Schoharie Village backs idea of solar; to take residents' temperature


By Patsy Nicosia

For the most part in favor of a proposal to build a seven-megawatt solar project just outside the Village of Schoharie, Mayor Larry Caza and trustees stopped short of agreeing to write a letter supporting it.
Instead, they’ll spend the next month “taking the temperature” of village residents over Borrego Solar’s plans at 117 Bliss Road, off Route 30 in the Town of Schoharie—a project some of their town neighbors argue will ruin their view and hurt their businesses.
Len Berdan gave Mayor Caza and trustees an overview of the project at their meeting last Tuesday.
Mr. Berdan said he and his wife, Meg, own more than 200 acres at the edge of the village and after being approached by several solar companies interested in leasing their land, decided to go with Borrego, who he said has been good to work with, especially in modifying their design and plans.
Borrego plans to lease about 40 acres from them for a two-megawatt and a five-megawatt solar array, Mr. Berdan said.
Under a law enacted by the Town of Schoharie this year, solar arrays are allowed with a special use permit requiring “very rigid design standards” and site plan review—a law Mr. Berdan credited to former Supervisor Chris Tague, who he called “very forward thinking” regarding solar.
Borrego would lease their land for 20 years, Mr. Berdan said, handling everything: developing the project, design work, selling the electricity it generates and decommissioning it after 20 years—though there’s a provision for a five-year renewal depending on what’s going on in the industry.
Something that makes this project unique, Mr. Berdan said, is that it’s a community solar project; people who can’t afford to put up their own solar panels “can buy into environmentally-sourced electricity.”
Typcially, there’s a 10 percent savings to consumers and municipalities with community solar, he said.
The project would also require a “substantial” PILOT—payment in lieu of taxes—for the town, Schoharie County, and Schoharie Central School—though the terms of that have yet to be negotiated.
The Town of Schoharie has taken lead status in environmental review of the proposal, a process expected to begin in September. (See related story).
Mayor Caza was enthusiastic about seeing more solar in Schoharie.
In 2010, he said, the village won a grant to put a 15.4-kilowatt solar array on the roof of the water treatment plant with an estimated $1,695 savings in ’10 alone.
“As long ago as 2010, the village was using solar,” he said. “I value what you [the Berdans] are doing. It’s exponential.”
Mr. Berdan asked the village for a letter of support for the project that he could pass on to the town, but after a suggestion from Trustees Jeff Palmer and Mark Wood that they take a little more time, the board agreed to reach out to residents first.
“I think it’s [solar] incumbent upon us…This gets us transitioning away from fossil fuels,” Trustee Peter Johnson said.
“Like Sal [Trustee Sal Medak, who also said he supports solar development], I’m very supportive of solar. But I think we should take the temperature of more of the village first” before writing Mr. Berdan’s letter of support.