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Residents, town officials discuss Copake Solar Facility

Hecate Energy

A proposed 255-acre solar farm in the Columbia County town of Copake has been long debated. Residents and officials discussed the farm on a virtual session Monday night.

Hecate says the Shepherd’s Run Solar Farm will support local farmers and provide renewable energy to Columbia County while protecting and preserving clean air, water quality, and soil resources.

In October of 2020 the Copake town board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the development and installation of Shepherd’s Run. The resolution cited the adverse impact on rural roads and community.

Town Supervisor Jeanne Mettler has long maintained the project along County Route 7-A is contrary to the town's comprehensive plan, farmland protection plan, and zoning laws. She spoke during Monday night's virtual session organized by the group Sensible Solar, which is opposed to the scale of the project.

“At the time of the resolution Hecate had announced intention to build a utility scale solar installation covering 500 acres of farmland and capable of generating 60 megawatts of electricity," said Mettler. "Now Hecate touts that they have reduced the area inside the fence that will be 220 acres. But they have not compromised a single megawatt they will still sacrifice prime farmland. They will cut down up to 40 acres of woodland, and they will surround their project with chain link fence. Copake’s position today is as it was two years ago. The town opposes the project as it is currently proposed because it is too big and it is poorly sited.”

Supporters of Shepherd's Run say the 65-megawatt project will help mitigate climate change and minimally impact the town. Nonetheless there has been much ado about zoning law, landscape design, rural siting and planning of the projected solar installation. And there have been challenges to state Office of Renewable Energy Siting regulations that clash with town zoning law.

Mettler says if Hecate is serious about collaborating with Copake, it will wait for a report being written by a working group of townsfolk which she says will be available at the end of January. Mettler expects Hecate to respond to that report and modify its project accordingly.

Extending an olive branch of sorts, Alex Campbell is a project manager for Chicago-based Hecate, which is holding an in-person informational open house at the Hillsdale Firehouse.

“I did not participate in the meeting from Sensible Solar that was held last night, I did hold a pre-open house Zoom meeting myself," Campbell said. "And there were just a handful of folks that joined from the community and then actually members participate as well. And the purpose of it was to preview the open house tonight and allow those that are unable to participate to be a part of it virtually. But tonight we will show the entire presentation that was provided last night, which I'll provide on our website at the end of this week.”

Campbell says it's good that there's a dialogue happening around the Shepherd's Run project. Hecate says “results of various environmental studies continue to support the viability of the project.”

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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