GASPORT — A meeting is being held today to answer community members' questions about a proposed solar project that would cover 1,500 acres in the town of Hartland.
The meeting at the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company hall, 8945 Ridge Road, is open-house style and attendees will be able to ask questions any time between 4 and 8 p.m.
EDF Renewables is proposing Ridge View Solar Energy Center, a 350 megawatt solar project, that would be raised on 1,500 acres in Hartland and 500 acres in Newfane.
Over the past few months, opposition to the project has become organized, with two opponents leading write-in campaigns for Hartland town supervisor and a town board seat. Incumbent Supervisor Ross Annable ended up winning re-election but 407 write-in votes for supervisor were cast, and 364 write-in votes were cast in the board race.
Members of the group known as Protect Our Rural Communities told the Union-Sun & Journal previously that some of their concerns about Ridge View Solar include damage to farmland and the pollution that solar panels might cause.
EDF Project Developer Kevin Campbell said he understands the concerns
"Change can be something that people don't want to see. The main thing here is that we do have a lot of support in the community, but we want to hear all views. And we want to have good conversations about the project because the more feedback, the more input we get, the better the project can be for the whole community," Campbell said.
"It's a little disheartening to see the way that people are opposing the project," he added. "We'd rather come together to the table and listen to their concerns and maybe try to find some common ground and talk about the issues together."
Campbell noted the project is in a very early stage presently; the earliest possible construction date is 2023, he said.
Observing that Ridge View Solar could be important to the community in terms of the benefits to landowners and host towns, Campbell assured that the solar panels would not be hazardous.
"These solar panels are safe and non toxic. They are made of common materials like glass, silicone, copper, aluminum encapsulated in a plastic," he said.
Campbell also pointed out that the company is working to make sure topsoil is not lost through eventual decommissioning of the project.
"This project is really a reversible use of the land; it can go back into farming after the project is decommissioned," he said, adding that EDF has pledged to provide a decommissioning bond to a bank to ensure funding is available for facility takedown.
In response to concerns raised about a 1,000-foot setback for hunting around Ridge View, Campbell said there is no setback requirement.
"Provided they have permission from the landowners, folks can hunt right to the fence of the facility," he said.
Experts recruited to staff the open-house style meeting include: Darrel Lopez, senior manager of EDF solar operations for North America; Chris Ollson, a senior environmental health scientist at Ollson Environmental Health Management; and Sudipta Lahiri, a senior consultant at DNV GL who has 12 years of global experience with battery energy storage systems and micro grids.