A proposal from a subsidiary of Con Edison to build a 5.76-megawatt solar-generating farm on two parcels of land owned by Gate of Heaven Cemetery and the Trust of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Mount Pleasant has been denied by the town planning board.
A formal resolution rejecting the plan is due to be up for a vote at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 20.
The application would have involved 32 acres for the approximately 85 rows of ground-mounted solar panels. The solar panels would generate direct current, which then would be converted into alternating current to feed into the Con Ed electricity distribution grid.
A megawatt of electricity is 1 million watts, enough to light approximately 10,000 100-watt household light bulbs. The proposed solar farm also was to have storage batteries to hold excess electricity until it was needed, along with switching gear, transformers, and other necessary equipment.
The application for the solar farm was from CES Hawthorne Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Solutions Inc., which has its headquarters at 100 Summit Lake Drive in Valhalla. Consolidated Edison Solutions is a subsidiary of Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses Inc., which itself is a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison, the parent company that is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The solar panel installations would have had a height of 12 feet. The land on which they’d be placed would be leased from the archdiocese of New York. The proposed installation was to be next to Gate of Heaven Cemetery.
The planning board had issued a negative declaration of environmental impact and held public hearings on the proposal. CES Hawthorne Solar described the proposal as having long-term benefits to the community.
“It supports a sustainable, clean energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increases local opportunities to assist in measures that help offset climate change considerations,” CES Hawthorne Solar said. It said that utility customers who elected to subscribe to solar would receive 10% off their electric bills each month.
Planning board member Joan Lederman said, “I don’t think this is a responsible project. It’s poor planning. The town has no need of a solar array farm. We could certainly use more solar energy and we have plenty of roofs to put it on.”
Lederman was highly critical of the plan’s intention to clear-cut the property, removing hundreds of trees.
“It proposes clear-cutting acres and acres of land. If you had clear-cut this land and the storm of last night happened, I would suggest the hill would be down on the road right now,” Lederman said, referring to the remnants of Hurricane Ida that devastated the region.
“If the archdiocese of New York really needs money perhaps it should sell off the land. It would be better used by providing housing for people than a solar array. I find the project to be a poor plan and an environmental disaster.”
Lederman made the motion to reject the plan, which received the unanimous vote from the five of the seven town planners who were present.
Board Chairman Michael McLaughlin noted that the review process for the proposal began in 2018.
“We started off thinking this was a great application. I think the idea is a great idea,” McLaughlin said. “I think what you’ve heard is that the location scares … people. That doesn’t mean that you can’t come back with another application. I’m going to apologize not because I think we did anything wrong but because it took us so long to reach this point.”
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