CLIFTON PARK — The Town Board has taken a step forward in releasing one of Clifton Park's remaining farms from a land preservation incentive agreement so a large solar farm array can be built on the property.
At a Dec. 2 meeting, the board unanimously approved two resolutions relating to the agreement termination — one that allows the town to enter into a property tax plan for Borrego Solar, the company that will build the solar arrays on site, and one that releases the farm from the land conservation agreement and acknowledges repayment of conservation grant funding that has been provided to the farm over the years.
Neither resolution was met with any comments or questions from board members.
The preservation incentive agreement was established by the town in 2016. It covered agriculturally zoned land owned by Duane Lindsey at 267 Sugar Hill Road, on property that was previously the orchard land of Lindsey’s Idyllwood Orchard.
Lindsey owns two of the four plots of land in town that will be home to solar farms.
The other sites are a 5.3-megawatt solar array by Borrego Solar at 25 Ashdown Road and a 7-megawatt array on Sugar Hill Road by Solitude Solar.
However, there is a limit to the number of arrays that can be built in Clifton Park.
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 four approved farms and the town’s currently operating solar array at its former landfill, those substations are at full capacity in terms 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.
Under the payment in lieu of taxes agreement, Borrego Solar will start paying the town $30,000 and $12,000 annually for the two Lindsey properties that were covered under the deal for 15 years, with a 2 percent increase in payments each year.
The resolution noted that the town had been paid back the $36,555 property owners had received as grants.
In order to receive incentive payments, farmers must continue to farm their land, as opposed to selling or developing it for other non-agricultural uses.
The town has successfully preserved a large amount of open land — approximately 1,700 acres of property over the last 20 years — through the town’s Open Space Program.
Lindsey, who closed the much-loved orchard in October 2018, has said in the past that the high costs of housing and paying employees, along with dwindling numbers of customers over the years, was responsible for the demise of the orchard.
"Even on the nice days, we never equaled our sales from last year," he said. "When we get into October and have nice, cool days, and we're just not busy, it is what it is."
The solar farm allows him to keep his land in the family, as he has no plans to sell it to developers, he said.