State approves $167K from solar company to Shelby, Barre for review of 200 megawatt project

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 September 2021 at 1:09 pm

BARRE – Two state administrative law judges have awarded $167,200 in intervenor funding to the towns of Barre and Shelby for its legal and engineering expenses to review an application for a 200 megawatt solar project covering about 2,000 acres in the two towns.

Michele M. Stefanucci and Anthony Belsito, administrative law judges, on Sept. 2 awarded $122,200 to Barre and $55,000 to Shelby. That was the exact request from each town.

As part of the application through the state Office of Renewable Energy Siting, the solar company needs to provide up to $1,000 per megawatt or up to $200,000 total for municipalities, non-profit organizations and other groups that apply for some of the funding to hire experts to review the application.

Community Energy Solar is proposing to construct and operate “Hemlock Ridge Solar.” The project was initially presented as “Orleans Solar” but Community Energy has modified the name. (Many of the solar arrays are proposed to be along Hemlock Ridge Road in Barre.)

The project is proposed to be about 80 percent in Barre and 20 percent in Shelby in a sparsely populated part of the two towns near the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. A substation would also be in Barre for the project.

The facility site will be located on approximately 2,094 acres, of which approximately 1,268 acres will be occupied by facility infrastructure and maintained for the life of the project, estimated to be at least 30 years, the company states in a filing with ORES. (Click here to see documents submitted to the NYS Department of Public Service about the project.)

The two towns, in their letters to the state requesting intervenor funds, said the money would allow the towns to defray “the cost of legal, environmental and engineering consulting services.”

The consultants will assist the towns in determining whether the proposed facility is designed to be sited, constructed, and operated in compliance with applicable local laws and regulations. Lawyers hired with the intervenor funds can also assist the towns with developing a host community agreement and a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), which is revenue to be shared among the local taxing entities.