Pine Plains OKs 42-acre solar farm
Carson Power’s rendering of the controversial solar farm (in white) that was just approved by the Pine Plains Town Planning Board for construction at 454 Bean River Road. Composite image by The Millerton news

Pine Plains OKs 42-acre solar farm

PINE PLAINS — The Pine Plains Planning Board unanimously approved Carson Power’s plan to build a Tier 3 solar farm at 454 Bean River Road in Pulvers Corners at a special meeting  Tuesday, Nov. 28.

The decision clears the way for the construction of a 42-acre solar farm on a 172-acre property: the approval of the special use permit and site application will allow for Carol and Lucie Giardino to sell their land to SolaREIT LLC, which will then lease it to Carson Power.

The decision paves the way for the clearcutting of 22 acres of forest and the beginning of construction. Under the terms of the agreement, the property not being used for solar panels, which will largely screen the panels from view,  is slated for conservation and continued farming.  

The 24,000 solar panels planned should generate some 18 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or enough to  power roughly 1,500 homes. Residents in the area will have the option to subscribe  to power from the farm, receiving a credit on electric bills.

The decision came down after a year of intense debate and regulatory review. 

Carson Power first submitted their application to the Town last November.

In December 2022, the  board passed a law that allowed for Tier 3 solar arrays such as Carson’s to be sited in rural areas of Pine Plains (Tier 3 describes large-scale solar projects that produce energy for off-site use). That law is now under review.

Last January,  Andrew Gordon presented the plan to the board and a public of some 60 residents at a special meeting.

Town residents, particularly close neighbors of the project, were largely aligned against it. They cited concerns about traffic; noise, light and other pollution (though common concerns about solar farms, they are not evidence-based); unsightliness; and environmental impact, particularly on endangered species.

Homeowners also expressed concerns that the field would devalue their property.

In the following months, the planning board determined that the farm would have no significant negative environmental impact, a decision formalized Aug. 9, with a negative State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) determination.

In meetings that have taken place over the course of the year, Carson Power has agreed to make changes and amendments to prioritize the protection of wildlife, including endangered species; preservation of the land not dedicated for solar panels; protection against erosion during construction; safe decommissioning; and to ensure that the solar panels remain nearly invisible from roads, farms and homes. 

The town reserved the right to send an engineer or the building inspector to ensure that all the stipulations are being followed. 

Noting that the life cycle of a solar farm is about 25-40 years, Gordon said that after it was decommissioned, the land would be put into a permanent conservation easement.

Among the 19 stipulations Carson Power agreed to was a ban on herbicide use, and the planting of pollinator-friendly native plants to attract pollinators and monarch butterflies.

The town also reserved the right to permit a beekeeper to also inhabit the property.

Carson Power plans to partner with nonprofit conservation organization Scenic Hudson to permanently protect the 70 acres set aside to remain forested.

Further considerations, all of which were studied and researched, were access to and from the site for emergency vehicles and traffic congestion possibilities.

The Zoning Board of Appeals ruled Aug. 28 that the fences surrounding the solar plant could be 7 feet high, the national standard for solar fencing, rather than the town’s usual allowance of 6 feet.

Construction, estimated to take six to eight month, will take place on weekdays and Saturdays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. “Noisy” construction will only take place on weekdays.

The project is part of New York state’s plan for 70% of its power to come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

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