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Industrial Solar in Lansing

Solar energy has long been an issue in Lansing, first with residential solar panels, then in 2018 the 5MW Nexamp community solar project was proposed.  After around a year of deliberation the Town Board passed a local Solar and Wind law last July.  Almost immediately after the law was passed two industrial solar projects were proposed that together could account for as much as 360 megawatts of solar energy.

But those projects need land... lots of land, and while Lansing supports solar projects for the most part, some residents are worried about the impact of large solar projects that are constructed near their homes.  One of those residents is Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler (Lansing), who said Tuesday that he is starting a campaign and petition to mitigate the impacts of these huge projects on residential properties in Lansing.

"I’ve started a letter writing and petition campaign at the suggestion of the Town Supervisor The planning board is working on this, but it was felt a show of public support might help. I don’t think what I’m asking for here is unreasonable. I’m not calling for a ban, but some mitigation efforts for residents seems reasonable," Sigler said.

This month the Town Board voted to send letters of support to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in support of sPower (Cayuga Solar) and CS Energy's (Yellow Barn Solar) Renewable Energy Standard (RES) solicitation applications.  Sigler says he wants some restrictions in place, and wants residents within 1,500 feet of a property line of an agriculturally-zoned parcel that is being optioned for lease or leased for a purpose other than agriculture to be notified of the lease or option to lease.

Sigler's letter says, "It’s our understanding, the undersigned, that industrial scale solar is being planned for the Town of Lansing.  We support solar power, but are concerned about the size of these solar projects and believe more rules should be in place before these projects, some between 800 and 2000 acres of contiguous land, go ahead.  We understand that the state will control much of the regulation regarding these power plants, however, we believe the town needs to enact regulations pertaining to these arrays that will cover millions of square feet, including prime farmland.  While we may prefer these installations not be built, we at least want the town to mitigate the negative impacts on adjacent properties and to the overall look of the Town of Lansing."

While New York State is claiming jurisdiction over the placement and other elements of large industrial solar developments, it appears that local municipalities will have some say over some of the details.  Sigler is asking the Lansing Planning Board to consider seven proposals that he says will mitigate the negative consequences of the projects:

  • That industrial solar array projects covering over 25 acres be required to set aside 20 percent or more of the land for pollinators.
  • That these projects will be set back from existing residences by 1000 feet or more.
  • That vegetation buffers be planted between these projects and residences, businesses, and streets and that berms be installed where appropriate.
  • That wildlife corridors be installed through these contiguous acres.
  • That the land these projects will have the opportunity to be co-leased for agriculture purposes just wind mills and cell phone tower land is.
  • Farmland that’s received an agriculture tax exemption in the past 10 years should be avoided when possible.
The sPower project is part of the transformation Cayuga Operating Company (COC) is undergoing as it attempts to transition from its now-closed coal-powered electricity generating plant to a cloud-based data center.  It will use as much of COC's 400 acre property as is feasible for solar, plus hopes to purchase or lease up to a maximum of 1,400 acres to house a 100 - 200MW (size dependent on the amount of mostly contiguous land they can obtain) solar farm with a small battery storage facility attached.

The Yellow Barn project seeks to obtain about 1,300 acres split between Lansing and Groton to construct a 160MW array.  That project is proposed for land along the portion of Buck Road that is east of Auburn Road.

Both locations are considered ideal because they are located near 115 kV transmission lines that were used to transmit electricity from the power plant to the electric grid.  The sPower project would hook up at the power plant location, while the CS Energy project wants to hook up to the lines at an interconnection point on Van Ostrand Road, between Buck and Peruville Roads.

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