COPAKE—Hecate Energy announced its latest expanded proposal for a solar farm on hundreds of acres in Craryville a couple of weeks ago and nearby residents are already circling the wagons.
Several people spoke against the project during public forums at the February 13 Copake Town Board meeting.
Headquartered in Chicago, Hecate Energy is a developer of solar farms, wind farms and energy storage projects. The company initially proposed a solar farm in Craryville along State Route 23 and County Route 7 on the Rasweiler Farm back in 2017. The utility-scale project, far larger than allowed by Copake’s then brand-new law regulating solar installations, got a frosty reception.
Now the company’s even larger proposal, Shepherd’s Run Solar—a 60-megawatt photovoltaic solar array to be built on some portion of 900-acres on the Rasweiler Farm and abutting properties—is raising hackles.
According to Hecate’s February 3 press release, “As required for any project over 25 MW, Hecate is applying for a permit to build the solar farm under Article 10 of the state Public Service Law, which provides for the review of new or modified electric generating facilities by the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. This comprehensive process enables community involvement by providing local representation on the siting board and funding for locally interested groups and individuals to participate in the process.”
Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler reported at the meeting that the developer is not coming to the Town Planning Board for permission under Town Law, but will instead go before the “siting board.” Information about Hecate and its plans for this project can be viewed at www.shepherdsrunsolar.com/
“The Hecate application poses a huge and complicated challenge” to the town and “likely this will go on for several years,” the supervisor said. The Town Board will be looking at all aspects of this proposal and is “committed to keeping the residents of Copake informed throughout this process and we need to hear what you think. We look forward to many opportunities for residents to express their views and we will no doubt organize special meetings to allow Copake residents to acquire information and make their views known.”
Ms. Mettler said she appointed Deputy Supervisor Richard Wolf to coordinate the town’s response to the Hecate application. He can be contacted at .
She said the board is “committed to protecting the interests of Copake as we go forward.”
During the public forum section of the meeting, Copake Lake resident Lindsay LeBrecht said the solar farm project will “push animals” out of their habitats. Local tourism is up now, she said, but the project “will devastate that whole area. I don’t care what they say. They are taking rural agricultural land and making it industrial.” Expressing her hope that the town will “fight this,” she added, developers are “taking our land. Property values will go into the toilet,” not to mention environmental impacts.
Area resident Paul Parzuchowski said “that’s my backyard. My property value will go down. It’s ridiculous. I’m totally against it.”
Lisa Pelkey, a 28-year resident of Copake Lake, said tearfully, she would hate to see a solar farm do the same thing to the Copake landscape as the Cricket Valley Energy Center, a 1.1 GW natural gas-fired power plant, has done to Dover in Dutchess County.
Bill Newcomb, who resides at the foot of Center Hill, said he will have to look at the solar farm everyday. He said tourism, the environment at property values will all be negatively impacted. He urged the town and environmentally-concerned organizations like Trout Unlimited to “all get together and fight these people. If we lose, we lose, but we should at least let them know they’ve been in a fight.”
In other business, the Town Board:
• Proclaimed Saturday, February 15, Bernice “Bee” Bussett Day in honor of the life-long Copake resident’s 100th birthday. A proclamation, signed by Town Board members was presented to Mrs. Bussett at the meeting
• Heard from Planning Board Chairman Bob Haight that his board will hire an engineer to help the board with its review of a new cell tower project—a 145-foot high monopole with a 5-foot lightning rod on top—at 892 Overlook Road. Mr. Haight said his board will also hire a farm consultant to aid in its site plan review of Salvatore Cascino’s “farm operation.” The applicants will pay for these consultants, not the town
• Heard that Councilman Stosh Gansowski has assisted with arranging the installation of fiber optic lines at the Town Hall through Consolidated Communications. The installation will take place at the end of February and there will be a $2,749 cost savings annually
• Heard from Supervisor Mettler that the Copake Memorial Clock has been repaired and now all four clock faces display the same time. The repair cost was $4,000 and a $2,500 donation from resident Marc Gross helped pay for it.
The Town Board’s next meeting is March 12, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.