KINDERHOOK—The Town Board talked about two solar energy issues at their regular board meeting on April 4. First they discussed the Community Solar program the board agreed to join in February, using the two companies approved by the county to offer solar energy credits for residents. The board also heard from a resident with concerns about the proposed updates to the town’s solar law.
Cara Humphrey, vice president of Strategic Sales at Neighborhood Sun, spoke to the board about her company’s Community Solar program at the Monday night meeting. Neighborhood Sun merged with Astral Power, one of the two companies approved by the county for a Community Solar campaign.
The Columbia County Community Solar campaign, approved by the County Board of Supervisors on February 9, is “to evaluate local providers, to recommend one or more to residents, and to assist in the public education and outreach of the campaign,” according to the county website. The site goes on to say that “Community Solar allows both residential and commercial customers to subscribe to an offsite solar project under NYSERDA’s (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) Clean Energy Communities program.” Community Solar is for residents and businesses that can’t or don’t want to install panels on their respective properties, according to NYSERDA.
Participants in community solar projects get credits toward their electricity bill by subscribing. Community solar installations must be built within the same electricity service areas, as determined by utilities and transmission operators, according to information from the state. At the Kinderhook Board meeting, Councilwoman Debbie Johnson asked about needing to have solar farms in the town for the program. Ms. Humphrey said the solar farms, which she said are on about 25 to 40 acres, just need to be in the National Grid territory, not in the county or town.
Ms. Humphrey pointed out that this was “not a scam” and that it was an opt-in program that could be canceled at any time. Residents will see the solar credits on their regular utility bill. Information from her company, handed out at the meeting, says that every person who subscribes through the Astral Power website (www.astralpower.com/solarize-columbia-county-ny/) will receive a $100 sign-on bonus from Neighborhood Sun. “We are also donating $100 to the municipality,” the information says.
Ms. Humphrey also said that municipalities could receive a state grant for $5,000 if 10 residents sign-up for the program. But she said there were only 12 grants left and that other municipalities in the county had piggybacked on the county Community Solar campaign.
To sign up for the program, there is a link on the county website at https://sites.google.com/columbiacountyny.com/emc/communitysolar
The other company approved in the resolution by the county Board of Supervisors was Nexamp but on the county website the information for that company says, “coming soon.”
Ms. Humphrey said that her company, Neighborhood Sun, would keep track of how many people had signed up from the town for the grant.
Also at the meeting, resident Karyn Watt voiced concerns about the town’s proposed changes to the solar panel laws. In the spring of 2021, the board proposed changes to the town’s law on solar panel equipment, which were passed in 2017, that would put regulations on solar farms. After many people came out with concerns about the changes at a public hearing, the Town Board asked a committee to review the law.
At the Town Board meeting in February, Councilman Phil Bickerton said the town’s draft solar law will be presented to the board soon. The minutes from that meeting say the proposed law was being reviewed by the Town Planning Board and the County Planning Board.
Ms. Watt said, at the April 4 meeting, that she has sat through Planning Board meetings on the proposed law, which has not been brought to a public hearing yet, and was concerned about the impact on prime farmland in the rural parts of the town. “When solar companies choose prime farmland and not non-viable or retired agricultural locations this creates concerns,” she said to the board, and asked that they “carefully evaluate the location of these commercial facilities.”
“Short term benefits to land owners and residents may make installation appealing but please keep in mind the short and long term environmental impact of such facilities,” she said in her comments. She asked the board to review that part of the proposed law.
Also at the meeting:
• The board honored the Ichabod Crane High School Boys Varsity Basketball Team for “capturing the NYSPHSAA Basketball Class B Championship” on March 20. The board named the members of the team and their coaches at the meeting, giving them copies of the resolution
• The board passed a resolution supporting the passing of the NY-NJ Watershed Protection Act
• Curbside brush pick up in the town will run from April 11 to June 6 on Mondays
• The board passed a motion supporting the Niverville Fire Company taking out an over $670,000 bond for a new fire truck after holding a public hearing with no comment. The town has no financial responsibility for the new truck.
The next board meeting will be Monday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email