Solar energy concerns Hanover residents
HANOVER — Before the COVID-19 hit New York state, wind turbines were a hot topic.
Hanover held a public hearing on March 9 for proposed Local Law No. 1 of 2020 to regulate the construction, maintenance and placement of solar energy systems and equipment at the Hanover Town Hall. Both sides were heard — the solar company and their supporters, along with some residents of Hanover who are unhappy with the idea of solar coming into the town.
A representative from the company RIC Energy was at the board meeting asking for the solar law to be edited to reduce the setbacks on the sides of the properties. The board has discussed a setback for the sides to be no shorter than 200 feet, but the representatives from the company are asking for the setbacks to be 75-100 feet. Apparently at 200 feet, they would lose approximately five acres of usable land for the solar panels, almost not making it worth putting the solar panels in.
“There’s really no reason why you’d ever need setbacks that wide,” said a representative from RIC Energy. “Sight and sound is what people might otherwise complain about and this is just glass and steel. All of the utilities are in the center part of the project. There’s a light hum that they make that you could maybe hear from 40 or 50 feet away. In this property they’d be 1,000 feet into the center. There’d be no issue, there’d be no reason why we’d need setbacks that would be this restrictive.”
Hanover residents also voiced their opinions at the meeting, including Kelly Borrello and Dana Bennett. Borrello asked the town board not to approve a solar farm to be placed on Routes 5 and 20, where RIC Energy was planning on putting theirs.
Speaking for herself and neighbors, Borrello explained that they do want development on 5 and 20 and that it’s the perfect corridor for development, but they only want commercial development and not industrialization of the land. “We want the type of development that brings guests to our area to eat, shop, stay, play, generating traffic over time, bringing business that will build upon business. A solar farm will not bring that,” said Borrello.
Apparently, solar is only sustainable because of subsidies and those subsidies come from tax payers, according to Borrello. She also said that companies proposing projects are in it to make money — which is what all businesses do. She also claimed that projects such as this also end up different than when first proposed. “The companies promise what sounds good because we don’t know. We don’t know what to ask for, so what they promise sounds really good, but we don’t know the pitfalls until they happen and until they happen, those issues become a burden to the town.”
The sound coming from solar farms was addressed as well, where some people claimed you can not hear the invertor or transformer even close-up to the solar panels and when they did grow closer to the machines, they only sounded as loud as an air conditioner. “To be clear, the panels make no sound. It’s just the invertor and transformer that make a light hum, it’s like akin to an air conditioning unit,” said the representative.
According to Borrello, solar panels are new technology and even though the panels may be quiet for now, there is no way to tell what the future holds. She explained further that nobody knows what kind of advancements are going to happen and what will happen with the noise level at that point in time. “My neighbors, they’re older, they hate when our air conditioner runs. They can hear it through their house, it actually vibrates their house. It doesn’t vibrate my house at all,” said Borrello.
The representative from RIC Energy responded to Borrello, “The technology is actually quite old and proven. It’s been around for a hundred years, being done at this scale for about 20. My company has been around for 16 years doing the same business, just not here.”
The issue of safety then came up, with Borrello, Todd Johnson, Hanover Supervisor and the representative from RIC Energy chiming in.
“We don’t even know all the hazards involving should something happen with the solar panels. The fire department needs to be involved in these conversations I believe. They need to learn how to manage fires and other emergencies that could potentially occur there. They will probably need new training, they’ll need new specialized equipment to handle these solar farm emergencies, should they happen,” said Borrello.
Borrello is also concerned about the replacing and decommissioning of the solar farms, looking down the road. She said that the companies have no idea about the unknown costs and what they would do about the disposal of the solar farms, if it came to that.
“The problem is, I’m sure there’s going to be something in the contract about replacing and decommissioning and the companies are going to pay for it. Well, the companies are going to be out of business and now they’re not going to be around to pay for it and again that burden is going to fall back on the town,” said Borrello.
In response, the company representative said, “With regard to decommissioning in particular, we put a bond in place, so as with other energy projects, in the event that the company went out of business for some reason, … we have a financially solvent company, a triple A graded bond that’s in place for the period in the event that we’re not around to disassemble it,” said the representative.
“We’re not against solar and different energy, it just has to be done right,” said Bennett.