Large-scale solar projects under construction in Ridgeway

Photos by Tom Rivers: Contractors are shown on Wednesday putting in the racking system for a solar project at Beals Road by Route 31 in Ridgeway. Borrego Solar Systems also is building a solar array on Allis Road.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 October 2019 at 5:08 pm

30,000 solar panels will be installed on Allis, Beals roads

Contractors work on the project at Allis Road, which is bigger than the one on Beals. The conduit will be buried.

RIDGEWAY – The largest solar project in Orleans County is under construction in Ridgeway, with the 30,000 solar panels expected to be operational in the spring.

Borrego Solar Systems is constructing the two systems, which are both on land owned by Ken Baker, a livestock farmer on Beals Road.

The solar project at 3846 Beals Road will be for 3.5 megawatts with 11,745 panels that will be ground-mounted at a 25-degree angle. Borrego is using 16.5 acres of a 29.4-acre parcel. The solar array will be surrounded with a fence, and 240 trees will be planted as a buffer along Route 31 and part of Beals Road.

The other project is for 5 megawatts and 18,295 panels at 3962 Allis Rd., near

Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and the new Helena Chemical plant. Borrego is using 29.0 acres of a 42.0-acre parcel.

The company is in a 15-year PILOT where it will pay the local governments – Town of Ridgeway, Orleans County and Medina Central School – $7,000 per megawatt the first year or $59,500 total for 8.5 megawatts. The payments then increase by 2 percent each following year or $78,507 at year 15.

The revenue sharing is divvied up based on a proportionate share of the tax rates. The school district has the highest tax rate so it gets the most — $35,105 in the first year. However, the PILOT deal allows Lee-Whedon Memorial Library to receive 3 percent of the school district’s total, which will be $1,053 for the library in the first year.

The town is to receive $7,735 the first year, while the county’s share will be $16,740.

Ken Baker, a livestock farmer and a General Motors employee in Lockport, said the project comes at a good time. He is on strike from GM, where he has worked for 25 years.

He raises pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and steers. It is tough to be in farming on a smaller scale, Baker said.

The solar gives him a guaranteed income of about $50,000 annually, which he said will help in retirement. At GM, he doesn’t have a pension.

After the racking system in built, the solar panels will be placed on the units. Borrego will be installing about 30,000 panels that are each 77 inches by 39 inches. The two projects together will have a capacity to generate 8.5 megawatts of electricity.

Baker can continue his livestock operation, and can do it knowing he has steady income from the solar.

He said many farmers have approached him about the project. They are interested in having large-scale solar on their land.

“A lot of farmers are looking at it,” Baker said.

Depressed prices, especially for dairy, are hurting the ag economy. And Baker said farmers are concerned over the impact of new farm labor regulations in the state, where workers will be paid overtime after 60 hours per week and have the right to unionize.

Josh Richardson is managing the construction for Borrego Solar Systems. He said the project should be operational in March-April. Borrego is building the two solar projects, with AES to operate the system.

The solar arrays will have a fence around each site. The Beals Road array, which is along Route 31, will have a buffer that includes 240 trees.

“Once we’re done with construction it’s a very minimal impact,” Richardson said.

The Ridgeway site was attractive to  Borrego partly due to its close access to powerlines. Richardson said he expects to see many more large-scale solar projects in New York, where the state has set goals for far more wind, solar and renewable energy.

Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature want at least 70 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy by 2030. By 2040, the goal is for 100 percent carbon-free electricity. By 2050, the state has a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent compared to 1990.

About 15 to 30 construction workers are on site most days building the solar projects in Ridgeway.

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