A new initiative has been passed at the elementary schools within the ComsewogueSchool District, giving the buildings new solar panel technology and plans to save the district thousands of dollars.
“I’m so excited. … It’s a good project for everyone,” said Susan Casali, assistant superintendent for business. “It’s a win-win for the environment, taxpayers and the district.”
The bidding process was a long one, and after much deliberation, Massachusetts-based energy company Noresco was selected in May 2017. The company then worked to complete a two-year energy efficiency upgrade project in the Clinton Avenue Elementary School that was finished this past month.
These upgrades, which included installing 477 kW of photovoltaic solar arrays on the roof of the elementary school, is expectedto provide Comsewogue more than $1.9 million in energy savings over the next 18 years and will reduce carbon emissions equivalent to removing 435 cars from the road.
“It’s really cost saving, as well as being impactful to the environment,” Casali said. “It will pay itself off in six years.”
The production of the solar panels is estimated at 572,879 kWh during the first year, which is nearly two times the school’s annual consumption. During the 2016–2017 school year, energy use was 307,440 kWh.
Noresco’s project management, SUNation Solar Systems, installed the solar photovoltaic arrays on the roof of the 67,000-square-foot elementary school. The new energy source is expected to save the district approximately $90,000 a year in energy costs during the first year alone.
Right now, the excess power at Clinton will generate enough for Boyle Road Elementary School. “Since we’re a school district we can’t sell the power back to the plant, but we can reuse it for other buildings,” Casali said.
She said that the district is planning its next solar panel for Terryville Road Elementary School next summer.
After the Izzo family leased their 26-acre Kings Park property to the Town of Smithtown for a landfill during the 1970s, the place was declared uninhabitable. Today, the site is revered as one of Long Island’s largest solar farms.
The 4-megawatt project was showcased on June 20 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, an event that unexpectedly coincided with New York State’s sweeping new clean energy legislation promising to become carbon neutral by 2050.
“It’s almost like we knew what we were doing,” said Tom Falcone, Long Island Power Authority CEO, who attended the event along with county and town elected officials. The achievement, he said, entailed a cooperative effort. “It took a village, a town, a state and the Izzo family.”
The state’s ambitious new energy plan renders the privately owned Kings Park solar farm a shining new example of what the future may look like with private landowners and non-developable property transformed to serve a public utilitarian purpose.
“It takes a lot of gambling but, wow, was this a good project,” said Paul Curran, founder of Wappinger Falls-based BQ Energy, a company committed to the sustainable redevelopment of environmentally contaminated sites known as brownfields. “Once you see it, people say it makes so much sense.” He expects the site to inspire additional projects.
Curran first approached the Izzo family with the idea of using their property for a solar site in 2013. RECOM Solar leased the development rights from the family to construct the project. NextEra Energy Resources, which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of renewable energy took over in December 2018, when the site became operational.
The solar project, which consists of 18,000 solar panels, created 50 jobs, mainly in the construction sector, according to Bryan Garner, NextEra’s director of communications. NextEra signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with LIPA, which will ultimately result in nearly $800,000 in revenue for Smithtown. That’s $33,000 per year for the first 15 years in payments in lieu of taxes and $296,000 in tax revenue for the final five years.
The project will offset more than 4,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 800 cars off the road.
Unlike fossil fuel plants, the facility operates silently and requires very little maintenance. “We check it about four times a year, so it’s maintenance free,” said Aaron Benedict, who monitors the project for NextEra. His cellphone includes an application that remotely monitors the operation 24/7.
Suffolk County and Smithtown government officials attended the event with Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) arriving in one of the town’s two all-electric vehicles.
“We are all in with renewable and clean energy,” he said. The town, he said, expects to systematically transform the Old Northport Road corridor. The roof on its recycling center, which is located near the solar farm, is fitted with 50-kilowatt solar system and has a 10-kW wind turbine. The town is also discussing the development of a solar farm on the closed landfills, which could eliminate the town’s need to purchase electricity, according to Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s Environmental Protection director. Additional town projects are also under discussion and will be considered during the town’s 2020 budget process.
The financial terms of the arrangements between NextEra and the Izzo family remain confidential.
“This is all about what good this site can do for years to come,” said Robert Izzo Jr, whose family has owned the property for decades.
PSEG reports that 161 MW of its energy supply is generated from renewable projects, mainly solar panels.
On 11 acres of farmland in Wading River, the cross section between green living and green energy is coming to a head as developers are looking to install a solar energy storage facility.
“There are going to be days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steve Losquadro, who is representing the developer TradeWind Energy and property owners Manzi Homes East construction company in Rocky Point. “If you’re truly committed to renewable energy you have to have storage. Otherwise, the whole thing doesn’t work.”
The 11-acre Bakewicz Farms property, located along Route 25A in Wading River down the road from Shoreham-Wading River High School, is rented by the Bakewicz family. Justin Bakewicz, who helps run the farm along with his mother, Marianne, said he built the farm up for two years, from selling hanging baskets to now growing crops and raising livestock. It was his dream to live that rural lifestyle since he was a kid spending time on his grandfather’s farm in Southampton.
“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm,” Bakewicz said.
“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm.”
— Justin Bakewicz
The land is already zoned for residential, and Losquadro said it already has preliminary approval from the Town of Brookhaven for a subdivision of 14 single-family homes. The attorney stressed new homes could lead to more traffic along the often-traveled corridor, along with concerns over nitrogen pollution from cesspools and a tax impact from the potential new students residences bring. This development would also mean the complete elimination of any farm property.
Losquadro said, due to feedback from locals, they are planning to draft up plans of the property that would shield the station from view with trees and accommodate a section of farmland in the front of the property to maintain that rural feel.
“This is the only path they could use to keep the farm,” Losquadro said.
Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he has heard from residents who were concerned homes might increase the burden on the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Originally Bail had invited TradeWind to give talks to the civic at its meeting in April, though after listening to more feedback from the community, he said he would withdraw from that meeting and tell the developer to focus on other properties such as the unused site that was once the Shoreham nuclear power plant.
“I’m just getting it’s the wrong location in reaction from other people,” Bail said. “I’ve also had some second thoughts about this.”
For years, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set lofty goals for New York’s renewable energy production, particularly to have 50 percent of the state’s energy consumed to be renewable energy by 2030. In January, during his State of the State address, the governor announced the adoption of a Green New Deal to promote projects and jobs in the renewable energy economy.
The area has been a focal point for renewable energy under this state initiation. Two solar farms are already soaking up the sun’s rays in neighboring Shoreham: one, a 9.5-megawatt array on a former sod farm along Route 25A, and another 24.9-megawatt array on the former Tallgrass golf course.
While solar panels have existed for years, renewable energy storage facilities are much less prolific. The closest existing structure currently operates in East Hampton, though that property only has a 5-megawatt capacity whose facility takes up less than one acre. The Wading River facility would have a much larger capacity and need a larger footprint, according to Bail.
Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the prospective location is close to the area’s power lines and the LIPA electrical substation, which is why the prospective developers are looking closely at the Wading River property. Because the technology is so new, Bonner said TradeWind and the property owner will likely have to work closely with the town, and it might require a zoning change similar to what was done with the solar farms in Shoreham, which maintained residential zoning but received 20-year zone overlays allowing for the arrays.
“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
— Jane Bonner
She has heard from residents on both sides of the issue. Some locals raised concerns about the loss of farmland and potential noise from converters at the facility, while others are all for the idea, especially in the promise of reducing traffic on the often-congested state road.
“People don’t want houses because they don’t want traffic, some say they will miss the farm, but I have gotten complaints about traffic from the farm,” Bonner said. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
At a Wading River civic meeting Jan. 24, Bakewicz was asked what his thoughts on the potential facility were.
“I wish we had another year to stay here,” he said, adding the family is trying to work out a deal to create a farm on some property in Center Moriches, and he would need time to set up that deal. “I threw my hands up and said, ‘I have handcuffs on because my hands are tied.’”
Town of Brookhaven is harnessing the power of the sun.
Tara McLaughlin, Brookhaven’s deputy commissioner of planning, announced at the July 12 board meeting the town had received the bronze designation from SolSmart, an organization funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, which helps municipalities across the country expand solar energy options and recognizes the ones that do so. Brookhaven applied for the designation in 2017, according to McLaughlin.
“As I am a competitive person always striving to achieve more, I am confident with small changes and installation of solar panels on several town buildings, next year we will at least attain the silver award,” she said.
The deputy commissioner said the town processed about 2,000 permits for solar power installation last year and expects to process at least that many in 2018.
“The world is changing, people are realizing, why not use the sun,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said.
In addition, the town is planning to install solar panels at Town Hall, the Pennysaver Amphitheater and Brookhaven Calabro Airport. The Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, a government department that selects projects to provide financial assistance in the form of tax reducing agreements, announced July 9 it had accepted applications for economic incentives for the airport and Town Hall installations, pledging to provide $4.6 million in assistance.
Not seeing the forest for the trees is one thing, but a recent decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to not preserve the forest or trees for the sake of solar installation is causing a major stir among Suffolk County elected officials.
On Dec. 18, Cuomo vetoed a bill co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) that called for the expansion of Long Island’s publicly protected Central Pine Barrens to include more than 1,000 acres in Shoreham and Mastic Woods — “museum quality” stretches of open space that should never be developed by private owners, according to the sponsors. Their legislation aimed to pull the plug on solar plans for the sites.
“The idea of putting solar on these properties is foolish,” Englebright said. “And I hold my solar credentials next to anyone. I am the legislator that sponsored and spearheaded solar more than 20 years ago — these are not good sites for solar.”
A large chunk of the Shoreham property — made up of approximately 820 acres of undeveloped vegetable land, coastal forest, rolling hills, cliffs and various species of wildlife on the shoreline of Long Island Sound — was almost demolished last year under a proposal by the site’s owners, National Grid, and private developers to knock down trees, level ridges and scarify the property to build a solar farm in the footprint. This “replace green with green” plan garnered much community opposition and was ultimately scrapped by Long Island Power Authority, leading civic association and environmental group members to join Englebright in proposing to preserve the parcel by turning it into a state park. The assemblyman also pledged that while there is a great need to install solar panels as a renewable energy source, there are ways to do so without tampering with primeval forest.
In Cuomo’s veto of the proposed bipartisan legislation to preserve these properties, which had been worked on over the past year and passed overwhelmingly through the two houses of the Legislature in June, he said that it “unnecessarily pits land preservation against renewable energy.” The governor voiced his support of developing solar energy projects on the sites and said the legislation as written prevented environmental growth.
“I am committed to making New York State a national leader in clean energy,” Cuomo said in his veto message. “New York’s Clean Energy Standard mandates 50 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030, to be aggressively phased in over the next several years. … Siting renewable energy projects can be challenging. But it would set a poor precedent to invoke laws meant for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land in order to block projects that should be addressed by local communities or through established state siting or environmental review processes. To sign the bill as drafted would be a step in the wrong direction by moving away from a clean energy future instead of leaning into it.”
Among some of the veto’s supporters were the League of Conservation Voters and Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Jerry Rosengarten, the Mastic site’s owner and managing member of the Middle Island Solar Farm, a proposed 67,000-panel green energy development on a 100-acre parcel in Mastic which would cut down woods near the headwaters of the Forge River, voiced his support of Cuomo’s decision in a statement.
“The idea of putting solar on these properties is foolish. And I hold my solar credentials next to anyone.”
— Steve Englebright
“Gov. Cuomo’s bold leadership today is hope that we will be able to effectively fight Trump-era climate denial and the ‘not in my backyard’ shortsightedness that would otherwise prevent crucial environmental progress at the most critical time,” said Rosengarten, an environmentalist who has been working for six years to place a solar farm on the site, making numerous applications to Long Island Power Authority to obtain power purchase agreements. “We look forward to working with the Town of Brookhaven on the next steps toward realizing a solar farm that we can take great pride in together.”
Englebright took issue with the not-in-my-backyard claims, which were also made by the League of Conservation Voters.
“I find that most unfortunate because it’s a falsehood,” he said. “I don’t represent Shoreham. I live in Setauket, and these sites are nowhere near my district. But, on merit, the properties deserve preservation. To have my sponsorship characterized as NIMBY is not only inaccurate, it’s insulting.”
Those who are against the veto have been championing preservation on both sites, including Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, and Andrea Spilka, president of Southampton Town Civic Coalition.
“The land is so valuable, environmentally, that it should be preserved,” Amper said of the Shoreham site in the spring when the legislation was first being pushed.
He added that solar is an important renewable energy in combating global warming, but that panels should be installed on roofs and parking lots rather than ecosystems.
“The reality is that once taken, these forest lands will never be recovered,” LaValle said in a statement outlining his disappointment over the veto. “These lands are particularly critical for the ecology of the Forge River. Destroying the forest and the trees to install solar power just does not make sense at either the Mastic Woods or Shoreham Old Growth Coastal Forest properties. … Currently, over 30 percent of New York state’s solar power is generated on Long Island, the majority of which is produced in my senate district. We can continue to expand the green energies where they will benefit Long Island without damaging the environment as we proceed. Destroying the environment is never the direction I wish to take.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a career advocate for the environment who worked tooth and nail alongside Englebright and LaValle to preserve these sites, said vetoing the bill “was the wrong thing to do.”
“[It’s] the reason why Brookhaven Town adopted a solar code that allows for both the preservation of our open space and the development of solar energy,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven Town was committed to preserving these lands, and worked right up to the hours before this veto was issued to provide the developer with up to 60 acres of alternative, town-owned sites that did not require the removal of a single tree.”
Some of these alternative solar sites, Englebright later explained, were the paved parking lot of the State Office Building in Hauppauge and the nearby H. Lee Dennison Building, each of the Brookhaven Highway Department yards and the roofs of numerous local schools. Englebright successfully pushed for solar panels to be placed on the roof of Comsewogue’s elementary school.
“Regrettably, the developer did not respond to these offers, and the governor did not take these alternative sites into account when issuing the veto.” Romaine said. “I thank the sponsors, Sen. Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and their colleagues for their hard work to preserve these ecologically important woodlands, and urge them to re-submit legislation for this in the coming session of the state Legislature.”
Englebright said he plans to reintroduce the legislation in the coming weeks.
“We are going to revisit this, and I hope that the governor keeps an open mind going forward,” he said. “It just requires a little bit of thought to realize that we have a vast amount of the Island where you can place solar panels without cutting down forest. By contrast, there are very few opportunities for preservation on the scale of these two properties. This is a source of some frustration.”
In response to a proposed solar farm in Shoreham, members of the Brookhaven Town Board urge state legislators to not only stand with them in opposition, but grant them “a seat at the table” to have their voices heard and taken seriously.
Since it was first submitted last June, National Grid and NextEra Energy Resources’ proposal to build a large-scale solar energy facility on the wooded property that surrounds the abandoned Shoreham nuclear power plant, and clear 350 acres of the 800-acre land made up of cliffs, rolling hills and a variety of wildlife species, has sparked an outpouring of local opposition, from elected officials to environmentalists, civic associations, teachers and parents in the community.
Those against it share the belief that “renewable energy is important but not at the expense of another section of the environment.” As recently as Feb. 27, the Shoreham-Wading River school board voted unanimously against endorsing the project, despite a considerable financial offer from National Grid, which owns the Shoreham site, and NextEra.
According to the companies, the proposal, developed in response to a PSEG Long Island request to help New York meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) renewable energy goals, would generate upwards of 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes, and create between 125 and 175 construction jobs and millions of dollars in tax benefits.
It’s currently being considered by LIPA, which would purchase the electricity generated by the joint companies for a period of 20 years under the contract, and New York State.
Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), a leader in the charge against the solar farm, said he thinks the companies involved are making a mistake, and wants it to be known that Brookhaven is going to do everything it can to prevent it from happening and protect the environment.
In addition to the proposed site falling within Shoreham’s A-10 residential zoning code — the most restrictive in Brookhaven — which was put in place more than 25 years ago to specifically protect the “coastal forest preserve,” he said, the proposal directly violates Brookhaven’s solar code adopted last year that opposes cutting down trees or removing native forests to build solar farms or facilities.
“You can build [solar arrays] on clear land, on rooftops, and in parking lots, but you’re not cutting down trees,” Romaine said. “Brookhaven needs to stay green and we do not need to deforest the few uncut forests we have in this town.”
When Romaine and the rest of the town board first heard rumors of the solar farm plan more than a year ago, they dismissed it, confident local opposition and town zoning would be enough to prevent it from going anywhere.
However, the supervisor got word that National Grid and NextEra could get around the zoning restrictions and potentially strip away any of Brookhaven’s say in the matter under Article X of the Public Service Law — a provision allowing “an applicant seeking approval to site a major electric generating facility to obtain a final decision from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, waiving all local zoning requirements, if the Siting Board finds them to be burdensome in terms of technology and costs.”
The Siting Board is composed of five members appointed by the governor.
The town board sprang into action, writing and submitting a letter to nine state senators and assemblymen requesting that the law be amended to allow local municipalities to serve as mandatory parties to the proposed facility “application proceeding.”
“To allow the overriding of local zoning without allowing the local community a significant voice in these proceedings is wrong,” reads the end of the letter, which was signed by Romaine, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge), Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) and Councilman Daniel Panico (R-Center Moriches).
“We understand there’s a need for Article X and we’re not saying you can’t decide against us, but we just feel the locality should have a seat at the table, which would give us a voice,” Romaine said, admitting he decided to write to the legislature to be on the safe side, not knowing if the proposal will get that far. “Right now, we have no voice.”
According to a fact sheet provided by National Grid and NextEra, a poll to determine the attitudes of the residents of the Town of Brookhaven was commissioned, asking what they would like to see developed on the Shoreham property — “they chose ‘solar energy project’ above any other use,” it said. When residents were given information about the solar farm project, the sheet stated “level of support grew to 75 percent.”
Conversely, the proposal is an environmental nightmare as far as Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, is concerned.
“This is just a horrible use of the land,” he said. “It’s not just cutting the trees with the thought that ‘They’ll grow back in 50 years,’ it’s the hills, the gullies, the wildlife, the plants and the fauna that would have to be destroyed. I can see why the owners of the property, National Grid, would like to do this, they can make a bundle of money from it … however the idea of deforesting several hundred acres of very special forest land in order to achieve a worthwhile goal isn’t a good trade-off.”
Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, deemed the proposal a bad idea, stating the Shoreham site is worthy of being preserved as part of our natural history.
“This is a native forest in essentially pristine condition … it’s a museum piece of natural land,” Englebright said. “I am the original New York State legislator who sponsored what are now the laws that enabled solar energy to begin to take off. I’m a pro-solar, pro-renewable energy person … [but] it was never my intent to see environmental atrocities committed in the name of renewable energy. I’m offended, as the father of solar energy in this state, that they are attempting to so thoroughly abuse the premise of what solar is meant to be.”
The largest renewable energy project ever proposed for Long Island has near unanimous support
Clean Energy Link, introduced by Chicago-based private energy developer Invenergy, LLC, would produce 701 megawatts across 55,671 acres — about the size of Long Island’s North Fork.
Four wind farms and two solar farms would be privately funded and built in rural areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, and the power generated would be transferred to a substation in central New Jersey and converted from AC to DC. Then, it would be shipped 80 miles underground and underwater by a transmission line and connect to the Long Island Power Authority’s grid at a 3.5-acre facility on Ruland Road in Melville.
A spokeswoman from Invenergy said the company submitted a proposal to LIPA, and is hoping it will be granted a contract. It is unclear how much money LIPA is willing to pay for the electricity Clean Energy Link will generate, but if the power authority approves the project, it is expected to be operational by the end of 2020.
“I’ve been in this business since 2003 and this is probably one of the most, if not the most exciting project we’ve done,” Mike Polsky, Invenergy’s CEO, said at a press conference on Oct. 24. “It’s a very remarkable, bold and transformational step for New York State, and despite some naysayers, whatever they may say, it will happen.”
Clean Energy Link is a step toward achieving a mandate set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in August that 50 percent of New York’s electricity needs to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030. The first checkpoint is a requirement that utilities need to purchase energy from nuclear power plants in the state by April 2017 in an effort to prevent the facilities from closing.
“New York has taken bold action to become a national leader in the clean energy economy and is taking concrete, cost-effective steps today to safeguard this state’s environment for decades to come,” Cuomo said in a press release. “This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combating climate change.”
According to Invenergy, about 9.5 million megawatt hours per year need to be produced by renewable energy sources statewide by 2030, and the Clean Energy Link project would produce about 1.6 megawatt hours per year.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said because Nassau and Suffolk counties have about 3 million residents, it is a “notoriously very difficult place” to build anything. He expressed his support of the renewable energy project at a press conference in part, he said, because Long Island has experienced extreme weather and other impacts from increased carbon dioxide emissions.
“We have to be leaders on this issue — Long Island has to be out front,” he said. “… Part of that leadership means identifying what makes sense and maximizing the potential of the things that make sense. We are more at threat from climate change than just about any other region in the country.”
Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said the most important aspect of the project must be its affordability for residents. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York had the seventh highest electricity prices in the country in 2015.
“The residents need to benefit. Period,” Anker said. “Energy costs are too high and we need to come up with a way to make it affordable for Long Island residents.”
One of her other concerns is if local communities are able to give feedback before LIPA officials decide whether to grant Invenergy a contract for the Clean Energy Link project.
For Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Clean Energy Link makes environmental sense because by increasing New York’s use of renewable energy, the state’s reliance on foreign fuel lessens, and therefore its carbon dioxide emissions will decrease. He also said the proposal is economically sound because the project would be constructed in states where land is cheaper and in more abundance than on Long Island, a point echoed by other local politicians.
State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he’s opposed Invenergy’s other project on Long Island — a 24.9 megawatt solar farm in Shoreham on the former Tallgrass Golf Course. It was approved by LIPA in May and is supported by other Brookhaven officials, who recently passed changes to the solar code prohibiting trees from being cut down for the construction of solar arrays.
“I don’t like the idea of solar farms on Long Island that impinge upon or displace green space,” Englebright said.
He added that transporting the power the Clean Energy Link project would provide underground is smart, because it would not be subject to disruptions due to weather.
“LIPA would be wise to move in the direction that this offers, which is the renewable direction,” Englebright said. “We’re an oceanic island, and putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ultimately drowns us.”
To Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), the most impressive aspect of Invenergy’s Clean Energy Link proposal is its “multipronged” approach. Renewable energy should not be produced by just wind or solar individually. The project’s potential impact is greater because it would make use of both.
She also said lower energy bills would go a long way toward generating community support. According to Invenergy, the project’s proposed start date was chosen to make full use of federal incentives for solar and wind energy production, a savings that would be passed along to residents.
Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Dick Amper agreed that community support is imperative for the success of the project.
“If the people who produce solar cut down forests for it, or put it in residential neighborhoods or replace farms that produce food for it, the public is going to turn against solar,” he said. “It took 25 years for everybody to come along and agree we need renewables. They’re not going to like them if we put it in bad places, and we can’t afford to have the backlash because we need solar.”
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.
Workshop gives incentives for homeowners to install solar panels
A little sunshine never hurt anyone, especially now that solar power is here to stay.
On Saturday, the Town of Brookhaven hosted its second annual Solarize Brookhaven event featuring SUNation’s solar system program. SUNation was one of almost 30 solar companies that the town considered to help encourage Brookhaven resident to go solar, be energy efficient, and save money.
According to Christina Mathieson, chief administrative officer of SUNation, in the company’s 13 years of business, it’s sold 1,600 solar systems and saved solar users around $3 million annually. Mathieson said residents qualify for the program if their electricity bill will cost less when they go solar.
“Our goal is to [help] customers offset almost 100 percent of their electrical consumption,” Mathieson said in an interview before the event.
Although residents can produce their own electricity using the solar system program, users must remain connected to the Public Service Enterprise Group. The energy generated by the solar panels is not stored in the user’s home, but in PSEG’s grid system. This is regardless of whether residents buy or lease SUNation’s service. According to Mathieson, homeowners who decide to buy the service and lock in their payment when they go solar will eventually pay around $11 to stay connected to PSEG.
During the event on Oct. 10, residents could speak to one of several site evaluators from SUNation to discuss going solar and what it may cost for each specific resident. Roofs that get ample sunlight during the day or those facing the South, East or West will produce more energy than houses with a roof facing North, according to Mathieson. Site evaluators can see a prospective client’s roof via Google Earth and determine how much going solar will cost and save a client, depending on the orientation and overall location of the perspective buyer’s roof and the location of their home. SUNation’s solar system program will last up to 40 years. In a 30-year period, Mathieson saw clients save anywhere from $60 to $250,000 dollars after going solar.
According to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), the purpose of the Solarize Brookhaven event is to help everyday people find a means to buy or finance solar for their home. Romaine also highlighted additional benefits of going solar, including the fact that solar has created 175,000 jobs and has pumped nearly $15 million back into the economy.
But reducing greenhouse gases is another benefit to going solar. During the event, Romaine said town and state officials alike are “involved [with Solarize Brookhaven] because [they’re] trying to reduce the greenhouse gases in [Brookhaven] town.”
Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst, Anthony Graves, added that the idea was to have the event so residents know they will be getting a good, reliable system at a good price.
“And that’s what we’ve gotten with SUNation,” Graves said.
Graves also said the company provided a 15 percent discount on its service. In order to appeal to the masses and encourage more residents to participate in the program, residents will receive a check for $1,000 if 100 people participate in the program. The deal taps into the fact that, according to Mathieson, one of the main reasons people go solar is because their neighbor went solar.
But for residents like Stephen Plesnik of Miller Place, his electric bill was enough for him to look into going solar. Plesnik said he was looking into solar as he saw his electricity bill continually increasing over time.
“I’ve been looking into solar for the last six months and since this is a company that is approved by the Town of Brookhaven, supposedly they’re giving a better deal,” Plesnik said, while waiting to speak to a site evaluator at the event.
And SUNation’s service offers one of the better deals when it comes to going solar, according to Mathieson and town officials.
“Most of us never thought that we could have a system that made electricity,” Mathieson said. “We almost never imagined not paying an electric bill. The days of people having to lay out money to own solar systems are over, and the days of a return of investment are gone.”
Skygazers are in for a special treat this weekend — for the first time in 33 years, there will be a supermoon eclipse.
A supermoon occurs when a full moon reaches the point in its orbit that is closest to Earth, known as its perigee, which happens a handful of times a year. The proximity — of about 222,000 miles — makes the moon look brighter, and it appears about 14 percent larger.
The supermoon on Sept. 27 and 28 will coincide with a total lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow, covering its surface in a red tint.
That red tint occurs because of the refraction of light through Earth’s atmosphere on its way to the moon.
According to NASA, a supermoon eclipse is a rare event. It has happened only five times since the beginning of the 20th century — in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982 — and those who miss it this weekend will not have another chance to catch it until 2033.
As a bonus, it will also be a harvest moon, which is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox on Sept. 23.
On the East Coast, a partial eclipse will begin at 9:07 p.m. on Sept. 27, according to NASA, with the total eclipse beginning at 10:11 p.m. It will last a little more than an hour before returning to a partial eclipse. The full event will end at 12:27 a.m. on Sept. 28.
At the time the partial eclipse begins for New York viewers, the \moon will be about 26 degrees above the horizon, in the east southeast direction. It will gradually move higher and southward in the sky, so that at the time the partial eclipse ends after midnight, the moon will be about 50 degrees above the horizon to the south.