DUANESBURG -- With some residents worried about the number of large-scale solar energy projects that have been approved by this rural town, the Town Board may place a six-month moratorium on project approvals while it revises its solar law.
The Town Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed moratorium at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Town Hall, though it isn't expected to adopt the moratorium until a future meeting.
Town Supervisor Roger Tidball said is expects the moratorium to be approved, in part because there are no applications for solar farms pending.
"Six months isn't going to hurt anyone. We don't have solar developers knocking down the door," he said.
A moratorium would give town officials time to look at questions not addressed in the town's 2016 solar energy law, including how to guarantee there will be money for decommissioning solar arrays at the end of their useful life, and how to address concerns residents have raised about size and density of commercial-scale solar facilities.
"The Town Board and the town Planning Board, I've spoken to all the individuals, and there's a few spots where we'd like to look into it a little more," Tidball said.
One of the residents who has raised concerns is Lynne Bruning, who became concerned after Eden Renewables of Troy proposed two five-megawatt solar arrays on land bordering her family property on Duanesburg Road. She and her mother have filed a lawsuit seeking to annul the town Planning Board's September approval of that project, which has yet to start construction.
Bruning noted that another large solar project is less than a mile from her family's property; she believes there needs to be provisions to limit the density of large-scale solar arrays in the town, as well as their size, so that no residents are surrounded by the energy-generating facilities.
"I think it would be appropriate to have the law cover how many there can be, how close [together] they can be, and how large they can be," Bruning said.
Among her concerns is the potential impact of solar arrays on neighbors' property values. "If any parcel of property gets surrounded on three sides with solar, which is allowable under the town law, that is going to affect their property value," she said.
Bruning would also like to see a new requirement that signs be posted at a property which is under consideration for solar development, as a way of providing notice to the entire community. Under current town law, property owners within a 1,000-foot radius are sent written notifications about 10 days before a public hearing, but no on-site notification is required.
"A solar project impacts not just the neighbors but the entire community," she said. "I'm not against solar; I think there are ways to develop these projects, but they shouldn't be unlimited."
Duanesburg currently has one finished large-scale solar project near Duanesburg High School. In addition to the Eden Renewables project, Tidball said there was a project approved about three years ago, but the developer never pursued it.
Tidball said other solar energy developers have approached the town in recent years, but many don't pursue their plans after learning that without significant additional investment, the electrical grid infrastructure in the town is inadequate to support the distribution of power generated from a large solar facility.
Grid infrastructure issues caused the town to drop plans to install solar panels at the former town landfill as part of a Schenectady County solar initiative, Tidball noted.
The town Planning Board is already expected to review the solar ordinance as part of a comprehensive plan review, Tidball said, and that work can happen while the moratorium is in place.