December 4, 2021

Cincy residents skeptical on solar project

Solar Panel Stock photo

Metro Creative stock image

A representative of a commercial solar project got a skeptical reception from Cincinnatus residents Thursday night at the town board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Dan Huntington, business development manager of Norbut Solar Farms of Rochester, presented the preliminary plans for a proposed solar project that could generate up to 20 megawatts at the Knickerbocker Country Club on Telephone Road.

Norbut Solar Farms recently signed a year-long contract to purchase agreement with the Knickerbocker Family Properties LLC, the owners of the country club, who have said the golf course will continue to operate normally this year.

Huntington said the country club site was chosen partly because of its proximity to a major power transmission line. Moreover, the property is not prime farmland, and it doesn’t have many trees. He said his company does not want to use productive land for its projects or cut down trees.

Golf courses, he said, were ideal for his company’s purpose, and this is the second golf course property the company has chosen to convert to a solar farm.

“It’s very difficult to convert a golf course back to farmland,” he said. A solar farm, however, provided an immediate productive use.

Norbut Solar Farms, he said, intended to seek a payment in lieu of taxes agreement through the county Industrial Development Agency. The project is small enough that it would not go through New York’s Article 10 process, which applies only to commercial projects larger than 25 mega- watts.

Garry VanGorder, executive director of the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency, explained PILOT programs. Commercial solar PILOTs, he said, offer revenue to the town and school district based on improvements to the property; the initial property tax is unaffected and remains at the current rate.

For more than an hour, Huntington also took questions from the audience about the project’s size, appearance, setbacks, electricity generated and environmental impact.

A few residents were already standing in opposition to it.

“You have got a battle,” said

Sandra Longaker, who expressed concerns about the project’s effect on the environment.

Pat Crawford, who lives nearby at 5513 Telephone Road, was worried about electromagnetic radiation from the project as well as silicon dust from the panels.

“I don’t want to live next to a radiation plant,” she said.

Huntington said the project would give off neither.

“Not all the information online is true,” Huntington said. “A solar panel, if it’s functioning correctly, should never be giving off dust.”

Other questions aimed at state and federal money the company would receive for the project.

Steven Konka, who used to work for a company that installed solar projects, said he thought Huntington was omitting important information.

Konka wanted to know if the project would require the construction of an electrical substation. But Huntington said that would not be necessary, because of a nearby high-voltage power transmission line.

“That is actually what brought us to this area,” Huntington said.

The town board will hear more about solar issues at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 12, the board’s new meeting time. The board is expected to vote on a six-month moratorium on solar projects to give the board time to adopt laws regulating solar projects, said town Supervisor Luann King.

The Cortland County Planning Board will review the proposed moratorium at its Feb. 19 meeting.

The town board will also consider amending its draft solar law to increase the permit fee for commercial solar projects from 10 cents per square foot of solar panel to 20 cents per square foot. Board member Mark Christian said he wanted to board to consider raising the fee based on a rate that next-door Solon recently adopted.