Mayfield farm rides solar wave to survive

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MAYFIELD — A swath of the Close family’s farm was bought through eminent domain and submerged in what is now a panoramic reservoir nearly a century ago.

As adversity hits again, patriarch John Close believes it’s high time to adapt or fail. 

And that’s why he’s embraced solar development.  

Quebec-based Boralex has proposed to establish a 40-megawatt solar array on the 144-year-old Mayfield farm. The move is intended to bolster the fiscally-stressed 800-acre dairy operation while Close and his nephew aim to expand beef and produce production.

“It’s become more and more obvious as the days go by or years go by that things are changing,” Close said.

Should Boralex receive the green light from the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting, an agency responsible for reviewing large-scale solar projects, the array would become the largest of its sort in the Adirondack Park.

The project timeline could vary between two to three years. Boralex expects to submit an application to ORES within the second quarter of this year. 

The family patriarch rejected arrangements from 11 other solar developers over the last 10 years. Some companies offered vague terms, spared no time in asking for contractual approval or planned to build an array and sell it. Boralex has agreed to maintain the solar infrastructure and disband from the property in 30 years.

One trade off considered by Close after partnering with Boralex: public opinion. A small portion of the hillside panels will be within view from the lake.

“We knew that in the beginning, it would be very controversial and originally we were going to start with a smaller one, but with things being what they are, we ended up going with the bigger one like they had in the proposal,” Close said.

Solar projects have been unpopular in a spate of rural communities as residents fear developers taking away farmland and undeveloped land, tainting rural scenery, taking tax breaks and overpowering local rule. 

ORES can overrule municipal and county solar regulatory requirements if the agency determines that a solar project fits the needs of objectives in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019, which requires 70% electricity statewide to come from renewable sources by 2030.

Last year, nine towns in Schoharie County slapped a temporary restraining order against the state over a policy which lowers local property tax assessment rates on solar and wind projects as far as 85%. A number of municipalities in the greater Albany metro area have set up strict regulations and moratoriums amid concerns of out-of-area developers buying up swaths of the countryside in the solar gold rush. 

Boralex held an open house last month in hopes of mending community relations. ORES regulations require solar developers to hold a public meeting within 60 days of submitting an application and event notice, 14 to 30 days in advance. 

“We very often make changes to our projects and layout due to that feedback,” said company spokesperson Zachary Hutchins. 

Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.



By Tyler A. McNeil

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