Community solar project west of Middlesex gets approval from County Planning Board

At the last meeting of the Yates County Planning Board, Thursday, April 27, engineer  Marc Maser (authorized representative for SUN 8 PDC LLC, a subsidiary of Distributed Sun LLC and for property owner Jeanette L. Daum, 4450 Town Line Road, Middlesex) requested a Subdivision, a Site Plan Review, and an Area Variance to separate an existing lot into two parcels in order to construct two community solar projects to inter-connect with the NYSEG local distribution grid.

According to their application, the two SUN 8 projects, one of 2 megawatts and the other 1.7 mw, will be one of several constructed in the region in an agreement with Cornell University to provide electricity to approximately 3,000 homes, remotely metered, at a savings of 10 percent over standard NYSEG rates. The Middlesex project will supply about 400 homes. Other project sites are in Geneva, Ledyard, Hartford, and at Ithaca Airport. Distributed Sun operates in 13 states, already generating over 100 mw of electricity.

In their letter of intent, Distributed Sun states, “These facilities are beneficial to the region by saving retail electric customers money, reducing electricity produced by carbon-based fuel, creating an economic multiplier effect based on the new investment in the community, and creating local construction jobs.”

According to Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center (FLEDC), the project investment is projected to be $6.5 million, and provide 70 construction jobs during the 6-month schedule. The company has applied for 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with FLEDC, to pay $4,860 per mw, equaling $17,982 the first year, and increasing 2 percent per year. A public hearing will be scheduled by FLEDC before voting on the PILOT.

The proposed project will see the installation of 18.7 acres of solar panels, arranged in an array facing south, on a total land area of 37.48 acres for both parcels. Approximately 18 acres of trees will be cleared for the solar array installation in order to provide direct sunlight to the panel surfaces. The stumps will be removed to allow for the installation of the panel racking system which will be supported by a driven or screw pile system. The trees that are cleared will be chipped on-site , and the wood chips will be re-used on-site as a mulch cover. No grading is anticipated, and the existing stormwater drainage pattern will not be altered significantly. The site will be surrounded by an 8 ft. tall chain link fence for security.

According to plans, the only lot coverage for the project includes the 12 ft. wide gravel access road, vehicle turnarounds, and equipment areas. The panels are installed several feet above the ground, and vegetation will cover the ground under the panels. Based on this, the total coverage on the property, after development, is just 1.15 acres; less than the 20 percent maximum allowed by the town’s Zoning Law. 

Further action in Middlesex involves:

• Planning Board Public Comment - May 3

• Zoning Board of Appeals Review - May 4

• Planning Board Approval Meeting - TBD