By Nicole Geddes
Brookhaven Town is all for going green — but not at the expense of green.
The town board held a public hearing to discuss a resolution that would amend its solar code during a meeting Sept. 29 and would make land clearing for solar energy production illegal. If passed, solar energy production equipment could only be installed on land that was cleared prior to January 2016.
“It is a starting point and that is the best part,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said of the amendment in a phone interview. “We will not be clearing trees to create solar farms in business and industrial zones. … While I’m a believer in solar power, we don’t want to trade one green for another green.”
Community members spoke in favor of the amendment during the public comment period of the meeting.
“We will not be clearing trees to create solar farms in business and industrial zones. … While I’m a believer in solar power, we don’t want to trade one green for another green.”
— Ed Romaine
“We need not sacrifice forests for solar,” Richard Amper, executive director of Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said in an interview. “It’s equivalent to destroying the environment to protect it. We don’t have the open space to meet the requirements of Governor Cuomo’s ‘50 by 30’ initiative, without alternative transmission lines such as offshore wind farming.”
New York Gov. Cuomo’s (D) Clean Energy Standard requires 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by 2030.
Amper said he is in favor of alternate energy sources, and welcomed the amendment.
“We need renewable energy sources, solar is important,” he said. “We just need to be careful where it’s sited. It shouldn’t be on forested land, on farms where food is grown or in residential communities. It should be on rooftops, parking lots and previously cleared lands.”
Other members of the town board expressed their support for the amendment.
“My constituents in Council District 1 have expressed support for renewable energy and smart energy alternatives,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in a statement. “They want to ensure that government is thinking strategically about how to limit and reduce nonrenewable energy, improve air quality and diversify power sources.”
Additionally, the amendment would reduce the amount of acreage allowed for solar farming, from 10 to 5 acres in business and industrial zones.
Restrictions in the town’s solar code also require a buffer zone of 25 feet around all mechanical equipment and solar panel arrays for aesthetic reasons. Director and vice president of the East Moriches Property Owners Association, Jim Gleason, spoke in favor of the amendment during the meeting, but advocated for increasing buffer zones.
“Solar panels are ugly,” he said. “A 25-foot minimum buffer is not enough, 7-foot evergreens are not tall enough. Some panels are 20 feet.”
Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) disagreed.
“I think that shopping centers and housing developments are more unsightly than solar panels,” Bonner said. “There’s no noise, no traffic, no pollution and no long-term health risks for residents in communities where solar farming and energy production is located.”
The town board will vote on the resolution at the meeting Thursday, Oct. 27.