Major solar farm plan heats up

COPAKE—Pandemic or not the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment continues to move forward on projects like the 60-megawatt solar facility proposed in Craryville.

In his May 14 update on the Hecate Energy project called “Shepherd’s Run Solar,” Copake Deputy Supervisor/Councilman Richard Wolf said the project is proceeding under the Article 10 law, “which allows developers to largely circumvent local zoning laws and approval processes, and to get state approval instead.”

Mr. Wolf, the town’s project liaison, delivered his monthly update at the May Town Board meeting held via video conference.

Hecate Energy Project Developer Alex Campbell told The Columbia Paper in a recent phone interview that the Shepherd’s Run solar project is not proceeding under the newly-enacted Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Benefit Act but rather under Article 10 of the state Public Service Law, which will allow for two local representatives to participate on the seven-member siting board.

Hecate doesn’t do projects that don’t include local input… we encourage and look for local input… it’s just a good way to do business,” Mr. Campbell said.

Explaining the process by which the two local representatives are chosen, he said both Copake Supervisor Jeanne Mettler and Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell will submit four nominees apiece to be considered for the two local representative spots on the seven-member siting board. The other five spots are held by permanent siting board members, Mr. Campbell said.

The industrial-scale Hecate project will involve the placement of 200,000 solar panels on 500 acres within a 900-acre project area near the intersection of state Route 23 and County Route 7, with most of the area located south of Route 23.

The project footprint is 50 times the size allowable under Copake’s Solar Law.

In his May update, Councilman Wolf said there also may be a series of 53-foot-long shipping containers housing an energy storage system, comprised of lithium-ion battery cells enclosed in modules, stacked in racks. “If Hecate includes these in its final plan, they would be fixed onto concrete foundation pads, situated directly east of the existing NYSEG Craryville substation along Route 23,” the councilman said.

‘Hecate doesn’t do projects that don’t include local input.’

Alex Campbell

Hecate Energy Project Developer

So far Hecate, a Chicago-based energy company, has filed the required Public Involvement Program, which Mr. Wolf said, “broadly outlines Hecate’s proposal, but is light on details. At the end of June, it is likely to file a Preliminary Scoping Statement (PSS), which would likely provide more information….

Within 15 days of Hecate filing a PSS, Copake and the County must submit nominations for the two ad hoc seats on the seven-person Siting Board that will consider Hecate’s application,” Mr. Wolf said.

On the legislative front, State Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd) is co-sponsoring a bill to require a municipality to approve by referendum the siting of any large-scale renewable energy facility within its borders. A companion bill recently has been filed in the Assembly, and the town has reached out to Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th), to learn what involvement she might have on the Assembly side, said Councilman Wolf.

He added that the legislative assistant to state Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd) told him he does not think that the Senate bill will make it out of committee this session, due to reductions in the legislative agenda caused by the pandemic.

The town also continues to explore options with its solar matters attorney, Benjamin Wisniewski, a partner in the Loughlin Group law firm, hired by the Town Board in April, to represent Copake as it responds to the Shepherd’s Run project proposal. “Mr. Wisniewski has considerable experience protecting the interests of municipalities who confront the prospect of ‘hosting’ an industrial-size renewable energy facility,” Mr. Wolf said.

Craryville resident Paul Parzuchowski told the board at the May meeting, the project is “going to be a mess and it’s in my backyard.” He wanted to know if anyone has ever been successful at “pushing back” against such a large-scale project?

Mr. Wolf told him there are several such cases pending on appeal and he will follow them to “see how it goes.”

The town board meets next June 11, 7 p.m. via Zoom video conference. Go to the town’s website ( to get information about how to join the meeting.

To contact Diane Valden email

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