Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar is a pro-solar Coxsackie NY organization that advocates siting utility-scale solar plants in places where they make sense. Brownfields, capped landfills, decommissioned power plants: these are the sites we should be using before consuming valuable farmland and environmentally sensitive lands.
The Chicago-based company Hecate Energy proposes to build the 50-megawatt (MW), 800-acre Greene County Solar Facility on prime farmland and sensitive environmental habitat in the Town of Coxsackie. The developers call it a "solar farm" the State of New York calls it a "major electric generating facility." The industry calls it a "utility-scale solar plant."
Utility-Scale Solar Plant
The largest solar plant in the eastern United States has a capacity of 32 MW. Hecate’s 50-MW facility would comprise 185,000 panels covering 400-600 acres of the site, along with inverters, substations, fencing, security lighting, access roads, and transmission lines. Panels will be located on some of the best farmland in Greene County. The rest of the site consists largely of wetlands, woods, endangered species habitat, and areas reserved for potential solar development. A few areas of farmland (most located on wetlands) might be retained.
All of this is surrounded by residential and rural residential neighborhoods, with little or no buffering between this enormous plant and nearby residences or roadways. Only the most minimal setbacks are proposed. The Hecate plant would be visible from roughly 71 Statewide Areas of Scenic Significance, including the State Route 385 Scenic Byway with its majestic Catskill Mountain vistas. Hecate acknowledges that not all views can be remediate with installed landscaping.
The future of eastern Greene County’s rural character and natural habitats depends on guiding growth with the landscape and wildlife in mind. Fortunately, much is known about local habitats and there are opportunities to conserve key portions of the landscape as the region develops.
read the Greene County Grasslands Report
The site’s grasslands and open fields make it winter hunting and possibly breeding habitat for the state-endangered short-eared owl and state-threatened Northern Harrier hawk, along with the other endangered species in the facility area. Additionally, these fields are a popular stopping-point on the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory route for 14 species of birds.
But doesn’t local zoning prohibit industrial development in a residential district? Yes, but that means nothing to Hecate and the state. The facility is being sited under Article 10 of the NYS Public Service Law, which takes siting control away from local communities. Even home rule is denied: the constitutionally guaranteed right of local municipalities to make their own decisions about what happens in their jurisdictions (NYS Constitution, Article IX, Section 1).
Ethical land use and management practices dictate that solar sites be located in low visibility areas and in low value lands such as brown fields and abandoned commercial properties, as well as industrial corridors. The lands being targeted are highly visible from the designated scenic highway of Route 385, essentially in a picturesque valley, with the Catskill mountains as a backdrop. Two of the parcels are considered fertile farmland surrounded by homes, with the other parcel sited within the village. The property has a high conservation value with habitat for 2 endangered/threatened bird species, wetlands and a natural buffer for extensive wildlife populations.
"I am strongly opposed to this irresponsible solar project that will... destroy our rich natural resources including open spaces, farmlands, wetlands, and rare lands that were once quarried by native Algonquin Indians. This will cripple tourism to the area that is a viable source of much-needed revenue for Greene County."