Duanesburg sets vote on proposed solar law for Thursday

Solar panels on lawn

A solar array is pictured.

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DUANESBURG — Following weeks of public input, lawmakers on Thursday are expected to vote on a proposed ordinance that would regulate the construction of solar arrays and require developers to adhere to strict regulations.

Supervisor William Wenzel said this past week that the Town Board at its next meeting will vote on the proposed ordinance introduced back in December and revised in February. The law was the subject of a weekslong public hearing that was extended three times before it was closed last month.

“It will be up to the board to determine whether or not they’re ready to vote,” he said.

The expected vote comes as a monthslong moratorium on the construction of solar arrays in town is set to expire in the coming weeks. The moratorium was adopted to give a special committee time to review and update the town’s existing solar law that was first adopted in 2016 and updated in 2021.

Committee members reviewed more than two dozen ordinances already on the books in municipalities across the state and received input on the proposed law through a series of public stakeholder meetings.

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

Developers would be required to enter into a “community host” agreement, or a public benefit fee that would be determined by the Town Board to mitigate the costs of municipal services and infrastructure improvements necessitated by the solar array’s construction.

Operators of large-scale arrays would be required to adhere to strict decommissioning plans that would require obtaining a security to cover the cost of removing the array that would include a 2% annual escalator for life of the array.

The proposed law would also regulate battery energy storage systems, require buffers to shield arrays from neighboring properties and require developers to regularly test private wells within 1,000 feet of the boundary of a solar array.

Wenzel, who said he plans to vote to approve the law, said the legislation was drafted to protect the rights of property owners who have no interest in solar but live adjacent to others who do.

A home, Wenzel said, is often the largest investment a person makes, with many depending on the future sale of the property to facilitate their retirement. A large solar array next door could diminish a property’s value, dealing a blow to an individual’s plans, a reality lawmakers were determined to prevent, according to Wenzel.

“The primary concern is that the freedom of one person ends where another begins,” he said.

The town, at one point, considered banning solar arrays, but changed course over a state law that allows large-scale solar developers to bypass local law and go through a state-permitting process. Arrays of 25 megawatts or more need only to have a state permit. Developers of arrays between 20- and 25-megawatts can also apply for a state permit.

Lawmakers feared banning solar arrays outright would encourage developers to build larger arrays that would need only state approvals on the large swaths of undeveloped land in the rural town.

“It takes away the local control from the local municipality and it limits the rights of the local residents to have control over their destiny,” Wenzel said.

Duanesburg is gearing up to adopt new solar regulations as municipalities throughout the region continue to develop new ordinances to keep up with the growing demand for solar across the state.

State lawmakers in 2019 approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which established a series of climate change goals, including slashing greenhouse gas emissions 85% of 1990 levels by 2050. The law also requires that 70% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.

A number of municipalities throughout the region have either updated their solar laws in recent years or are in the process of doing so, including Clifton Park, Glenville and the towns of Canajoharie and Root, which have moratoriums in place.

Nearby Rotterdam, which adopted a solar moratorium last year, is expected to appoint a special committee in the coming weeks that will be tasked with updating the town’s existing solar law.

The Duanesburg Town Board will meet 7 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall, 5853 Western Turnpike.

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

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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