Developers of Schoharie’s Bliss Road solar project have cut its size by a third and shifted the access road to the south, moves intended to address concerns over visibility and geology.
But opponents—and they’re still opponents—were surprised to learn Wednesday that Borrego Solar is just developing the project for Len and Meg Berdan and will be putting in on the market if it’s built.
“I can still see it,” said Julie Langan after looking at the revised photos; neighbor Marion Jaqueway said she’s still concerned about the removal of 25 acres of trees and the resulting runoff.
“Is anybody willing to sign a paper protecting us and the other homeowners?” Ms. Jaqueway asked Borrego engineer and rep David Albrecht.
Not likely, Mr. Albrecht said, and no more so than if the project was a residential subdivision; under the Town of Schoharie’s year-old solar law it’s allowed with a special use permit and subject to site plan review.
“The leaseholder would be the people to talk to [if there’s a problem],” he said.
That that wouldn’t be Borrego took most of the crowd by surprise.
“I feel like we’ve just been playing catch-up,” Ms. Jaqueway said.
But there’s no subterfuge, Mr. Albrecht said.
He said he made it clear at the first meeting he attended that Borrego would be the general contractor for the Berdan project, handling the lease, design, development and—hopefully—maintenance of it for someone else.
“We’ve never owned [a solar project] in 40 years,” he said.
That dismayed Ms. Jaqueway.
“Tonight was the first night we’ve heard that you didn’t own this,” Ms. Jaqueway said. “We thought you’d be with us for 20 years…”
The public hearing on the off-Route 30 proposal, first proposed last spring, has remained open since the fall.
“We’ve sort of taken a step back,” Mr. Albrecht told a crowd of about 35 neighbors and residents Wednesday, eliminating the two-megawatt piece of the project while keeping the five-megawatt piece “in the woods.”
“This won’t make it invisible, but it will make it less visible,” Mr. Albrecht said.
Reducing the size of the project will also let Borrego move the panels out of the karst over concerns that the project would change the way water flows on the 30-acre site.
The changes will also reduce the number of poles from nine to six and will eliminate the need for the berm that would have blocked the two-megawatt piece from view.
Mr. Albrecht said he expects to submit the updated plans, an analysis of how the project would fit with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and answers to questions on where the panels would be accepted when the project is eventually decommissioned to the town by the beginning of next week.
The public hearing remains open.