BATAVIA, N.Y. (WROC) — The rolling hills and endless space in the Town of Batavia are capturing the attention of many solar companies — so much so, the town is overwhelmed.
According to a state spokesperson, 5 commercial-scale projects (two are community solar) have been completed in Batavia, Genesee County. 8 additional projects are in the pipeline for Genesee County with 4 of those located in Batavia.
In addition, there are 4 proposed large-scale solar projects totaling 930 megawatts under development in Genesee County, all under contract with NYSERDA. Multiple regions across upstate New York have seen increased interest in large-scale solar development similar to Genesee County, primarily due to the access of existing electric infrastructure in the regions, according to the spokesperson.
They’re currently in the middle of a 180-day moratorium to figure out an updated solar code that fits the town’s needs.
Daniel Lang with the town says there’s a lot to consider when working with solar companies: how neighbors nearby feel, height and amount of trees in the area, overall geography of a proposed site and zoning concerns.
“We discussed hiring consultants to assist us in finding the best way to move forward with a solar project…we want to make sure we are doing it in accordance with comprehensive plan and keeping landowner and farmer right,” said Lang.
Nancy Brach is a resident who lives close-by to one proposed solar energy site. She has a few concerns for solar energy projects popping up in plain site. One concern being the look of the solar panels. Another, she thinks the state is being too ambitious in their goals: Gov. Cuomo has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% from 1990 levels by 2050.
“Think about that how realistic that is,” she said. Brach says she’s also concerned the look of the panels will deter people from passing through the town, so as to avoid them. Thus, affecting businesses in the area.
As a result she’s been a regular voice in town board meetings – in which Lang says – participation from residents is key moving forward for how the town will work with companies. Meetings discuss the cost of working on solar projects, choosing best locations and zoning regulations.
So far the town has developed a tier-based approach for solar companies looking to apply. Tier 1 being, the most encouraged spot for companies to develop. Tier 2 and 3 – not so much encouragement. The town takes into consideration the feelings of neighbors and farmers in sorting out these zoning tiers.
“The people that live in the area know it best, know what’s right for it,” said Brach.
Some people like Russ Romano see the moratorium as a road-block for business. Romano is a realtor with Howard Hanna, representing a Batavia landowner who is currently in due diligence with a prospective solar company. Instead of a moratorium putting everything on pause, Romano would like to speed up the process.
“This is a fast moving situation across New York State, green renewable energy is very much on minds of many, including the governor…to get more clean energy throughout New York State which will create jobs,” he said.
Lang says – the temporary moratorium is a matter of being prepared for the increase in demand. But until Batavia catches up, these rolling hills will capture attention, but not the sun.
“We didn’t see the high volume, of solar all coming at once that’s what caught us,” he said.
In Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State this year, he revealed a $26 billion dollar private-public initiative involving wind and solar energy projects throughout the state – calling it the largest green energy project throughout the state.