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90-megawatt solar farm proposed for Homer

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A proposed solar farm could bring up to 90 megawatts and be based on properties in the town of Homer, if the company can find land owners to participate.

“EDF Renewables plans to begin reaching out to landowners in the next two weeks,” said Jack Honor, a development manager for the company, in a statement.

EDF Renewable, an international company that develops and operates renewable energy facilities, plans to build a solar farm on 300 to 400 acres of land in Homer. Some of it could potentially be where Crown City Wind Farm had been proposed to go in 2012 in Homer’s southeastern corner.

“We’re in the early stages of talking to that company about us stepping into their shoes and stopping that wind farm and converting that project to a solar one,” Honor said during a recent presentation on the project to the Homer Town Board. “New York has very aggressive renewable energy goals.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing to have 70% of the state’s energy needs met by renewable sources by 2030.

Honor presented the board with a map indicating where the farm might work. Those areas include the vicinity of Parks, Phelps, Shippey and McGraw North roads. Honor said he expects to expand beyond those areas, though.

“There are some landowners further south of there that used to be signed up with the wind farm that expressed interest, but we haven’t really had those conversations yet,” Honor said.

The wind farm project included areas in Cortlandville, Homer, Solon and Truxton. Honor said his goal is to have the solar farm stay within the town of Homer.

Due to the size of the project, it will fall under the state’s Article 10 process, which is administered by the state Public Service Commission. The process provides for the siting review of new major electricity generating facilities by the Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, rather than requiring a developer to apply for numerous state and local permits.

It would likely be a four-year process to get through the steps.

Along with Article 10, the company would have to work with the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency to create a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, said Garry VanGorder, the director of the IDA and Business Development Agency.

“These projects can’t happen without PILOTs and we’re the organization that handles those,” VanGorder said. “The company would come to us and make an application for a payment in lieu of taxes that would help them build that project.”

Homer resident Victor Siegle opposed the idea of a PILOT.

“Giving up property taxes that should be paid by EDF would be another fatal mistake in our downward financial spiral,” he wrote.

Siegle encouraged the town board to seek comment from residents to see what their goals are for renewable energy.

“In order to transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy, we must make many long-term, life-changing decisions,” he said in a statement. “Because the stakes are so high, there is no reason to rush into any of these decisions and certainly no reason to rush into a long-term contract with EDF.”

“Unless this project makes the most cost-effective contribution to reducing or capturing carbon dioxide in Homer, there is no reason to approve it,” he said.

Cortland County doesn’t need the power, Siegle said, and other measures could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including reforesting fallow agricultural land, switching to high-efficiency lighting, emphasizing conservation and tapping the aquifers for thermal energy.

Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said the board won’t have much say in the project because the project falls under Article 10. He neither supports nor opposes the project, but said there are numerous variables to consider.

“It will produce the renewable energy, green energy that people like,” he said, but it could take away 400 acres of agricultural land for up to 40 years.

“As a landowner, I have companies like that approaching me all the time,” he said. “While some people are for solar and might have it on their house, they might not want to look across the road at hundreds of acres of it.”

However, he added, there’s little development in the area where the project would be built.

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