Sharon OKs first solar farm; Schoharie gathering info


By Patsy Nicosia and David Avitabile

Sharon's Joint Planning Board approved plans for the town's first commercial solar farm Wednesday after granting the project the needed special use permit.
Construction at the Empie Road site, owned by Westly and Joyce Hayes and across Route 20 from the former Belvedere, is expected to begin in the spring and will take about five months, said One Energy Renewables rep Rob Collier.
The Birdseye Solar project's footprint will take up less than a quarter of the site's 70 acres-about 15 acres-with less than an acre of actual ground disturbed by 40 8-10-foot high solar panels.
Construction will require the building of an access road off from Empie Road; construction hours will be 7am-7pm, Monday-Saturday.
There will be no outdoor lighting and the site will be fenced and once the project is built, noise levels are expected to be "ambient."
Mary Merritt, who owns the former Belvedere, was the only one at Wednesday's public hearing on the project.
Ms. Merritt questioned how much of the farm she'd be able to see from her home, but said she wasn't especially worried by it.
Ms. Merritt also asked if she or other neighbors would see any drop in their electric rates, but because any power generated by the project will be sold into the grid, the answer is no.
"Never hurts to ask," Ms. Merritt said.
This is the town's first commercial solar project since it wrote its solar law, which requires developers to set aside money for decommissioning the project once it's outlived its usefulness.
A PILOT for the project is still being negotiated.

Meanwhile, in Schoharie, town officials are gathering their own first-hand information on solar farms.
According to Supervisor Chris Tague, Bill Jordan, who built the solar farm at Schoharie Valley Farms, will be attending the town's November 9 board meeting.
Members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are also expected to attend that meeting.
On October 12, board members and the public briefly debated the aesthetics of the solar panels near the farm with differing opinions.
The town's current zoning does not allow solar farms. Private ones are allowed, with approval.
There had been a proposal more than a year ago for a large solar farm on Route 7 bordering the towns of Esperance and Schoharie. Some board members at that time questioned the appropriateness solar farms in the town.
Interest continues, Mr. Tague said.
Several residents have said the solar farms should be allowed in town zoning, Mr. Tague added.