DUANESBURG — Town lawmakers last week approved a local law regulating large-scale solar arrays, capping off months of work just before a moratorium on the energy-producing systems was set to expire.
Town Board members voted 4-0 to adopt the solar energy facilities law that was introduced last December and has been the subject of a public hearing that was extended on three separate occasions. Board member Francis Potter was not in attendance for the vote.
The law, which updates the town’s current ordinance adopted in 2016 and updated in 2021, was crafted by a special committee appointed after lawmakers adopted a moratorium prohibiting new construction on the arrays amid growing concerns about the proliferation of solar in the rural town. The moratorium was set to expire in the coming weeks.
At one point, the Town Board was considering banning solar outright, but changed course out of fear the move would invite larger projects that would circumvent the local approval process and require only state approval.
Developers seeking to construct solar arrays that are 25-megawatts or greater only need to receive state approval before beginning construction. Those seeking to build arrays between 20- and 25-megawatts can either go through the local approval process or seek state approvals.
Under the new law, solar arrays would be restricted 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 seeking to construct an array must now enter into a “community host” agreement or a public benefit fee that would be determined by the Town Board. The agreement of fee would mitigate the costs of municipal services and infrastructure improvements necessitated by the construction of a solar array.
The law also requires operators to adhere to strict decommissioning plans and obtain a security that covers 125% of the cost of removing the array at the time of approval and include a 2% escalator each year to account for inflation.
Developers are also required to provide buffers that shield the arrays from neighboring properties and regularly test private wells within 1,000 feet of an array.
Duanesburg approved its solar law a day after lawmakers in nearby Rotterdam appointed members to a new energy advisory committee that will be tasked with revising the town’s current solar energy law.
The Rotterdam committee was appointed after the town adopted a 12-month moratorium on the construction of solar arrays after residents expressed concerns about a proposed 20-megawatt solar array in the area of Sandborn Road.
Neighbors opposed to the project have said the project would disrupt the area’s ecosystem, diminish property values and go against the town’s new comprehensive plan adopted last year that calls for preserving the town’s rural features.
The committee will meet for the first time Thursday at the Rotterdam Town Hall beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.
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