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Portland holds public hearing on solar project

PORTLAND — The town of Portland recently held a public hearing, giving representatives from Solar Liberty a chance to further outline their plans for solar panels within the town to the public.

Nathan Rizzo of Solar Liberty led a presentation detailing two separate arrays of solar panels that could be placed within the village.

The first array, just referred to as Array One, is off of Main Street, near Pecor Street. The panels are mounted at 20 degrees and will be eight feet off the ground. An important part of the panels to the community is that the panels wouldn’t be visible from the road. Kevin Powell, who owns the property that the panels are placed on, said that the place they’re located will not be visible, with Rizzo confirming this based on assessments done by Solar Liberty and the Planning Board.

“We did a visual assessment of the site from the roadways to the homes,” said Rizzo. “We didn’t see that there were any visible lines of sight.”

While members of the public in attendance didn’t voice displeasure at the solar panels, Portland Town Board member Patti Farrell read a letter written by Portland resident Julie Obert that did raise some concerns.

“The solar farm would be 500 feet from my house,” Obert wrote in the letter. “That is just too close. Water maintenance and drainage is an issue for us already. The Town has graciously worked with us over the years on this issue.”

Obert, as stated in her letter, is concerned that clearing the land for the solar farm would cause an ‘enormous’ amount of drainage and surface runoff, going on to say it would cause an issue in the town. Obert also voiced concerns of wells being contaminated.

“Potential leaks of toxic components would end up on our property and flow to the creek,” Obert said. “Groundwater and wells could be contaminated. If this project gets approved, I will get my soil tested now and after to see the impact.”

Responding to this letter, Rizzo said that the modules being installed are glass and aluminum, with the cells themselves being made of silicon, meaning there would be no toxic chemicals coming from the array itself. In terms of drainage, Rizzo said that they aren’t putting any barriers down to stop water from penetrating the ground. Rizzo also added that once the system is operating, sound won’t be a problem.

As for the second array, this one would be located around Fay Street, where the access road to the second solar array would be located. Since Solar Liberty met with the Planning Board, the only real change is a small change to the access road.

The same visual assessment done to Array One was done to Array Two, as more photographs were taken from different locations to see if there were any spots visible. According to Rizzo, there is a sightline where it is visible, though it is 1,200 feet from the home and competes with the sightline from the grape vines.

Due to the fact that a handful of board members, including town supervisor Dan Schrantz, and the town engineer were in attendance via phone, no action was taken one way or another on the approval of the solar projects. Because of that, the discussion will continue at the board’s next meeting.

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