A renewable energy company has its sights set on a former landfill in Kings Park to build a solar farm, but residents living nearby and conducting business there are not seeing the light.
The Smithtown Town Board considered a special exception request at its last meeting on Nov. 19 that would make way for roughly 18,000 solar panels on about 27 acres along Old Northport Road, according to Kings Park Solar LLC — a subsidiary group of the Poughkeepsie-based BQ Energy. The proposal was met with disdain, however, when residents voiced opposition on the grounds of potential health hazards and negative business consequences for a separate sport complex approved nearby.
A spokeswoman for Kings Park Solar said it would sell the electricity the panels produce to the utility company PSEG, similarly done at other solar and wind farms built throughout the state. If completed, the spokeswoman said the plan could offset more than 1,700 metric tons of carbon monoxide from the region.
Paul Curran, managing director of BQ Energy, said the project was designed like several other solar farms in Suffolk County and would pose no negative health effects because it would be a stationary system build on top of what used to be a landfill.
He said his group would work in compliance with the state Department of Environmental Conservation by consolidating two piles of waste left behind on the property and capping them before construction. Those piles would also be monitored by BQ Energy, he said.
“We look forward to working with our neighbors in the community,” Curran said at the meeting before several residents approached the dais to oppose the plan. “It is a very compatible use and we can fit in very well in the town of Smithtown and we look forward to that.”
But residents in the area were not convinced the proposal would not be a detriment to their health. Neil Rosenberg, president of the homeowners association for condominiums just north of the area in question, said the proposal was not compatible with the best interests of his neighbors. He requested that the board require BQ Energy to work with a neutral third party in drafting an environmental impact study on the solar farm plan.
“What I’ve learned tonight is that the people who are proposing it have said there is no radiation, no noise, nothing coming off this,” he said. “But there’s literature that says contrary. There’s too many unknowns in our opinion.”
And aside from health risks, residents argued that the solar farm would negatively affect a multimillion-dollar sports complex that was approved for construction over the summer on an adjacent lot in Kings Park. Kenny Henderson, a member of Prospect Sports Partners LLC, said that while he was not against solar power or clean energy, he was certain that a solar farm in that location would deter tenants from doing business with his group.
He said ignoring his concerns would be a detriment to the town, as Prospect Sports is poised to produce more than 400 jobs and generate roughly $38.5 million in annual spending in Smithtown.
“We are really struggling now to keep our head above water,” Henderson said. “We started this dream about six years ago, working side by side with the town to make this a reality. But we are 100 percent uncertain if we can build this now, because nobody wants to come do business behind the solar panels.”
The Smithtown Town Board said it would review the special exception request with those concerns in mind before determining environmental effects.