COPAKE—The Town of Copake will receive $21,000 to help pay expenses incurred representing the town’s interests in dealing with Hecate Energy’s proposal to build an industrial-sized 60-megawatt solar facility in Craryville, a hamlet in the town’s northwest corner.
A Chicago-based energy company, Hecate’s project is called “Shepherd’s Run.” The project proposal calls for the installation of 200,000 solar panels on 500 acres within a 900-acre project area. The facility will be located near the county Route 7/state Route 23 intersection, primarily south of Route 23, although specifically where the solar panels will be placed has not yet been revealed. Most of that land is now used for farming.
In his monthly update on the solar project at the October 8 Town Board meeting, Copake Deputy Supervisor Richard Wolf reported that at the conclusion of a September 17 conference call hearing on Intervenor Funds, the presiding administrative law judge ruled that Copake would receive the full $21,000.
Hecate has applied for the project under a state Public Service Law Article 10 proceeding. The company seeks approval for its solar facility from the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment instead of the town Planning and Zoning Boards.
Article 10 requires a developer (Hecate) to provide Intervenor Funds to help interested parties (Copake) “defray the considerable expenses incurred as they evaluate a developer’s proposal,” Mr. Wolf explained. In the pre-application phase of the process, the law requires Hecate to provide $350 for each megawatt of capacity it intends to build: 60 megawatts times $350 equals $21,000.
Intervenor Funds will help the town pay for the services of its solar issues attorney and environmental-engineering firms. The funds are available until Hecate files an application for the Shepherd’s Run project with the State Siting Board.
After that, to help defray expenses during the year-long application phase, Article 10 requires Hecate to provide an additional $1,000 per megawatt of capacity, or $60,000, in Intervenor Funds. “If and when Hecate does file an application, we will seek these funds as well,” said Mr. Wolf.
Alex Campbell, Hecate Energy project developer, was present at the October board meeting held via Zoom, but did not speak.
He did, however, send out an October 8 email attempting to “simplify” a Notice of Commencement of Stipulation Process, which Copake residents complained was difficult to understand. Mr. Campbell heard the complaints during the weekly Zoom call he hosts until Covid-19-related restrictions are lifted. “The purpose of this meeting is to provide an hour-long, safe, and open forum where anyone can join to ask questions, listen, provide comments, and meet while we adapt to Covid related life changes,” Mr. Campbell said by email when he introduced the meetings back in September. To join the 10 a.m. Wednesday morning calls go to www.shepherdsrunsolar.com/weeklyzoom/
About the stipulation process notice, Mr. Campbell said that the legal language in the notice is not meant to “confuse or otherwise misguide the Recipient List. Rather, it is a legal document required under the statutory proceedings of the Article 10 permitting process.”
He said the purpose of the notice was to tell people who live within 2,500 feet from the outer boundary of the Shepherd’s Run Project Area, about the Stipulation Process and offer them an opportunity to participate in the Stipulation Process by emailing Hecate’s counsel, Tyler Wolcott, at .
‘If and when Hecate does file an application, we will seek these funds…’
Dep. Supv. Richard Wolf
Town of Copake
Also on the subject of solar energy, the Town Board held a public hearing and subsequently unanimously passed a Local Law to Opt-Out of Real Property Tax Law §487 Exemption.
The law says that the tax exemption made available under state Real Property Tax Law for solar or wind energy systems, farm waste energy systems, micro-hydroelectric energy systems, fuel cell electric generating systems, micro-combined heat and power generating equipment systems, electric energy storage equipment and electric energy storage systems, or fuel-flexible linear generator electric generating systems, “shall not be applicable within the boundaries of the Town of Copake.”
The new law allows Copake to tax all such facilities.
Also, a new group of Columbia County concerned citizens has formed in opposition to the Shepherd’s Run solar installation. The group is called the Sensible Solar for Rural New York coalition.
In an October 11 press release the coalition claims that Hecate’s “planned industrial-scale solar installation will have long-term, devastating effects on our rural community and region, including loss of prime farmland and valuable natural resources such as the Copake Watershed, Taghkanic Creek and protected wetlands; displacement of native and endangered wildlife and birds; degradation of rural viewsheds; decrease in property values; and more. Furthermore, the proposed 500-acre solar installation is in direct conflict with the Town of Copake’s prohibition on large-scale solar energy systems enacted in 2017.”
According to Director of Sensible Solar for New York Darin Johnson, “We believe the magnitude of Hecate Energy’s proposed solar installation will be detrimental to our area and will have a long-term, negative impact on existing waterways and displace native and endangered wildlife and birds—the proposed site of solar installation is in close proximity to Hillsdale’s Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
“In addition, the solar utility-scale installation will remove hundreds of acres of prime farmland from use, which is in direct conflict with Copake and Columbia County’s Farmland Protection Plans,” Mr. Johnson said in the release.
The coalition contends that, “A solar installation of this magnitude necessitates slow, deliberate and thorough impact review and open discourse by our community.”
To learn more about Sensible Solar for Rural New York visit www.sensiblesolarny.org.
The Columbia Paper was not able to reach Mr. Campbell for comment on the coalition’s release by press deadline.
The Copake Town Board will conduct a special virtual meeting to discuss the proposed Shepherd’s Run solar installation, Tuesday, October 28 at 7 p.m. via Zoom video-conference.
The information to access the Zoom video-conference is posted on the Town of Copake website: townofcopake.org/