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Two solar projects proposed in Dunkirk

Add the town of Dunkirk as the latest municipality to have proposed solar projects.

During last week’s Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency’s meeting, board members heard about two new proposed solar projects, one at 3751 William St. East and the other at 10653 Brigham Road. Both projects have been proposed by Solar Liberty of Buffalo.

Solar Liberty was approved for a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes for two solar projects in Ashville earlier in the meeting. Company President Adam Rizzo said they’re proud of what they’re doing. “Being based here in Western New York, we’re very excited to bring the benefits of solar to our local community. I know there’s been a lot of development in Central New York and closer to New York City. We’re very happy to be bringing these benefits to our local communities here,” he said.

According to Rich Dixon, CCIDA chief financial officer, currently there is a moratorium in the town of Dunkirk on solar projects. Even so, he said the town supervisor is OK with the IDA moving ahead. “We won’t go forward with any of these projects unless the town tells us they would like us to proceed,” he said.

One solar project is 3.75 megawatts while the other one is 5 megawatts. Solar Liberty is leasing both properties. One is owned by an individual landowner, while the other is owned by the Chautauqua County Fairgrounds.

“There’s a section behind the fairgrounds that is not in use,” Rizzo said. They chose the locations due to National Grid’s transmission lines and the ability to connect the power to them.

Solar Liberty is one of several companies installing solar projects in Chautauqua County. Rizzo said part of the reason there is a rush now is that there’s less room available to tap into the transmission lines, so whichever company can get there first will be able to use it.

He also said some of the state incentives are ending soon. Companies right now get 11 cents per watt for their solar projects. “That has come down dramatically from where it first started for community solar,” said Rizzo.

Rizzo added they don’t know if the federal government will increase financial incentives in the future or if the state will make changes. “We’re hopeful for some additional changes to come out in months to come but the incentives that currently exist are going away quickly,” he said.

The county IDA approved the preliminary resolutions for both projects. No one voted against them, although two members abstained for possible conflict of interest. The next step is for environmental studies and for a public hearing to be held.

Even if the county IDA gives its final approval, Solar Liberty would still need approval from the town of Dunkirk.

Supervisor Richard Purol was reached by phone to further discuss the proposals. He said the moratorium on solar projects went into effect in February and is scheduled to be in place for six months. “I don’t think we’ll have to go much longer than that,” he said.

He said the town needs to update its zoning regulations. They want to ensure safety and explore requirements for battery storage.

Rizzo said during the IDA meeting at this point there are no plans to install battery storage devices, although that could change in the future, depending on regulations set by the state.

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