Utility/Community scale solar

Provided by Linda Wightman of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County’s AG Team.

Most of us would agree that the US has to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The two biggest segments of GHG emissions come from energy and transportation. This need is encouraging development of many alternative (non-fossil fuel) energy production.

There are a number of solar arrays in fields across the county already and a number of sites that are in process now.

Local zoning laws play a critical role in siting local clean energy to meet renewable energy goals and rise to the challenge of the climate crisis. They directly influence the amount of solar energy that gets built. Increasing the supply of renewable energy is the path to meeting the region’s energy needs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. This shift to renewable energy is necessary not just to reduce emissions from energy production, but to electrify transportation systems and heating and cooling in the built environment— greater contributors to climate change than energy generation.

Municipalities in New York State have the authority to regulate solar projects less than 25 megawatts (MW) in size and to oversee their review and approval under applicable local laws and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Generally, larger projects reviewed at the state level also must comply with local law.

Therefore, Oneida County municipalities should proactively enact or update zoning laws to regulate and guide development of solar energy systems. In this way, they will be in a “solar ready” rather than reactive position. Solar ready zoning promotes “smart from the start” solar energy system development that ensures the preservation of community character and natural resources while maximizing the economic, environmental and public health benefits of clean energy.

Ask your community leaders if they have updated zoning laws to regulate and guide the development of solar energy systems.

If your local municipality doesn’t have these zoning laws in place, they can put a temporary moratorium on solar development while they develop them.

There are a number of resources that they can use to develop these zoning laws. One resource is Oneida County Planning.  Also a web resource that identifies important elements in establishing a plan can be found at this link  https://www.scenichudson.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/solar-zoning-in-the-hudson-valley.pdf.

Penn State Extension has released the PA/NY solar leasing webinar videos to view at your convenience!

(Stay tuned there will be more to come!)

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