FAQs about High River Energy Center

Q: What is the High River Energy Center?

A: The High River Energy Center has developed a proposal to establish a largescale solar energy facility located in Montgomery County, New York. The High River Energy Center would significantly contribute to New York’s efforts to meet New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s renewable energy goals. 

Q: How much energy will the Energy Center generate?

A: The High River Energy Center will generate 90 megawatts of solar energy.

Q: How will the local community benefit from this project?

A: The High River Energy Center is expected to position Montgomery County as a leader in renewable energy and help New York meet its renewable energy goals.

Q: Are there other benefits that the project will bring?

A: Governor Cuomo announced that New York should produce half of its total power from renewable sources by 2030 and projects like this will help meet that need.

This new source of clean, renewable power produces no air or water pollution and is in line with the state’s Clean Energy Standard and Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, which is fostering new opportunities for renewable power that will help New York transform its energy generation system.

Q: What is NextEra Energy Resources?

A: NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, is a clean energy leader and is one of the largest wholesale generators of electric power in the U.S., with approximately 21,000 megawatts of net generating capacity, primarily in 37 states and Canada as of year-end 2019. NextEra Energy Resources, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery storage.

Q: How is the project being approved?

A: Permitting and approval is overseen by the comprehensive New York State Article 10 process.

Q: What is Article 10?

A: The Power NY Act of 2011 established a process for the siting of electric generating facilities and re-powering projects. As part of the process, a multi-agency Siting Board is charged with conducting the permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts or greater. The Power NY Act also encourages investments in clean plants and affords communities more opportunities to participate in the siting process. Learn more…

Answers to Questions Received from Attendees of Project Presentation at Florida Town Board Meeting on 9/24/18

Q: Why is NextEra leaving equipment on our property without our permission?

A: As part of preliminary siting efforts, High River Energy Center has been conducting preliminary field surveys to document existing conditions within the Project Area boundaries. All equipment associated with these preliminary surveys was used on land within the Project Area with permission of the landowner, or from public right-of-ways. No equipment was or will be placed on properties outside of the Project Area, unless public right-of-ways are used.

Q: Why are drones being flown over our property if we did not agree to solar panels?

A: As part of the Article 10 Application, aerial photography of the Project Area will be overlaid with proposed Project facilities, access and maintenance roads, and limits of clearing, in order to show the relationship with existing structures and vegetation cover types. Aerial photography is being collected via drone high-resolution photography for inclusion in the Application. Drones are also being utilized to collect topographic data of the Project Area. Any use of drone technology has been in conformance with applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Q: How do we prevent herbicide from being used on solar fields uphill and bordering our hay fields?

A: The primary method of vegetation maintenance proposed at the High River Energy Center is through routine mowing. In select instances, such as an increase in weed population in a specific area, it may be necessary to utilize herbicides. If herbicides are used as part of the Project, they will be environmentally friendly and will be selected in accordance with applicable New York State regulations and applied by a State-certified applicator. High River Energy Center’s proposed maintenance routines will be explained in the Article 10 Application.

Q: In regards to the project fence and setbacks (200 ft), will the fence will go on 200 ft back or 200 ft from the panels themselves?

A: The Town of Florida’s zoning ordinance defines a setback as the distance (200 feet) from a front lot line, side lot line, or rear lot line of a parcel within which a free-standing or ground-mounted solar energy system is installed.  Therefore, all solar panel arrays will be setback a minimum of 200 feet from all parcel lot lines. A perimeter security fence will be provided around all solar panel arrays as required by the Town of Florida’s zoning ordinance. Fencing is typically installed adjacent to the solar panel arrays but offset from the arrays to leave adequate spacing for access and/or maintenance purposes. Site plan drawings will be included in the Article 10 Application depicting proposed fence locations.

Q: Will the setbacks be changed by 2021? This size of project was never thought to happen when written.

A: High River Energy Center currently plans to develop the Project in accordance with the applicable substantive requirements of local laws and ordinances, including § B 2 (Setback) of the Town of Florida – Article VIII Supplementary Regulations, Section 45.5 Solar Energy Systems and Equipment (Utility-Scale Solar Collector System), which states that “All utility-scale solar collector systems and associated buildings, accessory structures and equipment shall have a minimum setback from any property line of 200 feet.”

Q: If these panels are installed on very hilled land, the land below it may be eroded and the possibility of planting certain crops will be lost. If this happens, can the panels be removed due to damage to land below (with cost of crop for the years damaged)?

A: The installation of solar panel arrays is not anticipated to result in soil erosion issues. The solar panels are to be installed on racking systems, which are mounted to posts typically driven into the ground, thereby limiting the need for excavation. Additionally, following installation of the solar panel arrays, all disturbed areas are seeded with a low growing vegetation seed mixture to stabilize soils.

Grading and erosion control plans will address both the construction phase and permanent installations. An erosion and sediment control plan will be prepared as part of a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) to limit the possibility of soil erosion as required by New York State regulations. Erosion and sediment control Best Management Practices will be implemented, monitored and maintained throughout the construction and operation phases of the Project until impacted areas become stabilized. To facilitate soil stabilization, exposed soils will be seeded and mulched in a timely manner to reduce the risk of sedimentation events arising from storm events. As part of the SWPPP, an environmental monitor will be in place throughout the work period and during the restoration period in order to inspect and assess erosion control success, and to mitigate any unforeseen issues. It is expected that that state agency personnel will also be inspecting the stabilization measures. Throughout the lifetime of the facility, High River Energy Center will implement the installed stormwater management measures.

Q: In regards to the 2 judges, what happens if they disagree?

A: The judges are free to disagree and express their respective reasons in the recommended decision (“RD”) to be issued by the examiners. In addition, the associate examiner has the option of submitting a separate report of dissenting or concurring conclusions and recommendations. The Siting Board reviews the entire record, including the RD and any separate report.

Q: What will be used to take snow and ice off panels?

A: The panels’ angular mounting allows most snow and ice to slide off the panels onto the ground once the sun rises and begins to warm the panels.

Q: Has there been any long-term studies (+20 years) done for residents living surrounded by solar panels?

A: As part of its preparation of the Article 10 Application, High River will be reviewing available published studies that have been performed. People have been safely living and working around solar panels for decades. Solar panels are regularly installed on residential rooftops across the country as well as adjacent to homes and other structures. All construction and operation will occur within the Project Area boundaries. The most effective means of mitigating potential impacts is through optimal siting, adequate setbacks, and design of Project components. Discussion of general mitigation strategies such as design, appearance, siting, avoidance and layout will be discussed in the Application as well as any landscaping proposed for screening.

Q: At the presentation Keddy said “you think you do it the best” — do you think surrounding people’s homes in solar panels is the best option?

A: No homes will be surrounded by solar panels as the arrays will only be constructed within the Project Area on land owned by participating landowners. High River Energy Center is in the preliminary stages of developing the proposed site layout and performing studies in order to determine the best locations for siting the solar panel arrays in order to minimize potential adverse impacts (including the potential for visual impacts) to the maximum extent practicable, given myriad environmental/engineering constraints.  Drawings distributed to date have only indicated the Project’s potential buildable area which depicts locations within the Project Area that may be developed based upon constraints such as setbacks and sensitive environmental areas.

Q: Local parties can collect up to 50% of the intervenor funds — what are the other 50% used for?

A:  The presiding examiner of the Article 10 proceeding is required to reserve at least 50% of the pre-application intervenor fund for potential award to the municipality (i.e., county, city, town, or village). The remaining 50% is available for potential award to local parties, generally including any person residing in a community who may be affected by the proposed solar facility who is a party to the Article 10 proceeding.  The Board regulations at 1000.10, which can be found at this link [Article 10 Regulations], provide greater detail.

Q: How will the residents be compensated for the loss of their homes’ value? Will our taxes be reassessed based on the loss of value on our homes?

A: While the impacts of a utility-scale solar energy center on neighboring property values have not been studied in-depth, numerous studies found the impact of wind energy generation on neighboring property values to be negligible. Solar has less of a visual impact than a wind farm does.

Importantly, a solar project brings numerous economic benefits to a community, including the potential for millions of dollars in additional revenue to the local community which can be used to enhance schools, roads and essential services – improving both the quality of life and overall value of the community. The Project will deliver these economic benefits without making additional demands or impact on community services.

Additional Questions Received from the Community

Q: How is this project going to benefit me?

A: A solar project brings numerous economic benefits to a community, including the potential for millions of dollars in additional tax revenue (or payments in lieu of taxes) which would support the local tax base and may in fact lower taxes for local residents.

The project is also planning to enter into a Host Community Benefit agreement with the Town of Florida, which would provide additional funding to improve roads and provide additional essential services—enhancing both the quality of life and overall value of the community. The project will deliver these economic benefits without making additional demands or having an impact on community services.

Q: How tall are the panels?

A: The panel arrays would stand approximately 10–13 feet above ground level at the highest point.

Q: Will the project area be fenced?

A: The project’s commercial-scale solar arrays and collection substation will be enclosed by a fence.

Q: Do solar energy projects make noise?

A: During the short construction period, noise at the project area would be typical of construction sites. Solar projects operate quietly during the operational period.

Q: Can the equipment be damaged by weather?

A: The support systems for the solar arrays are designed to withstand the typical wind loading and snow loading present in this area. Photovoltaic (PV) panel manufacturers have tested and rated their equipment to withstand the impact of hailstones up to a certain size. Any panels that are damaged by hail or other debris can be individually replaced without taking the entire project out of service.

In the case of severe weather or natural disaster, if panels are damaged, trained facility personnel will safely collect, recycle where feasible and/or properly dispose of them.

Q: Would the panels have glare?

A: Photovoltaic panels are constructed with nonreflective coatings and/or glass. These panels are designed specifically to absorb as much sunlight as possible in order to maximize electrical generation, rather than reflect sunlight. Through design and intelligent siting, glare can be eliminated or kept to a minimum. This is assessed in the project’s Article 10 application.

Unlike the project on Route 30 in and out of town, High River will be providing vegetative screening with trees and shrubs to screen the solar project from many public viewpoints to the maximum extent practicable.

Q: Are the solar panels the project plans to use safe?

A: Yes. People have been safely living and working around solar panels for decades. Solar panels create no greenhouse gases or other air pollutants. They use no water resources to generate electricity and they create no waste byproducts. Panels are made of solid materials and do not pose a chemical hazard to the general public, underlying soil or groundwater.

Q: Who will pay for the removal of the system?

A: As part of the Article 10 requirements, High River Solar Project is required to file a decommissioning plan, which will include an obligation to provide financial security for the eventual removal of the system at the end of its life. The Town of Florida will be the beneficiary of the financial security. The project is obligated to return the land to substantially the same as it was before the solar project.

Q: Will the project have an impact on ground water?

A: High River Solar Project will use safe solar panel technology that does not impact ground water. Furthermore, the project will not use pesticides. In limited instances, the project may selectively use herbicides approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a secondary means of vegetation control if necessary. These state-approved products are typically used at farms or homes. Broadcast aerial application of herbicides is not proposed, only spot treatments.

Q: Can solar panels leach chemicals into the ground if they become cracked?

A: The High River Solar Project will use crystalline silicon solar panels. These solar panels are made of solid materials and do not pose a chemical hazard to the general public, underlying soil or groundwater. In fact, people have been safely living and working around solar panels for decades. Solar energy emits no pollution and the overall impact of solar on human health is overwhelmingly positive. The project does not propose to use thin-film solar panels containing cadmium telluride.

Q: Did the High River Solar Project conduct wind testing?

A: In accordance with the Building Code of New York State, wind loads will be determined in accordance with Chapters 26 to 30 of ASCE 7, set forth by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The wind speeds used for calculation of design wind loads on the solar panels, panel racking system and foundations will be determined from wind hazard map Figure 26.5-1C per Section 26.5.1 of ASCE 7-10 and regional climatic data per Section 26.5.3 of ASCE 7-10. The panels, therefore, will be securely fastened to support systems.

Q: What is the current projected timetable for commencing construction on High River?

A: A detailed construction timeline has not yet been established.

The High River Solar Project is currently focusing on permitting and approval through the Article 10 process.

Should the project receive its Article 10 Certificate, the High River Energy Center is expected to be placed in service by 2021. Prior to construction, a detailed construction timeline will be developed and shared with the town and adjacent landowners.