Public should attend Ridgeway town meetings about solar, battery storage projects
The purpose of this letter is to express my concern about the lack of attendance at meetings for The Town of Ridgeway. Since learning about the proposal of a solar array and a large battery storage facility on Swett Road in Ridgeway, I have started to attend town meetings. The first town meeting consisted of only a few people. While the attendance has increased at each meeting, it is still mediocre, at best.
Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of communication from the town. Not having a local paper is quite a handicap. I have learned that the Town of Ridgeway utilizes The Daily News (Batavia’s paper) to print public notices. I have also learned that the Town of Ridgeway has not kept their website up-to-date. With it being 2020, such information should be readily available to the taxpayers. In fact, when asking why two years’ worth of board minutes were missing, I was brushed off. All of the board minutes have since been uploaded.
Nonetheless, this solar project should be very alarming to Ridgeway as it is just the first of numerous solar projects being presented to our community and neighboring communities. This project alone would consist of 11,000 solar panels and a 3MW lithium ion battery which is the size of a tractor trailer. There are numerous concerns regarding a battery of this nature being installed near our residences.
Perhaps the biggest concern for Ridgeway residents is that it may not be the only battery we have to risk living by. All one has to do is look up information regarding the battery that exploded in Arizona. That one was smaller than the one(s) being proposed here!
NextEra Energy proposed this project to the Town of Ridgeway Planning Board on Dec. 4. I attended that meeting after learning about this project one day prior. I can count the number of residents that were at this meeting on both of my hands.
At this meeting the company representatives asked for a variance to see if the town would allow them to be only 250 feet away from our residences as opposed to the minimum of 500 feet, which the local law states. Further, there is no local law for battery storage, yet this company was here asking to set up shop! The Planning Board indicated the next step for them would be to be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals.
On Jan. 7, I attended the Zoning Board meeting along with only a handful of residents where we were told NextEra Energy withdrew their variance application. We were told that, instead, the company would be submitting a Special Use Permit. The Zoning Board indicated this would bounce back to The Planning Board pending an updated proposal, which has since been submitted.
Perhaps the largest turnout by residents has occurred at the Jan. 21 Town Board meeting where a battery storage law was to be adopted. This law would be the final piece necessary for NextEra Energy to come to Ridgeway and install this monstrosity. This would lay out the pathway for them, and other companies, to begin installing who knows how many solar arrays and /or battery storage facilities. At this meeting the residents voiced their reasons for the vote to be tabled, pending further review.
Since that meeting, a few residents have voiced requests for a moratorium to be enacted in order for the Town of Ridgeway to thoroughly research this topic and write a battery storage law that is appropriate for Ridgeway and its residents. Also, since that meeting, it is surprising how many residents still have no idea about what is transpiring.
I strongly encourage the residents of Ridgeway to start attending meetings and start communicating with each other about what is happening. It is imperative that people get involved for the sake of the future of Ridgeway!
The next Planning Board meeting is Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. and the next Town Board meeting is Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. I look forward to seeing more residents at meetings!