So­lar farm is go­ing up on Grand Is­land

De­vel­oper plant­ing bushes as buffer from neigh­bors

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Stephen T. Wat­son

Con­struc­tion is un­der­way on a so­lar ar­ray on Grand Is­land that is fiercely op­posed by some neigh­bors of the 42-acre site.

That project along White­haven and Stony Point roads, which will hold more than 20,000 pan­els, should be fin­ished by late sum­mer.

And the so­lar com­pany con­struct­ing the ar­ray is try­ing some­thing un­usual to ap­pease peo­ple who don’t want to see rows of pan­els from their back­yards. It’s in­stalling flow­er­ing bushes to serve as a buffer and to pro­vide food for the is­land’s bee pop­u­la­tion.

“The in­tent is to screen some of the sight­lines that may be of con­cern,” said Daniel Mon­tante, pres­i­dent of Mon­tante So­lar, a co-de­vel­oper and the project’s con­struc­tion con­trac­tor.

Grand Is­land is try­ing to dive into so­lar power, with town of­fi­cials say­ing it’s a form of clean en­ergy, will cre­ate jobs and can boost the is­land’s rep­u­ta­tion for in­no­va­tion.

The Town Board two years ago ap­proved a so­lar en­ergy law in­tended to open up un­de­vel­oped land on the is­land for so­lar farms.

To­day, the site work tak­ing place at the White­haven Road prop­erty and a se­cond lo­ca­tion near the Ni­a­gara Thruway is the first sign of progress to­ward the town’s so­lar vi­sion.

“We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing at Town Hall to make sure we dot the I’s and cross the T’s on this,” said Deputy Su­per­vi­sor James Sharpe, “be­cause we know, once they’re in, they’re in for 50 years.”

The Town Board passed a so­lar en­ergy law in Fe­bru­ary 2017 af­ter about a year of de­bate and with the strong sup­port of Su­per­vi­sor Nate McMur­ray. The law set min­i­mum size and set­back re­stric­tions for so­lar ar­rays that pro­vide power to the pub­lic elec­tric grid and set less-strin­gent rules for so­lar equip­ment de­signed for an in­di­vid­ual home or busi­ness.

Ini­tial in­ter­est from devel­op­ers cen­tered on two sites.

The largest of the two projects is at 1611 White­haven Road, just west of Stony Point Road. The co-devel­op­ers are project owner BayWa, So­larPark En­ergy and Mon­tante So­lar.

They plan to in­stall 20,100 so­lar pan­els in rows roughly run­ning eastwest on the site, di­vided in two. A bridge run­ning over a creek and wet­lands in the mid­dle of the parcel will con­nect the halves. The project would pro­duce 7 megawatts of elec­tric­ity.

The Town Board in July ap­proved a spe­cial-use per­mit for the White­haven Road project, dubbed So­larPark2, and de­ter­mined the de­vel­op­ment would not harm the en­vi­ron­ment.

That vote fol­lowed a pub­lic hear­ing at­tended by a dozen neigh­bors who ob­jected to the con­struc­tion of the so­lar ar­ray, according to John R. Tripi Jr., ar­gu­ing that it isn’t con­sis­tent with the neigh­bor­hood and it will bring down their prop­erty val­ues.

Tripi said he’s lived in his White­haven Road home for 35 years. He said he’s con­cerned about glare from the pan­els, and he doesn’t think the devel­op­ers will prop­erly screen the prop­erty from res­i­dents’ view.

“So­lar’s great,” Tripi said, but not in a res­i­den­tial area. He said he’d rather see houses built on the prop­erty.

In Au­gust he filed an Ar­ti­cle 78 pe­ti­tion seek­ing to over­turn the Town Board’s de­ci­sion. The town has not made a for­mal re­sponse, but rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Tripi and the town have sought to work out a com­pro­mise.

No­tably, Sharpe said, the de­vel­oper has agreed to put up flow­er­ing bushes and shrubs along the project fence line most vis­i­ble to neigh­bors. The devel­op­ers also are plant­ing the flow­er­ing bushes be­tween the rows of so­lar pan­els, Daniel Mon­tante said.

The devel­op­ers can’t plant trees be­cause they can grow too high and pro­duce un­wanted shade, but the flow­er­ing bushes won’t reach much higher than the pan­els and will of­fer pollen for bees.

“The farm­ers are lov­ing it,” Sharpe said. “The con­ser­va­tion­ists love it.”

And, he said, the pan­els are satin, so they shouldn’t pro­duce much glint or glare.

Tripi isn’t sat­is­fied. He said he’ll seek a re­duc­tion in his prop­erty taxes as soon as the ar­ray is fin­ished, and he’ll start look­ing for a new home.

“I’m def­i­nitely go­ing to move. I don’t want this in my back­yard,” Tripi said.

That isn’t too far in the fu­ture. The devel­op­ers are about to in­stall the bridge on the site and soon will be­gin driv­ing piles into the ground to hold the so­lar panel racks. Con­struc­tion should take four months or so, said Mon­tante, who de­clined to pro­vide the project’s cost.

Elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated there will go into Na­tional Grid’s elec­tric network and be avail­able to mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, Mon­tante said. It could gen­er­ate enough elec­tric­ity to power 700 to 1,000 homes.

The other so­lar project that re­ceived ap­proval on the is­land ac­tu­ally came up for re­view first and spurred the town to de­velop its so­lar law.

This project also would pro­vide com­mu­nity so­lar and in­volve the in­stal­la­tion of about 13,000 so­lar pan­els on an 18-acre site, with 411 Bedell Road to the south and 126 In­dus­trial Drive to the north, according to Frank McCleneghen, pres­i­dent of Ac­tive So­lar De­vel­op­ment and Grand Is­land So­lar.

McCleneghen said in June 2017, af­ter re­ceiv­ing Town Board ap­proval, that con­struc­tion on the $7 mil­lion project could be­gin in a few months. Since then, lit­tle ac­tiv­ity has taken place be­side clear­ing a good por­tion of the site and putting in a short gravel road.

McCleneghen did not re­spond to a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment on the project’s sta­tus.

Sharpe said Ac­tive So­lar also is di­vid­ing its site into two pieces, with site work be­gin­ning on the por­tion closer to Bedell Road first.

The Ac­tive So­lar de­vel­op­ment hasn’t stirred up the same con­tro­versy be­cause it’s in a less-res­i­den­tial area, near a few busi­nesses and the Ni­a­gara Thruway.

“This whole area is zoned com­mer­cial,” said Rod Reis­dorf, owner of the Mr. Best Wrench re­pair shop on Bedell Road. He said he thinks so­lar is a good con­cept and he’d like to see the project com­pleted.

So­larPark is in­ter­ested in build­ing on two other sites in the town, Sharpe said, though both devel­op­ments are still in the early plan­ning stages. One 40-acre site is be­hind the Fuc­cillo auto deal­er­ships on Alvin Road, and the other 54-acre site is off Bedell Road.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.