A proposal for a 6.9 megawatt solar farm in the town's west end was formally presented to the Planning Board during its most recent meeting.
The project, by Borrego Solar, calls for 18,495 panels to be built on a 21.5-acre parcel at 267 Sugar Hill Road in Clifton Park's Rexford section, on land that was previously an apple orchard. Plans call for the array to be surrounded by a seven-foot-tall fence.
According to the proposal Borrego submitted to the town's planning department, the array's construction will take approximately six months. Since the array will be placed on land that was previously an apple orchard, a number of trees will remain around the array. Clifton Park Planning Director John Scavo said that Borrego will return to a future meeting with renderings that better demonstrate how the array will be integrated with the surrounding trees. The planning board has 60 days to act on the proposal.
In less than a year, three other solar farms have been approved in the town.
In September, a 5.3-megawatt solar array by Borrego Solar was approved for construction at 25 Ashdown Road. Solitude Solar has been given the green light to build a 7-megawatt array on Sugar Hill Road. The largest of the three and also being built by Borrego -- will be a 9.2-megawatt facility at 753 Grooms Road.
The power generation figures represent the amount of electricity each array is expected to generate at its peak output.
All three projects have been unanimously approved by the Planning Board. All of those solar sites are slated for land that has been used for farming in the past.
Solar companies have been taking advantage of the town’s more rural western side, and have successfully courted property owners of former farming acreage. Typically, to build farms, solar companies have entered into lease agreements with the landowners to use the properties for roughly 20 years.
After that, the arrays will be removed by the companies if lease agreement extensions cannot be obtained.
The panels are raised off of the ground, high enough for grass to grow. Maintenance on the panels, as well as landscaping work, will be performed two to three times a year, according to the solar energy firms.
There is a limit to the number of such projects that can be built in Clifton Park, said town Planning Director John Scavo.
National Grid has provided maps that indicate the area where the farms are being built is served by substations that can support a total of 22 megawatts of energy being poured back into the area's power grid.
With the three approved farms and the town's currently-operating solar array at its former landfill, the area's substations can only support about 7 more megawatts of solar power generation.
If solar companies want to bring in more arrays, they would likely need to pay for upgrades to the substations, making it more cost-effective for solar companies to just seek new areas in which to build facilities.
All of the projects coming to Clifton Park are "community solar" projects, which means any National Grid customer can access solar power generated by the arrays.
The community solar concept is designed to allow people who want to take advantage of and support sustainable energy but aren't able to install panels on their own properties. In 2018, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged $40 million to support solar projects, with the goal of having 50 percent of the state's energy provided through renewable resources by 2025.