CLIFTON PARK -- A fourth solar farm was approved by the town Planning Board during its Tuesday night meeting.
The 6.9-megawatt array will be located at 267 Sugar Hill Road in Rexford, on land that for decades was Lindsey’s Idyllwood apple orchard.
The plan, proposed by Borrego Solar, calls for 18,495 panels to be built on a 21.5-acre parcel. It will be surrounded by a 7-foot-tall fence.
Three other farms were previously approved by the town's Planning Board. In September, a 5.3-megawatt solar array by Borrego Solar was approved for construction at 25 Ashdown Road. Solitude Solar was given the green light to build a 7-megawatt array on Sugar Hill Road in January. The largest of the four, also being built by Borrego, will be a 9.2-megawatt facility at 753 Grooms Road, which was approved in September as well.
The fourth farm brings the town to the maximum number of megawatts from solar farms its substations can support without making costly and extensive upgrades.
The board unanimously approved the farm after a discussion that touched on a few final details about how the farm would operate, including the use of chemicals on the site. The plants placed under the solar arrays will be low maintenance, and fast growing trees will be planted on the site to shield the panels from view.
“We do not use any pesticides or herbicides," Dean Smith, civil engineer for Borrego Sola,r said on Tuesday. He added that the panels are cleaned with simple water, and no chemicals.
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. As part of the approval agreement, Clifton Park residents will have the first opportunity to buy into the project, and will receive a 10-percent discount on their National Grid bill.
The community solar concept is designed to allow people who aren't able to install panels on their own properties to take advantage of and support sustainable energy.
Duane Lindsey owns two of the four plots of land that will be home to solar farms — the orchard land and the farmland at 753 Grooms Road.
After decades of operation as an iconic orchard widely known by generations of families in town, Lindsey made the decision to cease operations last October.
The decision to close was based on a major drop in revenue over the past year, high overhead costs and the fact that customers simply aren't coming to pick apples there anymore.
Ultimately, 2,100 trees will be removed from the site to make room for the panels. Eleven rows of trees will remain.
At the meeting, Lindsey reaffirmed that the solar farm was, for him, the best way to accomplish a number goals, which include generating an income, keeping further residential development from moving onto the land and keeping the land in his family.
“We have no plan to sell any land. That's the reason for the solar farm," Lindsey said.