A controversial solar project has been given the green light by New York State.
The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment announced Tuesday it granted approval to Trelina Solar Energy Center, LLC to build and operate an 80 megawatt solar farm in the Town of Waterloo. The Siting Board’s decision follows a detailed review and robust public participation process to ensure that the solar farm meets or exceeds all siting requirements.
“This solar farm and other renewable energy projects currently under development are vital to meet the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act’s aggressive carbon reduction and clean energy targets to combat climate change,” said Siting Board Chair Rory Christian. “The Trelina solar farm will benefit all New Yorkers by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, boosting clean-energy investment, creating clean-energy jobs, and improving our environment.”
According to developers the project construction will employ between 85 and 128 construction workers, including onsite labor, electricians, equipment operators, construction managers, and foreperson jobs. Projections for direct local expenditures during project development and construction were approximately $16 million, with construction payroll being the highest at approximately $12.6 million.
Up to 90 percent of the total payroll is expected to be paid to workers in the region. In addition, there will be opportunities for local businesses to supply materials to support construction of the project, and service industry businesses such as hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues will benefit from an increase in worker activity throughout construction.
The solar farm will result in annual payments to local landowners in association with the lease and easement agreements. Payments over 30 years are estimated to total $64.9 million. The facility will be located on 418 acres within a 1,067-acre project area privately leased or purchased land. The solar farm is expected to begin commercial operation in 2022.
During the operation of the project, the developer expects to spend approximately $485,059 in total direct annual expenditures. Trelina expects expenditures for materials and equipment costs will be spent locally. The developer expects that agreements with the town, county and local school districts will provide approximately $10.7 million in additional benefits.
According to industry estimates, the 80 MW solar farm will produce enough electricity for 21,000 average-sized homes annually. Trelina is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, one of the world’s largest generators of wind and solar energy, with generating facilities across the U.S. and in Canada.
After reviewing the agreed-upon certificate conditions submitted by most of the parties, the Siting Board determined that the solar farm will be consistent with the energy policies and long-range planning objectives and strategies contained in the most recent State Energy Plan. Based on this, and based on its consideration of other relevant social, economic and other factors, the Siting Board determined that the project will be a beneficial addition to the electric generation capacity of the State and will also serve the goals of improving fuel diversity, grid reliability, and modernization of grid infrastructure.
Trelina’s formal application to the Siting Board was deemed compliant on December 8, 2020. The nine parties to the proceeding included several state agencies, the municipalities, and labor groups. The record includes more than 50 public comments. The Siting Board held on-the-record virtual public statement hearings and compiled an evidentiary record containing expert and factual testimony. Trelina is the seventh renewable energy project approved by the Siting Board this year.
The project will consist of commercial-scale solar arrays, access roads, buried and possibly overhead electric collection lines, a collection substation, and electrical interconnection facilities. Additional facilities would include a 115-kV switchyard which will be transferred to the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation (NYSEG) to own, maintain, and operate. The project would be located on land leased from owners of private property. The proposed height of the solar array itself will be approximately 10 feet.
According to the developer, other significant project benefits will include the direct and indirect creation of jobs in construction and construction-related services, related supply chain jobs, jobs associated with induced impacts, and annual revenues for local economies during construction. A cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency showed that the project would return $43.9 million in benefits to the region and the State and that the total investment for the project was $128 million.