GNH Lumber February 2024

Hecate unplugs battery plan

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COPAKE—Hecate Energy has decided to drop the idea of including a battery storage system in its controversial proposed 60-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm, called Shepherd’s Run in Craryville.

Hecate, (pronounced “HEK-uh-tee”), a developer of solar power plants, wind power plants, and energy storage solutions headquartered in Chicago, says the move comes in response to public feedback and indicates that the company is listening.

Sensible Solar for Rural New York, a coalition of concerned citizens, who oppose the project, says Hecate still has a long way to go to address local concerns.

The January 26 announcement by Hecate that it will withdraw the battery storage component from the proposal comes on the heels of a December 9 announcement during Hecate’s virtual informational open house that it will reduce the project’s footprint by more than 25% from 500-acres to 360-acres.

Previously the developer said its 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.

The project was to 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 on concrete pads along Route 23, directly east of the existing NYSEG Craryville substation.

Now the project area has been cut to 360-acres with the panels occupying 280-acres and the lithium-ion battery storage is out.

Project Developer Alex Campbell said by email this week, “Hecate has no plans to do anything to make up for the lack of storage.”

The developer is applying for the solar project under Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law, which governs the process for siting and permitting. The project is currently in the stipulation phase. This application process bypasses the town zoning law.

The January 26 Hecate press release says that hundreds of people attended the developer’s virtual information open house sessions in June and December of last year, which combined detailed project briefings with question-and-answer sessions. Additionally the public has weighed in during weekly public Zoom office hours held by Mr. Campbell for the past six months. Recent project changes reflect the feedback the developer received.

“Hecate Energy wants the citizens of Copake to know we are listening to their views and opinions, and that we value working with the community to site and develop the best possible project,” Mr. Campbell said in the release.

In a January 27 statement in response to the Hecate announcement, Darin Johnson of Sensible Solar for Rural New York said, “While Hecate Energy continues to portray itself as a company going out of its way to work with the people and community of Copake, NY, this could not be further from the truth.”

Mr. Johnson contends that Hecate “has once again shown great willingness to twist the facts in favor of their own goal of receiving New York State approval for its proposed industrial-sized solar project in Copake and Craryville.

“While Sensible Solar for Rural New York applauds Hecate Energy on its plans to remove battery storage from the project, there remains much more to be done to address the great and growing concerns of Copake and Columbia County residents and public officials.”

When Hecate began its consideration of a 900-acre project area for its industrial-scale solar facility, Mr. Johnson said the developer knew “hundreds of acres within that footprint contained protected wetlands and forests, the Taghkanic Creek and several other streams, and many homes and working farms.” Despite the developer’s new 360-acre project area, the proposal is still “hundreds of acres more than Copake’s zoning laws permit,” Mr. Johnson noted in his statement.

Much of the land on which Hecate Energy proposes to construct its facility is considered prime farmland by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

“A solar facility of this scale will disrupt our region’s valuable and precious natural resources, ecosystem, wildlife and viewsheds for decades. In claiming a reduction of the project’s footprint, Hecate has demonstrated a continued reliance on misinformation as a means to convincing our community of this project’s benefits,” Mr. Johnson said.

According to Mr. Campbell, “the changes in the Copake project will not reduce the previously committed $5-7 million in new revenues for the school, local governments, and first responders the project promises to deliver.”

The solar project plan also places sufficient land into conservation easements to provide access to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT).

The solar facility “construction process would create 200, mostly local, construction jobs and generate economic activity that will benefit area businesses,” Mr. Campbell said in the release.

But Mr. Johnson contends in his statement that “If Hecate Energy is really committed to ‘better serving local priorities,’ it should therefore abide by local zoning laws that explicitly ban solar facilities greater than 10 acres on any single parcel of land.”

He said, Hecate could build a solar facility closer to 100 acres under Copake’s zoning laws. Sensible Solar and concerned landowners “have repeatedly asked the company to sit down with the Town of Copake to advance a proposal that works within Copake’s zoning laws and respects our community’s wishes and best interests,” Mr. Johnson said.

With regard to working within local zoning law, Mr. Campbell said by email, “While we can’t always satisfy every request, Hecate has continually listened to project opponent concerns and made significant changes as a result of their feedback. Two prominent examples of that are the removal of the battery storage component and the 25% reduction in the project footprint size.”

For more information visit the Hecate Energy website at www.ShepherdsRunSolar.com/

Find out more about Sensible Solar for Rural New York at www.sensiblesolarny.org/

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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