December 5, 2021

Solar project might bypass Solon law

Solar Panel Stock photo

Metro Creative stock image

EDF Renewables, the global energy company backing the $90 million, 90-megawatt project proposed for Homer, Cortlandville and Solon, is likely to seek a state waiver to bypass a 1,000-foot wetland setback requirement contained in a solar project law passed by the Solon town board earlier this week.

Jack Honor, a development manager for EDF, said his company particularly objected to the wetland setback, which he described as burdensome.

EDF Renewables, he said, is also considering whether to also seek a waiver for a provision requiring a 500-foot setback from neighboring properties.

Monday night, the town of Solon passed a law that regulates large commercial solar projects built in the town limits.

But Article X — the state process that governs large solar projects — can bypass some local laws, although it has to take local concerns into account. It is through the Article X process that EDF Renewables can seek waivers to the local law.

Another provision of the new law — which requires a town-issued permit for commercial solar projects — would likely have no effect on the EDF Renewables proposal, Honor said, because the Article X process does not require big solar projects to obtain local building permits.

The Solon law charges 20 cents for each square foot of solar panel for commercial projects. A Solon-issued permit could cost as much as $1.3 million, calculating with county planning department estimates and assuming that a third of the project is located in Solon.

Honor said he recognizes the town of Solon doesn’t like the Article X process, “but this law is in place, and we’re going to follow it.”

Town Supervisor Steve Furlin said at Monday’s meeting that residents “are absolutely dead-set against” the project.

But the Article X process still has a ways to go: The formal application for the project has not even been submitted and will not be submitted until the end of 2020.

Here is a short timeline of the Article X process for this project:

  • EDF Renewables will have a community open house from noon to 3p.m. Feb.4 at the Ramada Cortland Hotel and Conference Center at 2 River St. For background information on the project, go to www.edf-re.com/ project/homer-solar-energy-center/
  • EDF Renewables plans to submit a preliminary scoping statement in late February or early March. This document explains the project plan in more detail, including environmental and other types of studies that inform it.
  • Following the submission of this document, Homer, Cortlandville and Solon will each nominate four residents as candidates for a state siting board that will provide public input on the project. Two of the 12 people nominated will be chosen for that board.
  • The state opens up a comment period in which anyone — individuals, environmental groups and state, county and local officials — can express opinions.
  • In March, $31,500 becomes available — half for municipalities and half for local individuals or groups that can be used for research or retaining experts regarding the project. The money comes from what is called an intervenor fund, which is paid by EDF Renewables but administered by the state. More intervenor funding will become available later in the year.
  • EDF Renewables aims to submit its application to the state by the end of 2020.
  • The state takes about a year to review the application.
  • EDF Renewables aims to start building the solar project in the spring of 2022.
  • The project begins generating and transmitting electricity in late 2023.