Property owner addresses proposed solar project

This is the proposed site of a 45-acre solar farm in the Town of Lockport by Renewable Properties. The blue areas indicate where solar arrays will go. The red areas indicate trees. (Map courtesy Town of Lockport).

As the Wednesday public hearing for a six-month moratorium on all solar projects looms in the Town of Lockport, Brian Madigan, project manager for Renewable Properties, said he was struck by the unfairness of the situation for the Slayton Settlement Road project which was projected to be built on a dairy farm with the permission of its owner, Karl Kowalski.

According to Madigan, the same people on the Lockport Town Board who voted unanimously for the “Adding Solar Energy Systems Article to the Code of the Town of Lockport” in June of 2016 were now considering putting the brakes on a project that had been vetted by his company to make sure it was compliant with the law, leading to an investment of $1.75 million into the project over the past two years.

Lockport Supervisor Mark Crocker explained that the reasons for the moratorium were not to derail the Renewable Properties project, and if the moratorium were to pass, after a six-month pause on solar projects, the Town of Lockport the planning board would pick up the project again and continue with the work.

“The town board is considering the moratorium to step back and take a look at what the state is doing, take a look at PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) and host community agreements,” Crocker said. “It just happened so fast that the town board is going to have a public hearing to consider having this six month moratorium. It is not – and I underline not – this board’s intention to derail this project. It’s to take a step back and look at everything involved.”

For Madigan, however, a six-month pause will severely affect his project.

“We plan to start construction this summer,” Madigan said. “So, then ... our operation date would be Q1 (January, February, March) of 2022.”

Madigan asserted that Renewable Properties had kicked off the New York Land Campaign in 2019 and mailed letters to anyone with qualifiable land. By March of 2020, the early stages of environmental investigation had begun and an interconnection application was submitted to New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) – both of which were completed in April and May of 2020.

By June of 2020, Madigan said, Renewable Properties had begun conversations with the town building and zoning office in Lockport, and from that time had only heard that the project would pass if it followed the rules set in the 2016 solar law.

“We wouldn’t have made any of this investment had Lockport not adopted a solar ordinance,” he said.

In terms of cost to the company, almost $1.5 million had been spent conducting an initial impact study to estimate costs to upgrade the existing grid, transformers and other infrastructure affected by the increase in electrical production, and then making those upgrades. 

Other costs included with the $1.75 million estimate were environmental and engineering consulting that were needed for the application which was completed in December of 2020.

“Renewable Properties has worked diligently to provide the planning board with everything they were requesting and the town board, because of the interest from the public, we decided it’d be in the town’s best interest for us to take a look at our solar laws even though they’re only five-years old to see if they need to be updated,” Crocker said.

Crocker also noted that he had asked Madigan what kind of affect the moratorium would have on the project, to which Madigan said some incentives funding might expire. Crocker said he assumed that the construction would begin in 2022, considering that it was already mid-summer this year.

Madigan said he would be speaking at the public hearing.

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