Neighbors question Schoharie solar project

By Patsy Nicosia

A seven-megawatt solar project proposed for Route 30 in the Town of Schoharie has neighbors asking how much of it they’ll see—and from where. Borrego Solar is seeking approval for a five-megawatt and a two-megawatt community solar project on about 100 acres owned by Len and Meg Berdan. Borrego reps first brought the idea to the public in April—a month after Schoharie adopted its solar law—and Wednesday, they were back with some substantial changes. The entire project has been moved farther from the road, engineer David Albrecht told a crowd of about 30 people, and shifted on the site—something that will make it less visible and require less clear-cutting of trees. Mr. Albrecht shared photos taken from a number of different places in the town that simulate what the project will look like, but not including the seven-foot-high chain link fence that will enclose the two adjacent sites. Several neighbors said they’d yet to be contacted by Borrego; others questioned the project’s visual impact on their view—something neighbor Kathy Stevens pointed out could hurt local businesses that depend on tourism. Other expressed concerns about noise—about as loud as an air conditioner and never at night, Mr. Albrecht said and traffic during construction. Others said they were afraid the project would open the door to an endless line of solar projects. That wouldn’t be an issue, Mr. Albrecht and Supervisor Alan Tavenner said; Borrego’s project would “max ou”t the existing National Grid substation. Because it’s what’s called a community solar project, Borrego’s Lindsey McEntire said, residents can subscribe and get a 10 percent discount on their National Grid bill. Ms. McEntire also said they’re going to be holding PILOT—payment in lieu of taxes—talks with the town, school, and county, something that will also benefit taxpayers at about $20,000-$30,000 a year. Former Supervisor and Schoharie Fire Department President Martin Shrederis, however, said that discount—even for those few who’ll qualify—isn’t worth much. For the fire department, he said, it would be worth about $1,200 a year. “You better come up with some better numbers as far as I’m concerned,” he said. Under the town solar law, the project is an allowed use with a special use permit and a site plan review, something that would require a decommissioning plan and money escrowed to return the site to its existing state. Borrego reps will be back at the town’s July meeting with landscaping that addresses some of the concerns voiced Wednesday. “There are a lot of steps that have to happen for this to go forward,” Mr. Tavenner said. “We’re going to take our time with this. But we’re not going to take forever either.”

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