The Niagara County Legislature will require solar energy companies proposing projects in Niagara County to provide a bond "or other appropriate form of security" to cover the cost of removing and decommissioning solar panels.
Through a resolution adopted by a unanimous vote earlier this week, the legislature declared that as a condition of the county entering into a Payment in Lieu of Taxes Agreement with a solar company, the company must post a bond to cover the cost of eventual clean-up.
Pollution from solar panels is a main point of the resolution, as well as one of the main concerns of the grassroots group Cambria Opposition to Industrial Solar, which is protesting the proposed 900-acre Bear Ridge Solar facility in the Cambria and Pendleton area.
"The average lifespan of a solar panel is about 20 years, but high temperatures can accelerate the aging process for solar cells, and snow dust, and other natural events (tornados and earthquakes) can cause material fatigue on the surface and in the internal electric circuits gradually reducing the panels' power output, requiring early replacement," the resolution says.
The resolution further says that solar panels contain lead, cadmium and other toxic chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel.
Legislator David Godfrey, R-Wilson, who introduced the resolution, said he believes Cypress Creek Renewables, the company proposing the Bear Ridge Solar project, will be taking out some panels before the end of 20 years, and that the nearest landfill is in the state of Alabama.
"We're going to have the toxic hazardous waste introduced to us way in advance of 20 years," Godfrey said.
Kevin Kohlstedt, the project manager for Bear Ridge Solar, said he was aware of the resolution and that he will "continue to work with the community and the Niagara County Legislature to address questions about Bear Ridge Solar."
"The content in the resolution will be studied and addressed in the Article 10 procedure, including the question of cadmium, which has come up several times before this, and will not be used in the panels at Bear Ridge Solar," Kohlstedt said.
The state law governing large-scale energy projects requires a decommissioning bond be given with the project, Kohlstedt added.