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Clifton Park reviewing solar array proposal

Clifton Park reviewing solar array proposal

If approved, construction is expected to take six months
Clifton Park reviewing solar array proposal
Photographer: shutterstock

Clifton Park could soon be home to one of the largest solar energy farms in the region.

Borrego Solar Systems is seeking to build a 5.3-megawatt solar array that would cover approximately 21 acres of a nearly 90-acre parcel at 25 Ashdown Road. The land is densely wooded now.

The Clifton Park Planning Board reviewed the project for the first time on Wednesday.

According to documents submitted to the Planning Department, the owners of the property, Sheryl Rifenburg and Fred Kram, live in Troy. Emilie Flanagan, project developer for Borrego Solar Systems, said the company has a 20-year lease agreement with the owners to build the farm. The property is largely unused, though there is a vacant duplex home on the property, she said.

Borrego is seeking permission from the Planning Board to subdivide the property into an 85-acre parcel for the solar array and related infrastructure -- if that project is approved -- and a roughly 4-acre parcel around the home.

Project plans call for a 21-acre field of solar panels raised 9 feet off the ground, with the longest row of panels measuring 1,278 feet long --  42 feet shy of a quarter-mile.

Each megawatt of generated electricity powers, on average, 100 typical homes, though solar energy is dependent on weather, Smith said.

Borrego also needs a special-use permit from the Planning Board, since the site is a conservation-residential zone.

The solar facility would be surrounded by a 7-foot fence, and a gravel driveway would be built to access the facility. The fence would be locked at all times, Flanagan said. Borrego employees visit their sites once or twice a year for panel maintenance, but the site would mostly be unmanned. 

If approved, construction is expected to take six months. The panels would most likely be built out of sight of passersby, said Dean Smith, a civil engineer with Borregoat the meeting.

A slew of proposals for solar energy farms have followed an overall shift of energy generation priorities for New York state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his most recent State of the State address, set a goal of deriving half of the state's energy from renewable energy sources by 2030. New York also offers tax credits and other incentives for residents who switch to solar energy.

While the project would be large for Clifton Park, it is not the biggest solar farm that has been proposed for the area.

In March, the state announced it would financially back multiple massive solar energy projects, including a 90-megawatt solar farm on 880 acres of land in Montgomery County and a 50-megawatt farm on 783 acres in Schoharie County.

General Electric recently signed on to help Schenectady County municipalities develop 18 energy-generating solar arrays on municipally owned properties for a total of 45 megawatts.

Borrego Solar Systems is based in California but has other projects in New York, specifically a 3.75-megawatt farm in the town of Bethlehem, a 2.9-megawatt farm in the city of Ithaca, and multiple larger solar farms on Long Island, ranging from 9 to 14-megawatts.

Construction costs for the Borrego project were not available.

Having an alternative energy facility in the area was an attractive idea to some Planning Board members.

"I think it's really fantastic for our town," board member Andy Neubauer said.

"I agree," board chairman Rocco Ferraro said, though he suggested working closely with neighbors to get their feedback.

"Do the best you can to listen to their concerns," he told the Borrego representatives.

Representatives from Borrego said they will reach out to nearby residents to inform them about the plans prior to a public hearing about the project.


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