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    North Side Energy Center evaluating next steps after state denial of solar facility request


    August 11, 2022 - Bob Beckstead, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

     

      Aug. 10—BRASHER — A day after the state Siting Board denied its request to construct and operate a 180-megawatt solar facility in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena, officials with North Side Energy Center say they're evaluating their next steps.

      "North Side Energy Center is aware of, and disappointed by, the siting board's decision. We are evaluating our next steps at this time," NextEra Energy Resources spokesperson Matt Eissey said in an email.

      The developer can seek rehearing and appeal the siting board's decision or file a new application.

      NextEra Energy Resources, through its subsidiary North Side Energy Center, had proposed developing, building, owning and operating a solar facility that would produce 180 megawatts of power. It would have had a construction period of about 12 to 14 months, starting late this year and going into 2023.

      The 180-megawatt solar energy center was slated to be located on land leased or purchased from private property owners in the towns of Brasher, Norfolk and Massena. Project components included commercial-scale solar arrays; access roads; buried, and possibly overhead electric collection lines; a project collection substation; and electrical interconnection facilities.

      The bulk of the project — 90% — was located in Brasher.

      Although the project area is 2,200 acres, the actual solar facility area encompassed 961 acres. The company had partnered with local landowners to have access to the project area, but the land will still belong to the landowners.

      In denying the request for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need, officials with the state Siting Board said they considered the adverse environmental impact of the project. Their decision was outlined in a 77-page "Order Denying Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need."

      "Based on the record, we cannot make the requisite findings under PSL (Public Service Law) §168 that would allow the Certificate to be granted. We therefore deny the Application because: (1) the adverse environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of the Project, specifically impacts to wetlands and threatened and endangered species, have not been minimized or avoided to the maximum extent practicable; (2) the Project's compliance with applicable State environmental laws related to wetlands and threatened and endangered species has not been demonstrated; and (3) the Project has not been shown to be in the public interest," they said.

      They said their decision was supported by "the extensive evidentiary record of this proceeding, including North Side's Application, the testimony and exhibits filed by the parties, as well as the partial settlement proposal and the exceptions to that proposal asserted by Department of Public Service Trial Staff (DPS Staff) and the Department of Environmental Conservation Staff (DEC Staff) related to proposed Certificate Conditions governing wetlands, streams, threatened and endangered species, and related issues."

      "We also base our decision on the initial and reply briefs filed by the parties, the public comments received, and applicable laws, regulations, prior administrative and judicial decisions, and policies," Siting Board officials said.

      They said that since the enactment of the Article 10 approval process, the Siting Board had approved 17 renewable energy generation projects with certificate conditions that were designed to protect the state's environmental resources, address public health and safety concerns, and foster the state's energy policies.

      "In this instance, however, we are unable to approve this Project because of its unmitigated and unavoidable adverse impacts to the State's environmental resources and the inability to make all of the requisite findings under PSL §168(3) based on this record," they said.

      They said, based on the required public participation, the project had both support and opposition. The Siting Board conducted its own public outreach on Oct. 26, 2021 and heard from several attendees, including area residents, farms and businesses.

      "Eight public comments were filed electronically in the Department's DMM system. The St. Lawrence Industrial Development Authority (IDA) expressed support for the Project based on economic development and job creation, reduction in carbon emissions, and generation of 180 MWs of renewable solar energy," they said.

      However they added, "Certain commenters, who own land near the Project, expressed opposition and complained about the destruction of farmland and the adverse impacts on property values and wildlife. At least one commenter complained that the Applicant had not contacted him even though he is a landowner of property directly adjacent to the Project. The owner of a nearby radio station (WMSA AM) in Massena warned in a comment that the Applicant would be responsible for any control or voltage problems caused by the construction and operation of the Facility."

      The full document can be viewed at http://wdt.me/QgMCsb.

      ___

      (c)2022 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

      Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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