Public meeting details scope of 80 MW collection center

CANASERAGA — A possible solar energy collection project generated a lot of buzz in the Canaseraga, Burns and Dansville communities on Wednesday.

EDF Renewables held its first public meeting on the proposed Moraine Solar Energy Center, so named for a nearby electricity transmission it hopes to connect to by the close of 2022. The information session was held at the Canaseraga American Legion, which saw its parking lot packed with interested locals.

The target build area encompasses a 500 acre stretch overlapping the Towns of Burns in Allegany County and the Town of Dansville in Steuben County. However, the focus will likely shrink to an area mostly in Burns, according to Project Developer Kevin Campbell. Much of the site is "low grade" farmland.

The Burns/Dansville areas were deemed to be viable by the company for several reasons.

"New York State has a renewable energy goal by 2030, so developers like us are trying to find sites throughout the state that make sense for solar facilities," Campbell attributed. Additionally, the nearby transmission station has available capacity.

Besides making sense as a successful setting, the company says it has found cooperative potential neighbors in the community — a relationship that began with negotiations spearheaded by the Rochester-based commercial and utility-scale solar development company, Brownfield Group LLC.

Brownfield President Grant Cushing engaged neighbors over a period of several years. The pitch included low cost energy, job creation and economic development for the surrounding communities, which was further detailed on Wednesday.

The project is slated to generate 80 MW of power, most of which will power local homes. The energy is estimated by EDF to be enough to power 10,000 homes. Any excess energy would be directed to the state grid to regional use or distributed to New York City.

Peak construction, to tentatively take place between late 2021 and the end of 2022, is anticipated to create 150 jobs. When completed, the solar farm will leave 3-4 residual, "high-skilled" jobs, likely filled by engineers and mechanics, according to Campbell. There will also be ancillary part-time or contract jobs dealing with things like landscaping or grazing opportunities for local sheep.

That construction would include the installation of piles and racking that will support traditional solar panels, power inverters and transformers, as well as a new substation near the site.

In total, the project will cost $100 million, some of which will be used to source local labor and materials, Campbell promised.

"During construction there will be gravel suppliers, the hospitality sector would benefit, hopefully much of the labor will be local," he detailed.

Other economic benefits included what company representatives called "generous PILOT payments" to towns, counties and school boards, as well as revenue generated for contracting landowners.

"It could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local communities each year," Campbell said.

Additionally, EDF rested its case on its experience in developing renewable energy in North America. The France-based company has developed more than 10GW worth of solar and wind energy projects in North America. In 2017 alone, they introduced 13 new projects (many in New York State), which generate 843 MW of energy. In total, EDF has 27 projects in New York State.

"We want people to feel that we are a trustworthy company, that we've provided the information they're looking for, that this project can bring a lot of additional revenue they wouldn't otherwise see locally, and that they will be treated neighborly as well," Campbell said.

Allegany County Economic Developer Craig Clark called the project a "great opportunity" for the county and its residents, and looked forward to seeking out more, similar projects.

"We're excited about the opportunity. (Alfred State College) has been doing renewable energy for a long time, a lot of students are involved. It's the right thing to do in the long term, and for the right reasons," he said.

Alfred State College's Wellsville Campus has a 40KW installation in Allegany County, and Houghton College has a solar installation as well. 

However, the application process for the site is expected to take some time, as it is subject to New York State's Article 10 process for sites generating more than 25 MW. The company is required to hold at least three more public meetings before submitting their plans to the state Siting Board at the end of next year, the next of which will take place early in 2019.

For more information, or to give your input on the project, contact EDF Renewables by email at NewYorkSolar@edf-re.com