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Seeing red over going green

The irony is inescapable.

ConnectGen, a Texas LLC, is proposing to develop 1,500-2,000 acres of Agricultural and Forested land for the South Ripley Solar Project. Last month, Texas was hit with massive power outages precipitated by an unrealistic energy policy that was too dependent on intermittent power generation from wind and solar.

New York state is recklessly heading down the same “Green Energy” path as Texas, where a faulty renewable energy policy added up to power outages and rolling blackouts. Texas suffered severe, sometimes tragic, results.

Considering this, it is appropriate for our elected officials to reconsider New York’s energy plans. Given the recent revelations of Governor Cuomo’s actions, it brings into question his policies on renewable energy.

Let’s look at the facts:

¯ Our state, our businesses, our homes, our country, cannot rely on intermittent power. We need a steady, sustained source of power – which we currently have with our hydroelectric (70%) and nuclear (no CO2 emissions) power sources.

¯ New York state, and Chautauqua County in particular, have the worst solar insolation in the country. The only reason the state is being overrun by solar developers is the Federal and New York state overly generous tax credits, subsidies, and advanced depreciation, “Green Energy” credits, enhanced electricity rates, and local tax abatements. These actions have nothing to do with good environmental stewardship.

¯ The South Ripley Solar Project capacity is 270 megawatts, but given the efficiency of the panels of 14%, real output will be in the area of 34 megawatts, while sacrificing 1,500-2,000 acres of agricultural and forested land.

¯ Solar panels are typically manufactured in China, and are composed of rare earth elements and other materials known to be toxic. They are also known to be coated with an anti-glare compound called perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances which is toxic and cannot be broken down.

¯ Currently there is no way to recycle solar panels. Once they reach their life expectancy, they will be tossed into a landfill.

¯ Decommissioning plans and funding remain a major concern, the possibility being the taxpayers are left holding the bag to decommission these projects.

¯ The newly formed State Office of Renewable Energy Siting, or ORES, has just issued regulations called Section 94-C, which overhauls the state’s large scale renewable siting processes. This fast tracks all the state’s renewable energy projects. 94-C moves these projects to a centralized, closed, decision making process, bypassing local government input.

¯ Our rights as citizens have been severely curtailed by this new policy.

¯ Our counties and our towns are the last line of defense against the onslaught of these solar developers. We still have options to control the outcome and protect ourselves and the environment by passing sensible, fair, and comprehensive zoning laws. Ripley currently has their draft law out for comment, which will hopefully be adopted soon.

¯ We request that the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA), carefully consider their positions on Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) on proposed solar and wind projects. Consider, not only the financial ramifications, but also the impact these projects will have on the health and safety of our communities and our environment. Without any checks and balances provided on the county and local levels, the solar industry will proliferate throughout Chautauqua County and our neighboring counties, turning our green farmland and forests into wastelands.

¯ We urge the County Legislature to pass a No-PILOT resolution and send it to the Chautauqua County IDA. We cannot sit by and watch our beautiful farmland, animal habitats, and verdant forests destroyed in the name of “Green Energy.”

Rob and Katherine Galbraith are Ripley residents.

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