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Hecate set to shed light on solar mega-farm site

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It is Hecate’s plan to invite pollinators, aviators and sheep to their solar farm. Photo contributed

COPAKE—All will soon be revealed… or so it is hoped.

It has been 10 months since Hecate Energy, a Chicago-based developer of solar farms, wind farms and energy storage projects, announced its intention to enter into an Article 10 application process with the state to construct a 60-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm here. The facility would occupy 500 acres of a 900-acre project area near the intersection of state Route 23 and county Route 7, primarily south of Route 23 in the Copake hamlet of Craryville.

“Shepherd’s Run Solar” is the name of the project. It will include the installation of 200,000 solar panels seated on steel-tracking mounts to follow the sun throughout the day; inverters; a new electric power substation constructed next to the existing substation on the north side of Route 23, near County Route 7; a voltage collection system; tie lines connecting to the NYSEG transmission lines; a switching station; and, possibly, an energy storage system of lithium-ion battery cells enclosed in modules stacked in racks inside 53-foot-long shipping containers, which would be fixed onto concrete foundation pads along Route 23, directly east of the existing NYSEG Craryville substation.

The project is 50 times larger than Copake Zoning Law allows.

In the months since Hecate’s initial announcement, the Town of Copake, residents and Sensible Solar for Rural New York (www.sensiblesolarny.org), a coalition of concerned citizens who oppose the project, have tried to find out through legal channels and repeatedly questioning the developer about exactly where the panels would be placed and what accessory elements would be included in the project.

Now Hecate has scheduled a virtual open house December 9 at which promised project details will finally be revealed. Hecate has maintained that Covid-19 restrictions prevent an in-person open house. The town’s response has been “What’s the rush?”

Hecate Energy Project Developer Alex Campbell spoke to The Columbia Paper this week by phone about the upcoming event, noting, “The main thing people want to know is project layout, that will be a big part of it.”

Project siting details, how visual impacts will be negated, along with community benefits, environmental studies, permitting and economic benefits are all included.

Mr. Campbell said he hopes the event tone will remain “constructive and not get emotionally charged.”

The open house will take place in two virtual sessions via Zoom, December 9 at 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. and will start off with a slide presentation by Mr. Campbell. He said the presentation has 25 slides and will take less than an hour, leaving plenty of time for questions and answers to follow. Also available at the sessions will be several Hecate experts, consultants and its attorney to answer any specific or technical questions that may arise.

Mr. Campbell said he will be open to answering any questions during the sessions and at the December 10 Town Board meeting.

Starting December 7, two days in advance of the open house, anyone interested can get a preview of the slides at http://www.shepherdsrunsolar.com/openhouse/ . Also use that address to get an invitation to join the open house.

People can also submit comments, questions or request a copy of the materials at info@shepherdsrunsolar.com or by calling 833-529-6597.

Mr. Campbell said he did not want to let any secrets out prior to the availability of the slides, but did note that Hecate has said all along that the area on which the solar arrays will be placed may be 500 acres, but will likely be “much less.”

He said that over the last few months throughout the 900 acre project area, “We have been studying to understand where we can’t put panels effectively on 500 acres or less.”

He said there are two subcomponents of the buildable footprint: the area inside the fence (the panels will be behind a fence for safety reasons) and the actual area of panel coverage. Mr. Campbell said besides the panels, behind the fence will be a smattering of dirt or gravel roads, and space between the panel rows for grass, flowers and native plants.

An area sheep farmer with an interest in expanding his flock wants to graze his animals inside the panel area, said Mr. Campbell, noting that the sheep are raised for both wool products and meat.

Also Mr. Campell mentioned the possibility of creating an aviator and pollinator area, open between April and October, with flowers and apiaries near the Taconic Hills school for educational purposes.

Mr. Campbell said Hecate has taken out ads in local newspapers and he has gone to Copake himself to put up flyers. It is his hope to “get as many people as possible” to show up at the December 9 open house.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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