State denies Shepherd’s Run 60MW solar project
Farmland vista where the proposed 880-acre, 60 megawatt Shepherd’s Run Solar Farm is planned along Route 23 at the entryway to the rural hamlet of Copake. Opponents say the project, big enough to power the equivalent of 15,000 homes annually, would detract from the scenic farmland community.
Photo by John Coston

State denies Shepherd’s Run 60MW solar project

COPAKE — The state approved the Town of Copake’s motion to dismiss last week, ending Hecate Energy LLC’s bid to build a 60-megawatt solar farm, known as Shepherd’s Run, at the at the intersection of Routes 23 and 7.

The executive director of state Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES), Houtan Moeveni, issued a decision Tuesday, Feb. 6, following a month of legal filings that were triggered after it became known that Hecate had lost control of a parcel of land that had been part of the proposal.

“The Town’s motion to dismiss the application is granted, and the application is denied without prejudice to Hecate’s submission of a new application for a modified project,” Moeveni wrote in his decision.

“The ball’s back in Hecate’s court,” said Richard Wolf, supervisor of the Town of Copake.

Approximately 75 residents attended a town board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8 to hear about the state’s decision. Wolf said many urged the town to stay the course in seeking the best possible solution for renewable energy in Copake.

“This is not over,” he told residents.

Hecate Energy could not be reached for comment.

Last August, ORES had issued a notice of “complete application” and the project was on track until it became apparent that the company had lost access to the 60-acre parcel.

That parcel, initially included in the project, would have hosted up to 20% of the farm’s solar panels, and provide for a “laydown area” and road access to adjacent parcels. The project footprint spans 880 acres with a solar array covering about 220 acres.

The Town of Copake filed with the ORES office seeking dismissal of Hecate’s application based on the new information and claiming that a redesign of the project is required.

Hecate Energy responded in a filing in late January that the company planned to submit a revised application, and would reduce the generating capacity of Shepherd’s Run from 60MW to 42MW as a result of the loss of the 60-acre parcel.

In that filing, Diane Sullivan, a senior vice president of environmental and permitting at Hecate Energy, said that the company planned to submit a revised plan within 60 days. Hecate also argued that Moaveni had leeway to “proceed in ways not addressed by the ORES staff response.” The agency’s staff, citing Executive Law 94-c, disagreed that there was a way to proceed, as Hecate said in its filing “without requiring an unnecessary, time consuming and potentially complex full withdrawal and resubmission of an entirely new application.”

Moeveni’s decision noted the law’s “efficient, equitable, and predictable process for the expeditious review of major renewable energy facilities […] without compromising environmental protection and community participation.

“Departing from that process to address Hecate’s own mistake is unsupportable as a matter of law, and would adversely impact the integrity of the Executive Law 94-c.”

Sensible Solar for Rural New York, a group of citizens opposed to the project, concurred with the town’s motion to dismiss Hecate’s application.

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