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Tyre residents rally against proposed 600 acre solar farm: “We’ve had absolutely no voice in the process”

  • / Updated:
  • Josh Durso 

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking to attend the meeting in Tyre, it’ll be taking place at the Tyre Band Hall near the Tyre Highway Department on Lamb Road.

A public meeting is set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the town of Tyre, where residents will voice their opposition to a proposed 125 megawatt solar farm development. The controversial project—covering approximately 625 acres of what is described as prime farmland—has sparked significant local dissent.

The project, initiated by Delaware River Solar, LLC, initially covered about 1,600 acres but has been scaled down. Despite this reduction, the proposal continues to face strong resistance. 

Greg Guy, a local resident and active voice in opposition, says residents have been left out of the process. “So far, residents have had absolutely no voice in the process,” Guy said. He said a brief preliminary presentation to the Tyre Town Board on April 25, 2023 was sparsely attended by residents. 

Delaware River Solar indicated at the time that community forums would be setup to update residents and receive questions or feedback. Residents were pitched on a series of community forums—including one over the summer, as well as another in October—neither of which came to fruition.

Guy said to date the Town of Tyre has heard ‘absolutely nothing’ from the company. He attributes the lack of communication to the state’s establishment of Section 94-C of NY Executive Law, which made the Office of Renewable Energy Siting the sole governmental entity responsible for approving large-scale solar facilities in New York.

The state considers any project over 25 megawatts as ‘large’. The change in state siting process dates back to the Cuomo Administration—when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo created the process after finding much resistance in rural parts of the state to solar array developments. 

From the state’s perspective—the goal was simple: Fast-track green energy projects so that it could hit lofty goals established over the last 8 years. 

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

From local residents perspective—the outcome was also simple: They have been stripped of their voice in the matter thanks to the erosion of home rule on these types of proposals.

The solar farm, if constructed, would impact areas including Gravel Rd., Nearpass Rd., Middle Blackbrook Rd., Lay Rd., and State Rt. 318.

Concerns raised by residents include potential environmental impacts on the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Black Brook Watershed, the loss of over 600 acres of prime farmland, and the absence of a clear plan for decommissioning the farm after its expected 20-25 year lifespan.

“We are exceptionally concerned with the proposed loss of 600+ acres of prime farmland resulting from establishment of this solar farm,” Guy added. “Farmland that has continuously produced crops for over 250 years.” According to a map provided by the Seneca County Soil and Conservation District, 94% of the solar farm will sit on land considered ‘prime’ farmland. Wetlands and timbered areas would also be affected, as the proposal calls for the deforestation or clearing of 60+ acres of wildlife habitat.

In anticipation of an imminent application by Delaware River to the state, the group ‘Tyre United’ has mounted a campaign, including installing signage opposing the development. They have also scheduled meetings with State Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Jeff Gallahan’s Chief of Staff, seeking to bring their concerns to Albany.

Key issues to be discussed include the protection of endangered species, impact on wildlife habitats, and ensuring compliance with the New York State Constitution’s mandate to conserve natural resources and encourage agricultural land improvement.

The meeting will provide a platform for residents to voice their concerns and seek support from state representatives in opposing the solar farm, which they fear will disrupt the town’s natural beauty and rural way of life. One family involved in the lease negotiations with DRS is even seeking to cancel their agreement, alleging deceit in the process.

The outcome of this meeting could significantly influence the future of this large-scale solar project and set a precedent for community involvement in environmental and land-use decisions in New York State.