The Niagara County Legislature has set a public hearing for next month on a proposed new local law that would set new rules on the recycling of solar panels.
The local law, sponsored by Legislator David Godfrey (R-Burt), received unanimous backing from his fellow legislators.
The new local law would require that solar panel manufacturers finance the recovery and recycling of any of their solar panels installed in Niagara County when a panel needs to be replaced.
“We are doing everything we can to battle against Governor Cuomo’s efforts to strip away local decision-making on where these green energy projects can be located in Niagara County,” Godfrey said. “But we need to be prepared to protect our community from becoming a depository for spent solar panels that contain hazardous waste, even for solar projects that enjoy the support from local residents.”
In a statement, released before the legislature's Tuesday night meeting, Godfrey said he has been working with county’s environmental coordinator on identifying "the best approach to implement the recovery and recycling law."
In response to a Gazette request for a copy of the proposed new local law, a county spokesperson said it was "still being researched and drafted." The spokesman said the text of the proposed local law would be made available to the public in advance of the hearing.
Godfrey's statement suggested that the new local law might be modeled on legislation adopted by the state of Washington. The Burt lawmaker said similar legislation had been introduced in New York but had failed to find support in the state legislature.
In addition to the recovery and recycling of solar panels, Godfrey also raised concerns about the possibility the panels could end up in landfills in Niagara County.
“The lack of action by New York state is the reason we are being proactive in passing a local law for Niagara County,” Godfrey said. “We have legacies from the nuclear and chemical industries that were celebrated as the future technologies at the time but the waste from those technologies ultimately did major harm to our community. We will not make a similar mistake with spent solar panels.”
Godfrey said he is concerned that even though solar panels can be expected to last 25 years, some panels will need to be replaced well before that because of malfunctions or damage.
“There are solar projects being proposed all across Niagara County with zero plan for recycling and this law will stop that,” Godfrey said. “We will make every solar developer and manufacturer acknowledge this financial responsibility on their end and if that makes them decide not to come here, well we’re ok with that too.”