Company outlines plan for 1,300-acre solar project in Barre, Shelby

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 December 2020 at 10:21 pm

Community Energy says construction of 200-megawatt Orleans Solar could start in 2022, be complete in 2023

This is the proposed layout for Orleans Solar in Barre and Shelby.

BARRE – A company wants to build Orleans Solar, a 200-megawatt solar energy project in the towns of Barre and Shelby.

Community Energy went over the project in an online forum this evening. The project would cover 1,300 acres, with about 75 percent in Barre and 25 percent in Shelby.

Community Energy expects it will complete the permitting process by the second quarter in 2022, with construction to commence in the third quarter of 2022. Interconnection to the grid would be complete in the third quarter 2023, with construction done the fourth quarter that year.

That was the timeframe presented by Joe Green, director of development for the company based near Philadelphia, Pa.

The layout of the project would be from east of East Shelby Road in Shelby, past Burns Road in Barre. The solar project is in a sparsely populated part of the two towns near the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. A main transmission line from National Grid runs through the project. Community Energy won’t need any battery storage facilities for the project, with the power going right into the grid, Green said.

Most of the land is currently used for corn and soybean farming. Community Energy is working with 10 landowners on the project.

Community Energy did the first and only large-scale solar project so far to make it through the Article 10 siting process for renewable energy in New York. Mohawk Solar in Montgomery County is a 95-megawatt project, less than half of what is proposed with Orleans Solar.

With Mohawk Solar, Community Energy is paying the taxing jurisdictions $300,000 annually, with 2 percent increases. That is $3,333 per megawatt the first year.

If Community Energy reaches a PILOT for payments to taxing jurisdictions at the same $3,333 level, the total revenue paid to the taxing jurisdictions would be about $667,000.

Green said the company wants to work on the PILOT agreement with the local government leaders in 2021. “We haven’t had those discussions yet,” he said about the PILOT.

The project should have 5-6 full-time equivalent employees. Construction is expected to be between $200 million to $250 million, Green said, with 170 construction workers on site for about six months.

The state is moving to a new siting process for large-scale renewable energy, from Article 10 to 94-C. James Muscato, an attorney assisting the company with the siting process, said 94-C should allow projects around the state to be sited “in a more uniform fashion.”

Community Energy needs to work with several state agencies and the host municipalities as part of the review.

“The project must be designed to avoid or minimize, to the maximum extent practicable, potentially significant adverse environmental impacts,” Muscato said.

The company needs to provide $200,000 in intervenor funds – $1,000 per megawatt – for the municipalities and community organizations to hire experts to review the application.

Community Energy is working to delineate wetlands and streams. The company will establish boundaries of all wetlands and streams on lands with the project, and will need to minimize impacts or avoid those areas.

It is also doing its avian studies in consultation with US Fish and Wildlife Service, NY Natural Heritage Program and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The company has done multiple habitat evaluations and has identified northern harriers, short-eared owls and upland sandpipers.

The company will also be providing visual impact studies as part of the project with simulations throughout the 2-mile visual study area.

For more on Orleans Solar, click here.