The new Ulster County executive has his first executive order. It’s part of his number-one priority — implementing a Green New Deal. And he announced a new solar array project.
Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, who was sworn in June 7, spoke to a room full of environmental leaders Tuesday before taking pen to paper.
“The executive order that I’ll sign today takes strong, immediate action to implement one of my core campaign pledges — moving our county’s energy production to 100 percent renewable by 2030,” Ryan says. “I think it’s critical that we lead by example.”
He says the executive order directs immediate implementation of a Climate Action Plan, which includes dozens of action steps to further reduce the county’s carbon emissions, drive deployment of clean technology and improve climate resilience. A piece of this is the creation of the county’s second solar array.
“And, even more exciting, we’re going to locate it on a brownfield site in Saugerties, taking what had been an unusable piece of land and turning it into a huge opportunity,” Ryan says.
The county’s first such project was a solar array on the former Town of Ulster landfill that become operational in May 2018, generating some 20 percent of all the electricity used by Ulster County government. Ryan says the second array would bring that percentage up to 40.
“Based on our research and our knowledge, this is one of the most innovative, unique approaches in the country to taking what would have been thought of as something with not even zero value, but actually negative net value, and adding huge value in a bunch of different ways,” Ryan says.
The roughly 26-acre site formerly used as a tire dump is off Route 32 in Quarryville. Amanda LaValle is director of the Ulster County Department of the Environment.
“This site that we’re evaluating, that we’re going to be moving forward to soliciting responses from vendors, developing, has been basically a brownfield for over a decade, in tax foreclosure with multiple environmental liens against the property,” LaValle says. “And it’s been in a place where it serves no benefit to the community or it’s not even paying taxes to support the municipalities.”
She says this project, begun under former County Executive Mike Hein, could pave the way to look at similar properties for renewable energy projects.
“But this is the kind of, to look at these underutilized brownfield sites in the community and to really target them for renewable energy generation so that we’re not using those important valuable pieces of property that we need for agriculture, for open space, for parks and recreation but we’re looking at these assets that we have, and they are assets, but right now they’re caught in foreclosure as brownfields, things like that,” says LaValle.
She says foreclosing on the property put a large hurdle behind them. As such, Ryan believes the project can now be completed quickly.
“Our goal would be to try to do it this year,” says Ryan. “I think that’s a realistic aggressive goal.”
He says planning and pre-construction assessments are under way, with a request for proposals for site development planned for release this summer. Again, LaValle:
“Also, another great benefit of this project is that we’re, we’ll likely be co-locating an emergency 9-1-1 communication tower on the site," LaValle says.
Maxanne Resnick is executive director of the Woodstock Land Conservancy and commends both the executive order and solar array project.
“The county has had a strong lead in all things environmental and, obviously under this new administration, is going to continue to forge ahead and lead our area and the country in what’s right to do, so very exciting,” Resnick says.
Meantime, Ryan is scheduled to sign the “Skip the Straw” bill into law on Thursday. The measure would prohibit restaurants and fast-food places from routinely providing single-use plastic straws. Customers would have to request them.