Canton residents speak up at Rich Road solar project public hearing

Posted 5/8/24

CANTON – Two Office for Renewable Siting (ORES) administrative judges listened to public comment from 16 speakers voicing concerns and accolades for the proposed EDF Renewables 240-megawatt …

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Canton residents speak up at Rich Road solar project public hearing


CANTON – Two Office for Renewable Siting (ORES) administrative judges listened to public comment from 16 speakers voicing concerns and accolades for the proposed EDF Renewables 240-megawatt Rich Road solar project.

Around 60 people attended the public hearing held in the Laurentian Room at the Best Western University Inn. Convening were the Honorable Christopher McEneney Chan and Honorable Dawn MacKillop Soller.

The majority of comments were directed to safety issues at the 20-megawatt battery energy storage facility. Other comments focused on aesthetics, vegetation, removal of agricultural land and wildlife.

First to speak was Village of Canton Mayor Michael Dalton.

“While this project we are speaking about tonight isn’t in the village, it is immediately adjacent to it and could have a substantial impact on our citizens. I am using this brief time I have to comment only about fire protection for the EDP project,” the mayor stated. “Please understand that my comments are not for or against this project. My concerns are basic and based on our village water supply and our village fire department's ability to provide the required fire protection for this project.”

The mayor said improvements to the village water supply will be necessary to effectively respond to battery energy storage fires.

“An engineering study to assess the need for necessary improvements to the village water supply system should be approved by ORES and paid for with intervenor funds,” Dalton remarked. “Improvements to the water supply system identified by an engineering study should then be paid for by the Rich Road Energy Center.”

Dalton also endorsed a plan to have a financial mechanism in place to ensure needed equipment is available for any emergency.

“An annual payment to the Canton Fire Department would establish a special fund to support future equipment and training needs that are unique to a BESS [battery energy storage system] fire,” he said.

Canton resident Mark McKenna downplayed the battery storage safety issue, saying electric vehicles and charging stations are just, or even more dangerous.

“I would worry more about people getting injured in the village than out in the forest,” he said.

Barry Whiteford, Canton, also addressed the battery storage safety issue, alluding to trains traveling through the village carrying toxic chemicals.

“Instead of walking up and down on the backs of EDF, try to reduce the rate of speed of the trains and have a plan in the event of a spill,’ said Whiteford. ‘This [the solar project] is the best thing that has come into this community.”

Canton resident Barb Rogers agreed that a special fund needs to be established to deal with safety issues at the battery energy storage facility.

“Appropriate annual funds for our emergency services department separate and independent of other funding to the town and village,” she stated.

Matilda Larson, Canton, voiced concerns about the removal of forest land for a hedge row.

“I have concerns about the way the facility is laid out. Forests should jot be removed to accommodate renewable energy systems,” Larson stated.

Klaus Proemm, a former village trustee and member of Canton’s Sustainability Committee, expressed concerns about an adequate water supply at the solar complex and breaks in electricity bills for Canton residents.

“I am a long-time advocate of solar energy,” said Proemm, noting some DeKalb residents will see rate reductions. “Canton needs to negotiate a similar host agreement with EDF.”

Proemm added that a 20,000 gallon water storage tank is proposed at the Rich Road site but questioned if that’s enough water in the event of a fire.

“Is that sufficient? If they need wells what effect will that have on the local aquifer,” he stated.

Joint Town, Village comments

William Buchan, the attorney hired by the town and village to handle solar issues, spoke briefly but presented a 20-page submission to ORES representatives on Tuesday evening.

Buchan’s written remarks highlighted his client’s concerns about the Rich Road solar project going against the principles of the town’s new code and Canton’s comprehensive plan. He said the Route 11 corridor is prime for development of local businesses, hospitality, retail and other permanent tax paying entities that create jobs.

“If solar panels occupy these zones all potential future residential and commercial development will be effectively destroyed,” Buchan writes.

His comments also point to the safety of the battery energy storage system (BESS) with a subhead titled “BESS Facility is Not Safe and Should Not be Sited in Our Community” followed by “Dangers of BESS Fires and Explosions Cannot be Avoided or Mitigated.”

Buchan’s comments also touch upon impacts to agriculture, decommissioning, human health impacts and runoff from a BESS fire, and water supply issues.

Written comments concerning the application and the draft permit conditions must be filed with ORES by 5 p.m. on Friday, May 10,

Persons filing written comments are strongly encouraged to post their comments on the ORES Permit Application Portal (ORES Portal) system. To post a comment, go to https://ores.ny.gov, click on “Permit Applications,” click on Project Permit Application Number 22-00031, and click on “Post Comments” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Written comments may also be emailed to ORES at hearings@ores.ny.gov or mailed to the Office of Renewable Energy Siting, Empire State Plaza, P-1 South, J Dock, Albany, NY 12242.