Pictured Above: The sPower Sutter and Sterlington solar farm on Edwards Avenue (foreground) with the GES solar farm in the background. | Borrego Solar photo
The Riverhead Town Board unanimously approved a one-year moratorium on new commercial solar farm applications on Oct. 19, more than a year after first proposing the measure in response to an unprecedented number of solar farm applications surrounding an electric substation on Edwards Avenue in Calverton.
According to the resolution approving the moratorium, the town is planning to address balancing the needs of renewable energy and agricultural preservation as it works to complete its comprehensive plan update over the course of the next year.
Five projects in that area are already completed or in the works, totaling 656 acres.
The town’s action could be moot in the case of future development of solar farms in excess of 25 megawatts, which would be reviewed under a New York State process known as 94-C, designed to hasten the state’s goal of producing its power through renewable energy.
Riverhead officials, however, have heard many complaints from constituents about the concentration of solar farms in the Calverton area, as well as about potential issues with decommissioning solar farms in the future.
“When you have a lot of one use coming into one zip code, you have to look at the cumulative impacts,” said Riverhead Councilwoman Catherine Kent, a Democrat who is running for town supervisor this fall, in response to public comment on the moratorium. “The comprehensive plan update should be a great tool for us in smart development.”
When she began to expand on other development issues, including the razing of woodlands to create more big box stores on Route 58, which already has its share of big box stores, Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar accused the councilwoman of campaigning from the podium and asked her to stop speaking.
Mark Haubner, the chair of the town’s Environmental Advisory Committee and a renewable energy advocate, pushed the board.
“Solar… it’s a big deal and I’m all excited because we have a year to think about it,” he said, with a touch of sarcasm, adding that he and former councilwoman Barbara Blass have put together a primer for the public and civic groups on the ever-expanding array of renewable energy options. “We’ve got a lot of choices in solar. There are a lot of tools and help avail from the DEC and Climate Smart Communities. We’ve got an awful lot of tools and an awful lot of potential.” —BHY