Solar projects set for Oppenheim

Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty discusses solar regulations with the Fulton County Planning Board Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Jason Subik)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Planning Board reviewed plans to construct two solar farm projects in the town of Oppenheim and a set of proposed solar farm regulations at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The proposed solar farm projects would both be built by Borrego Solar at 519 County Highway 151. The proposed projects would subdivide the 60.5 acre property into three slots, two of them containing different kinds of solar panels generating electricity for two different users.

According to the proposal reviewed by the board, the northern parcel of the property would have 11,025 solar panels generating approximately 1.386 megawatts of electricity and the southern parcel would have 8,010 modules and generate 1.98 megawatts of power.

“The third parcel is actually the home and the barn that is out there now. One system is going to support SUNY Poly and [General Electric] that are among the entities that are buying the [solar power] credits. The other one is what they call a community source,” Fulton County Senior Planner Sean Geraghty told the board.

He said the county has had past experience with the Massachusetts-based company.

“They are developing the [solar farm] up on Elmwood Avenue up on the old landfill. Borrego just received approval for one north of the city of Gloversville, on West State Street extension, on an old farm,” he said.

The board voted unanimously that the proposed farms did not have any regional impact, which allows the town of Oppenheim to have final jurisdiction over the project.

The town of Oppenheim town board proposed a local law to create solar farm regulations for giving solar farm permits. Currently the town lacks those regulations. The regulations are modeled after the regulations in the town of Johnstown.

In the proposal the Fulton County Planning Board reviewed, Oppenheim officials stated the town has been approached by several solar companies about development and feel now is the time to establish the regulations.

“They don’t have any zoning up [in Oppenheim], so they are proposing a local law for a process to build a solar farm, so then you’d have to go through a site plan review process at least,” Geraghty said.

Several members of the planning board asked Geraghty how many Fulton County towns now have solar farm regulations. He said so far only Johnstown, Broadalbin and now Oppenheim would be the third to develop those regulations, but the towns of Perth and Mayfield are close to establishing similar regulations.

Geraghty said there is no authority for establishing county-wide regulations for solar projects. He said it’s good the towns are developing similar regulations.

“We’re finding in some of our discussions with the local code guys that even some of the developers are looking at communities that have a clear set of guidelines in place,” Geraghty said. “If there is no review authority at the local level, then the [State Environmental Quality Review] process can’t be orchestrated at the local level, it has to be done at the state level and that throws all kinds of increases into the timetable.”

The Fulton County Planning Board voted to allow the Oppenheim law without any interference from the county.

By Patricia Older

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