COPAKE—Hecate Energy is willing to listen to how a group of experts thinks the Shepherd’s Run Solar Project can be improved.
And the Chicago-based developer of solar and wind facilities and energy storage projects has already made a couple of upgrades.
Hecate proposes to build a solar-powered electric generating facility with 200,000 solar panels on several sites along State Route 23 and County Route 7 in and around the Copake hamlet of Craryville. The site is east of the Taconic Hills School District and north of Copake Lake.
The total project area is 880 acres and the panels will physically occupy 220 acres, which will be fenced in.
The 60 MW photovoltaic (PV) solar facility is ground-mounted with PV panels on galvanized steel tracker racking structures that follow the sun throughout the day and will be capable of supplying 110,000 MWhs.
The panels are low-profile, up to 12-feet-high above grade at the tallest point—about the height of field corn stalks.
The project footprint or the limit of land disturbance is about 255 acres. This includes all temporary and permanent disturbance required to construct the project including access roads, buried collection lines, the substation and fencing.
The amount of acreage proposed within the fenced-in area has shrunk over time from 480 acres in July 2020 to 360 in December 2020 to 250 in April 2021 and now 220 in October 2021.
The industrial-scale project is not permitted under Copake Zoning Law, yet it is moving forward because Hecate has bypassed local law and is seeking site approval from the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) under the state’s new siting process for renewable energy projects, known as 94-c.
‘The working group is preparing a report with recommendations to improve the Shepherd’s Run proposal….’
Deputy Supervisor Richard Wolf
Town of Copake
Hecate representatives last conducted a public open house on the project back in November 2021. The complete open house presentation including information display boards may be accessed at http://www.shepherdsrunsolar.com/open-house/
In his monthly update on the project at the January 13 Copake Town Board meeting, Deputy Town Supervisor Richard Wolf reported that Hecate had made a project presentation to “an expert working group” assembled by Sensible Solar (project opponents), together with Friends of Columbia Solar (project proponents). Other group experts include representatives from Scenic Hudson, Columbia Land Conservancy, two Cornell University teams—from the Ag School and from the Department of City and Regional Planning—and two volunteer landscape architects, according to Mr. Wolf.
“The working group is preparing a report with recommendations to improve the Shepherd’s Run proposal, and will presumably opine on screening, fencing, protecting forested areas and other concerns,” Councilman Wolf said. The proposal calls for the clearing of 40 acres of trees and shrubs.
Hecate had previously filed a “Notice of Intent to File an Application” on or about January 31, 2022, but Copake asked Hecate to delay filing its siting application with ORES until Hecate has received and considered the working group’s report, which was expected sometime in January.
In answer to a February 7 email from The Columbia Paper, Hecate Project Developer Alex Campbell said “Hecate hasn’t filed its application.”
He said Hecate representatives have already “had a call [with the working group] that previewed their suggestions and are planning to meet again tomorrow to receive an actual presentation. I encouraged the working group to submit all recommendations for our pre-application review asap over the past 4-6 months,” Mr. Campbell wrote.
In a phone interview this week, Mr. Wolf said that Hecate’s latest “intent to file” date has been moved to on or about February 18.
Mr. Wolf said, the town maintains hope that Hecate will consider what the working group has to say.
The town recently found some good news in Hecate’s site application, said Mr. Wolf, noting that the developer proposes to “swap out” the seven miles of chain-link fence they were going to install around the project perimeter for something more animal-friendly—like deer fencing that will allow the movement of small animals through it.
He also said Hecate intends to substantially increase the amount of plants it will use for screening.
On a related subject, Mr. Wolf said Copake’s attorneys are now preparing an appeal to a State Supreme Court judge’s decision that found ORES regulations were not flawed.
Copake, as lead petitioner, along with five other upstate, rural towns and seven non-profit avian interest groups and community grass-roots organizations, challenged ORES regulations in court arguing that the agency’s regulations put Copake and the other plaintiffs at risk of being adversely affected by existing and proposed permit applications before ORES.
Once the Shepherd’s Run project application is filed with ORES, the agency has 60 days to review it and determine its completeness and define deficiencies, if any. If all goes smoothly for Hecate they plan to start construction activities in the second quarter of 2023.