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Brookhaven amends its solar code to discourage clearing of forests

Brookhaven Town Hall is pictured in an undated

Brookhaven Town Hall is pictured in an undated photo. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Brookhaven officials have amended the town’s solar code to encourage businesses to install solar panels on roofs and parking lots instead of clearing forest land for them.

The vote, a 7-0 decision made last week, would make it more difficult for National Grid and partner NextEra Energy Resources to construct a proposed solar array on 350 acres of woodland surrounding the decommissioned Shoreham nuclear plant.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine did not support that project.

“Brookhaven is a suburban town and we have had a lot of growth. We don’t need more development,” Romaine said in a Wednesday phone interview. “If you want a large solar farm, do it on land that has already been cleared. That’s the right place to do it.”

He added places such as parking lots and on the top of industrial buildings are acceptable destinations for solar arrays.

Ross Groffman, Executive Director of LI Solar Generation, LLC., said in an email: “The proposed Shoreham Solar project would generate clean, renewable energy and create significant economic benefits for the community. We look forward to working with all stakeholders on this project.”

Many town residents have opposed commercial solar arrays on sod farms and other large tracts. The amendment builds on the town’s current code, based on a code adopted by the Suffolk County Planning Commission in May 2015.

That code recommended that big commercial solar projects be sited on industrially-zoned land and said rooftops should be the preferred site for smaller projects.

“We want to keep Brookhaven as green as possible. We want renewable energy, but not at the expense of chopping down a whole forest,” Romaine said. “This sets a standard. We prefer people to put solar farms on top of large industrial buildings or parking lots. We don’t need massive clearings.”

The amendment provides economic incentives for commercial and industrial building owners who install solar panels on roofs and in parking lots, town officials have said. The law also bars clearing trees to make way for solar panels.

The new code encourages businesses to add solar arrays by allowing them to install fewer parking spaces than usually required in lots that include solar panels. Shopping centers and office buildings with solar arrays on their roofs also would be allowed to expand by up to 20 percent, town officials have said.

With Carl MacGowan

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