Stop Hecate Energy from building a 500-acre industrial solar facility in Copake, NY.
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While we the undersigned fully support New York State’s renewable energy goals, we stand in strong opposition to the location and scale of Illinois-based Hecate Energy’s proposed 500-acre, 60-megawatt solar installation to be sited on and between New York State Route 23, Route 7 and Route 11A in Craryville and Copake, New York and adjacent to the Taconic Hills Central School and Copake Lake community and recreational area.
Hecate Energy’s planned industrial-scale solar installation will impact our rural community, county and Hudson Valley region in many detrimental, unreversable ways, including:
- Adverse, long-term consequences on Taghkanic Creek, the Copake Lake Watershed, protected wetlands and forests, and other natural resources on or neighboring the proposed site;
- Displacement of the area’s thriving native and endangered wildlife and birds due in part to the proposed site’s close proximity to the Hillsdale’s Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center and Sanctuary;
- Removal of hundreds of acres of prime farmland from agricultural use which is in direct conflict with Copake’s Farmland Protection Plan and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets mission;
- Degradation of rural, scenic viewsheds on a major thoroughfare to Taconic State Park, Catamount Ski Resort, the historic hamlet of Hillsdale and the neighboring Berkshires;
- A decrease of up to $18 million in surrounding property values caused by the wrongful siting of this utility-scale operation in a densely-populated rural area;
- Concerns and costs related to the proper disposal of 200,000 solar panels and storage batteries and the land being returned to its previous natural conditions at the end of the project; and
- Most important, the proposed 500-acre, 200,000 solar panel installation is in direct conflict with the Town of Copake’s 2017 prohibition on large-scale solar energy systems.
As such, it is incumbent on renewable energy companies and New York State officials to avoid siting large-scale solar and wind projects in highly agricultural, ecological-sensitive, historic and densely-populated rural areas. Instead, low-conflict sites – such as brownfields, closed landfills, current and former industrial sites, parking lots, commercial structures, and remote, sparsely-populated regions of the state – should be identified and prioritized. Additionally, renewable energy companies must respect local zoning laws and protect natural resources including wetlands and forests, wildlife and birds, prime farmland, rural viewsheds, property values, and community values.
As renewable energy companies look to Columbia County, New York as a potential site for utility-scale solar and wind power installations, county and town officials must have a strategic, county-wide approach and metric for siting of utility-scaled renewable energy installations in place before advancing projects of such a massive scale. With such an approach and metric, we can avoid our agriculture and tourism-centric Columbia County from becoming a patchwork of industrial-sized solar installations and the detrimental, decades-long impact they will have on area residents, local economies, natural resources and scenic viewsheds.
Furthermore, renewable energy companies building and operating solar and wind energy systems in New York State must be required to pay the full amount of county, town and school property taxes permissible by law and based on the assessed value of both the land and the renewable energy systems infrastructure – both considered real property in the State of New York.
In closing, we the undersigned strongly urge New York State, Columbia County and local officials to take immediate action to preserve and protect our community’s high-quality agricultural soils and farm operations, natural resources, native birds and wildlife, scenic viewsheds, and tourism- and recreational-centric economy by denying Hecate Energy permits to build the proposed 500-acre solar installation in Copake, NY. A renewable energy project of this scale and magnitude is best suited for a more remote or industrial site in New York. Please join us in protecting the essential history and character of our rural community and its many resources from being degraded for decades by this wrongly-sited, wrongly-sized industrial solar facility.
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