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New solar projects to be unveiled Thursday

A large West-Coast solar-energy developer Thursday will announce agreements with five Long Island municipalities to develop commercial-scale solar arrays from Wantagh to East Hampton.

Sun Edison, of Belmont, California, said the arrays, through long-term power contracts with LIPA, will be on property owned or controlled by the towns of East Hampton and Southold, Nassau and Suffolk counties and the Suffolk County Water Authority.

The projects are part of a LIPA solar initiative announced two years ago called a feed-in tariff, which offered solar developers a set kilowatt-hour fee to supply commercial solar power to the local grid.

Steve Raeder, a Sun Edison managing director for the Eastern USA distributed generation, called the Long Island projects "the first step in expanding our footprint across the state."

But the projects also are generating some opposition. Last week, around 30 residents met with Suffolk Legis. William Lindsey (D-Holbrook) to voice opposition to a proposed Holbrook site. "The solar farm will drastically affect all of our property values and have an effect on our quality of life," Holbrook resident Chris Davis said.

The Sun Edison sites include a 1.2-megawatt project at a Suffolk County Water Authority property at 555 Coates Ave., Holbrook; a 3.2-megawatt project at Suffolk County-owned Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach; a 2.6-megawatt project at the Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh; a 781-kilowatt project at the Southold landfill on Cox Lane in Cutchogue; and three East Hampton projects totaling about 3.21 megawatts on Old Northwest Road at Bull's Path, Accabonac Road and at 260 Springs Fireplace Road, according to LIPA and Sun Edison. A megawatt of solar powers around 150 homes.

Larry Cantwell, East Hampton town supervisor, said all three East Hampton sites are on former landfills. "We're pleased to be able to make use of the property and generate revenue for the town and contribute to our goal of being energy independent," he said.

In addition to the Sun Edison projects, LIPA also lists other recently signed contracts for large solar arrays from other developers. They include an 8-megawatt project on a large, triangular partly wooded lot between Edison Avenue and Straight Path in Babylon. Its developer, Solar Liberty, didn't return a call seeking comment.

LIPA also includes a 4.7-megawatt project on Ramsey Road and Natcon Drive, off the Long Island Expressway, in Shirley, and a 1.2-megawatt one at the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead.

PSEG Long Island is administering the feed-in tariff projects for LIPA. PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the total of 25 megawatts of projects listed thus far represent about half of those for which the utility expects to sign power purchase agreements in the future.As Newsday previously reported, another set of proposed projects representing an additional 48 megawatts of solar rescinded their proposals after a PSEG review found they would incur additional infrastructure and interconnection costs.The latest spate of solar projects come weeks after Suffolk County's Planning Commission released a set of guidelines for the siting and development of large commercial solar arrays that are expected to be applied across Long Island.

The new county code, expected to be adopted by Suffolk towns including Brookhaven, would require setbacks from residential areas and that around a third of the sites be maintained as open space. It would exclude the spaces between panels from being counted as open space, a factor that one solar developer said would render all such projects unfeasible. Planning Commission chairman David Calone rebuffed that claim.

Weir of PSEG said it was the solar developers' responsibility to conduct outreach in communities that will host the arrays and get needed approvals from local governments.

Raeder of Sun Edison said, "We try to work with communities early on that are serving as our hosts."

With Rick Brand


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