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Proposed solar project OK'd by planners

December 18, 2013

Proposed solar project OK'd by planners

Dec. 18, 2013

UPDATE -- The Greenfield Town Board voted 4-1 Dec. 5 to approve Skidmore's application for a Planned Unit Development, which allows the College to move forward on the installation of the solar array. The College's next step is to return to the town's Planning Board for approval of a site plan, a process that is projected to take a month or so. Once the site plan has been approved, the College will seek a building permit and then installation of the solar panels is estimated to take another three months or so. In a newspaper report about the town board vote, Town Supervisor Richard Rowland noted that the project would reduce reliance on electricity produced by fossil fuel. "We're going to be doing something that is good for the environment," he told The Daily Gazette (Dec. 7, 2013).
Oct. 10, 2013

The Town of Greenfield Planning Board voted 5-1 Oct. 8 to recommend that Skidmore’s application for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which includes a solar facility, be approved by the Greenfield Town Board. The County Planning Board and the Greenfield Environmental Commission also have publicly supported the project. PUD approval is required because solar is not an allowable use in the town.

The facility, located on College-owned property on Denton Road, encompasses 120 acres of land that currently includes Skidmore’s Castle Baseball Diamond and two practice polo fields that the College rents to the Saratoga Polo Association. The Planning Board requested the College make changes to the original application to address concerns expressed by neighbors over the course of the application review period. These changes included additional landscaping enhancements with more shrubs and trees, and a request that the College limit development to the current and proposed use of the land which is outlined in its Campus Plan — in effect providing that the remaining 100 plus acres remain primarily undeveloped and rural. The College accepted these recommended changes. 

Michael West, vice president for finance and administration and treasurer of the College, said, “We are most grateful for the support of the Planning Board as our project moves forward now to the Town Board for consideration. We thank the volunteer members of the board for their valuable and considerable time. We also thank the County Board and the Town Environmental Commission for their support for the project. 

“We have moved through the first step in the project, and anticipate good meetings with the Town Board shortly. We continue to believe the project has great benefits for the town and the college,” West said.

The proposed solar facility will cover approximately eight acres and be located approximately 800 feet from the road. The panels will be ground-mounted and the top of each panel will be slightly less than six feet above ground. A six-foot cedar fence will enclose the facility, and trees and bushes will be planted along the fenceline.

The two-megawatt solar array will generate approximately 12 percent of Skidmore’s annual electrical usage in the years ahead. Skidmore will realize savings on its electric bills through credits applied to usage as metered by National Grid.

Michael Hall, special assistant to Vice President West, called the project “an environmentally friendly proposal. It promotes the generation of clean, renewable, sustainable energy, which protects the environment and is good for Skidmore, its students and the larger community.”

Karen Kellogg, associate dean for infrastructure, sustainability and civic engagement, noted how this project aligns with Goal 3 of Skidmore’s Strategic Plan, which stresses responsible citizenship. “Sustainability is an important part of responsible citizenship, and energy deserves particular emphasis for so many reasons. We are making efforts to use our campus as a living and learning tool, and we hope the educational value of such projects extend beyond our campus community.

She expressed hope that this will become another successful partnership between Greenfield and Skidmore. “We have partnered with many groups within Greenfield (including the Friends of the Kayaderosseras, the Greenfield Historical Society, and the Inter-municipal Stormwater Management Office, to name a few) to work on stream cleanups, a biomonitoring program for the Kayaderosseras and land use changes. We hope to add this project to our suite of partnerships, which would be of incredible educational value to the Skidmore community and the larger community.”

The Planning Board’s recommendation to move forward followed the unanimous vote that the project would have no negative environmental impact. The environmental declaration came after lengthy deliberation over a number of meetings as well as the completion of a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) assessment.

During the SEQRA analysis, the Planning Board considered potential environmental effects to nearby water sources and the view, as well as the potential for increased traffic. Concerns expressed by neighbors were heard. In response, the Planning Board voted to recommend approval of the College’s amended application. The College agreed to include two bonds: one to ensure the trees installed to screen the project from view will remain through the entire time that the array is operational, and one to pay the costs associated with removing the solar array if the project is discontinued. The PUD restricts the parcel to the existing baseball and polo fields and the proposed solar array. This leaves the remaining 100 plus acres as agricultural land or green space.

In discussion leading up to Tuesday’s vote to proceed, the Planning Board called the project “innovative” and said that the amended PUD “preserves open space by limiting projects within the development.” The board further noted that the project is “conceptually sound” and meets “local and area needs for reduced dependence on fossil fuels.”

The College has received a $2.35 million grant from New York State under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative, and has partnered with Dynamic Energy Solutions of Wayne, Penn., to construct the array. Construction is anticipated to begin once the Town Board has reviewed and approved the proposal.



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