array would sit. 

There also are provisions regulating battery-storage facilities, and for developers to create an escrow account to pay for engineering, level and environmental reviews. The proposal also includes language for developers to acquire a bond to cover the cost of decommissioning the arrays.

Residents on Thursday asked for lawmakers to include language in the law to specify what chemicals are to be tested and require a town employee to participate in any land survey to prevent developers from skirting any requirements.

Lynne Bruning, whose property abuts a large solar array brought forward by Eden Renewables, requested that all site plans and engineering documents for a solar array be sealed and signed off on by a state-registered architect before a special-use permit for a project is granted. 

She said having the documents sealed after approval would prevent any changes from being made and would make it easier to hold developers who stray from approved project plans liable. 

Residents will have one more opportunity to weigh in on the proposed solar ordinance at the next Town Board meeting on Feb 23.

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

Categories: News, Schenectady County

Leave a Reply