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Flint Mine Solar Farm Coming To Greene County Soon

Solar array at the Essex Farm
Pat Bradley/WAMC

One of two proposed Greene County solar farms has been approved by New York state authorities.

Flint Mine Solar got the green light earlier this month from the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. The 100-megawatt power plant is to be developed in an area spanning the southern end of the Town of Coxsackie and the northern section of the Town of Athens.

Bill Moore is with Hudson Energy Development, which is building the power plant.

"We've been developing larger scale renewables like this for a long time. And, you know, it's our way of thinking the key to success is finding sites that aren't that controversial. Solar is very different than when it's much more of a horizontal resource with, you know, wind machines very much a vertical resource. And so, we need to find places where we can install, you know, large amounts of panels without impinging on people's views, out they're kitchen windows. And that's what attracted us to this site. In the first in the first place. It's, you know, largely abandoned farmland."

Solar energy has been touted as a way to help fight climate change. While some residents in areas where solar farms are being proposed welcome the facilities, others are saying "not in my backyard." Kim Rose is a spokesperson for Saving Greene: Citizens for Sensible Solar.

"I have sold my home in the community as of last year, but still reside here for the moment at this point. However, I have no financial stake in the game to genuine concern for Coxasackie's future. But I do also have is the perspective of someone who has grown up in this area who has witnessed this evolution from a struggling economic base to what now stands to be a thriving community of creative engaged people. One sees that wedding venues, resorts an Airbnb are all feeling tourism once again, as people come here to enjoy our rural beauty, history and wildlife. “

Rose fears if additional solar projects are approved, Coxsackie, Athens and similar communities across the state will eventually be "blanketed in solar."

Kris Martin is also with Saving Greene. The Coxsackie resident supported the Flint Mine Project, but opposes Hecate Energy's proposed 450-acre Greene County Solar Farm, up for approval in September.

"We are the only town in New York state that has two Article 10 plants. Now Article 10 means that it's a large enough plant for the state to decide on the siting and not the local community, the state can override local laws. So we kind of felt this was an awful lot of solar development for one town."

Martin has environmental concerns as well.

"What's going to be used for solar is a large contiguous area of grassland habitat. And there are a couple of threatened and endangered species that live there and can't live a whole lot of other places. The short eared owl, there are maybe 100 of them left in New York State, and they live there during the winters. I've actually seen them during the summers too, it's quite exciting to actually to watch them in broad daylight, hunting off the fence lines. They can't aren't among solar panels. That's out of the question. So we've been concerned about some of those issues."

Meantime, Moore says several months of engineering are ahead, with construction of Flint Mine likely to begin in early 2022. Around 500 construction and manufacturing jobs would be created as a result of the project.

He notes the project will be built in strict conformance with the conditions that were laid out in the certificate that was issued by the Public Service Commission.

"This project is very unusual, in that the panels will be installed on 10 or 11 separate sets of farm fields. And so there's no, there's no one vantage point anywhere in that, that corner of Coxsackie and Athens, where you can see the entire project, you know, from one viewpoint, in fact, you'd be hard pressed to see more than maybe a 10th of the project from any one viewpoint."

Officials say Flint Mine will provide approximately 175,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy roughly equivalent to the average annual electricity needs of the 21,000 homes in Greene County.

Its solar panel system will tie a high-voltage interconnection to National Grid's electric lines. Moore anticipates the facility will be operational by early 2023.

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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