GREAT VALLEY — As solar companies continue to approach the town of Great Valley about the possibility of installing commercial farms in the area, the town board is doing everything it can to get a plan in place first.
During its regular meeting Monday, the Great Valley Town Board held a public hearing on passing a moratorium to keep companies at bay until the town has the legal language in place to properly allow farms to be built, if at all.
Although no one from any solar companies was in attendance for the hearing, town officials discussed at length the reasoning for needing something in place to guide the town’s actions if a large farm were to be built in the town.
“What NYSERDA encourages us to say is we still have a law that prohibits large scale solar farms,” said town attorney Peter Sorgi. “However, if the state wants to preempt our local law, which they have the right to do, this is where we want to see it go, or more appropriately, where we don’t want to see it go.”
A major factor in the possibility of allowing large solar farms in the town is the locations, which the town board wants to make sure is not on land for agricultural or building development use.
“If a proposal comes in and they want to put it here, we say we already considered this and this is where we want it to go and why,” Sorgi said.
Town Supervisor Dan Brown said the town has been approached by four or five different companies in as many months. He said the northern end of the town near the substation has been getting a lot of pressure as an ideal spot to install a farm.
“Another issue is capacity. It can only take so much,” said Chris Schena town planning and zoning board chair. “If we agree to it and dump everything in the north end of town, that doesn’t mean it has the capacity.”
The town’s original local law for solar farms was passed about 13 years ago when the future of solar energy was first being talked about, Brown said. That law only allowed individual residential use, not commercial farms. But now, they have to address the commercial.
“Ninety-nine percent of these structures are recyclable. When we asked about the 1 percent, that’s the bad stuff inside the cells that goes to the landfills. That’s a problem,” Brown said. “Another item that was brought up is who pays for the decommission of these things in 15 or 20 years when they become obsolete, or possibly sooner as technology advances.”
Sorgi said any local law that is passed would include all the legal language to make sure any costs for cleanup would be paid by the company, as well as having a PILOT program in place.
The town will continue to discuss and formulate the local law in the coming months.
(Contact Salamanca Press editor Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org)