DUANESBURG -- The Town Board has adopted a six-month moratorium on large-scale commercial solar energy development to give town officials time to consider whether changes are needed to the solar law it adopted in 2016.
The unanimous action, taken at a Town Board meeting Thursday, comes amid opposition to two five-megawatt solar arrays proposed by Eden Renewables on Duanesburg Road. Those projects are already approved, though the approval is being challenged in court.
There are no other solar applications pending.
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.
Duanesburg currently has one finished large-scale solar project near Duanesburg High School. In addition to the Eden Renewables project, there was a project approved about three years ago but the developer never pursued it. Town Supervisor Roger Tidball said Thursday that the town building inspector has determined that approval has lapsed.
Tidball said earlier that 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.
Schoharie County also has seen instances of developers seeking solar array permits but not pursuing their plans. The county Board of Supervisors in December adopted a law recommending that towns and villages require solar energy applicants put up a fee of between $25,000 and $150,000, depending on the size of the project, that would be forfeited if the plans weren't pursued.
Also on Thursday, the Town Board approved two 15-year, payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements for the Eden Renewables projects, assuming they move forward. Both PILOTs call for an initial payment of $1,625 per megawatt annually -- or $8,125 in the first year. The amount then increases by 2 percent each year to $10,720 in the 15th year.
State law makes commercial solar facilities tax exempt, but allows municipalities and school districts to make PILOT agreements with the developers.