Hecate always surveys and studies much more land than we will ultimately need for the final project design. This allows us to refine the design to accommodate community comments, potential flora and fauna impacts, visual impacts and other land constraints such as wetlands. We intend to design the best project we can on the land we have that minimizes disturbance to the community and natural environment.
The project was named to honor the long and proud agricultural history of the area. Hecate is exploring potential grazing and pollinator-friendly planting on the solar farm site during its operation. If that option is not feasible, vegetation management will primarily be done with periodic mowing and trimming. Little or no chemical vegetation control is planned. If any is used, it will be targeted and far less than farms or golf courses typically use.
The New York State siting process has a rigorous requirement for studying impacts on all types of birds, including waterfowl, raptors, woodland and migratory birds—with special attention to those federally designated as listed or endangered. These studies are conducted by highly experienced biologists and overseen by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).
This project will not have a significant impact on wildlife. As outlined above, we need to carefully study any potential impacts and if there are any, we need to either mitigate them, or the project cannot receive its permits.
The photovoltaic technology planned for use in this project was invented in 1954 and has been continually refined over the ensuing six decades. Over the past decade, the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% and is now one of the two fastest-growing forms of electricity generation vying with wind power for the top spot. Today, nearly 250,000 Americans work in the solar power industry, more than double the number in 2012. The US Census calculated that solar photovoltaic installer is the fast-growing job occupation in America.
The New York State power facility siting laws require that the project have a decommissioning plan in place that will ensure the property is returned to its original condition after its useful life, without affecting taxpayers.
REC contracts are designed to level the playing field and make emerging zero-carbon electricity generation sources (solar, wind and small hydro) competitive with fossil-fueled generating sources that have been subsidized for centuries. RECs are a means of rewarding clean generation for the important role it plays in reducing the cost of the environmental and climate impacts to the state created by traditional generation sources.
This project will have virtually no impact on the school or the people within the school building. It produces no air or water pollution and will be visually screened from the school. The panels do not create significant electromagnetic fields (EMFs) like high voltage transmission lines do. Nor do they create loud sounds such as a conventional power generation or industrial facility.
First, fires at solar farms are extremely rare. The primary materials comprising the project equipment are glass, aluminum, steel and a small amount of concrete—all inflammable materials. To ensure that local first responders are prepared in the unlikely event of a fire at the project site, Hecate brings in experts to train first responders on how to respond to fires where solar panels are involved. Not only does this training prepare first responders to react to any eventuality at a Hecate project, but it also provides much-needed information about how they can safely respond to the increasing incidence of residential fires where solar panels are installed. Hecate is a leader in the industry in providing this training to local first responders. It is Hecate’s plan to bring a professional solar safety trainer to Copake to work with first responders. In addition, this project will contribute significant new revenues to the local fire department, helping them be better prepared to respond to all emergency situations within the town.
One of the primary reasons for this location is that it offers nearby transmission interconnection without the need to build new transmission lines. As part of the comprehensive environmental assessment, we will evaluate the potential visual impacts of the project from a variety of locations surrounding the site. Closer views, (e.g., across the road) can be mitigated by adding vegetative screening with non-invasive and indigenous species. More distant viewshed impacts will be assessed with digital topography analyses. We have found once communities have seen the simulations of the proposed mitigation, they were satisfied that these projects don’t negatively impact the viewshed.
We typically use the term “solar farm” in describing Hecate projects as it is the term with which people are most familiar with and doesn’t indicate a size. Just as both family-sized and industrial agricultural operations are both called “farms,” the same is true with solar operations.
By preventing the degradation caused by other forms of electric generation and other non-agricultural use of the properties, this facility will help to preserve the region’s rural and agricultural character. By significantly contributing to the local tax base, the project also helps to hold the line on tax increases, which is critical to other large landowners such as farmers being able to keep their operations running. On projects such as this, Hecate also explores co-development opportunities that promote the character of the local community—consistent with local planning goals.
The electricity produced by Shepherd’s Run Solar will be injected into the grid right in Craryville. Electrons follow the path of least resistance. If there is a demand locally, that’s where the power will be consumed. If it is not needed locally, it will travel further to where it is demanded. The renewable energy credits “RECs,” associated with the solar farm are sold to NYSERDA and used to offset emissions from non-renewable sources. The project is required to sell all the electricity produced in NY State.
As of Q2 2020, the Shepherd’s Run Solar Farm is in the early stages. Hecate began preliminary work on this project in 2017 but didn’t formalize the project until January 2020 after initial due diligence was completed. We now must engage in a broad range of studies to ensure the project’s impacts are minimal or can be mitigated. These studies include wildlife, cultural and historical, socio-economic, sound, visual and hydrology, among others. Many of these studies require data collection over multiple seasons and years. Hecate has launched a project-specific website (www.shepherdsrunsolar.com) where people can easily access information on the project and find phone and email contacts if they have additional questions or concerns.