Construction of the state’s second largest commercial solar array is expected to begin next month as developer Invenergy prepares to break ground at the former Tallgrass golf course in Shoreham.
The 24.9-megawatt array, approved by LIPA last year, received approvals from the state comptroller and attorney general earlier this year, and Invenergy finalized the sale from a holding company tied to DeLalio Sod Farms last month, said Brad Pnazek, Invenergy’s senior business development manager. LIPA’s 20-year contract with Invenergy is valued at $177 million, according to the state comptroller.
The Invenergy array, called Shoreham Solar Commons, will be second in size only to Brookhaven National Laboratory’s solar farm at 32 megawatts. But the Invenergy array is expected to produce around the same amount of energy — 50,000 megawatt hours a year — using newer, more efficient photovoltaic panels on 150 acres. The BNL farm sits on around 200 acres of federal land in Upton. A megawatt of solar in New York powers around 175 homes, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association.
Invenergy had bigger ambitions. Last year it bid on a project to build a 100-megawatt array at the EPCAL industrial park in Calverton, but withdrew the project from a LIPA bidding request after the Town of Riverhead withdrew a request for proposals for projects, Pnazek said.
Shoreham has been a hotbed of solar activity and controversy. Another array on 60 acres was the subject of a lawsuit by local residents concerned about the view, their health and property values, but the 9.5-megawatt project on a former DeLalio sod farm was completed. In addition, National Grid and NextEra propose building the largest array, at 72 megawatts, on 300 acres surrounding the decommissioned Shoreham nuclear power plant. While some environmentalists support it, local officials and civic groups are opposed because it would require clear-cutting trees. It awaits LIPA’s review.
Some Shoreham residents had protested the Invenergy array last year, concerned that it would affect views and home values. But at least one neighbor on Tuesday said he saw it as inevitable. “I don’t really have strong opposition to it,” said Wally Anketell, whose home borders the eastern end of the golf course on Cobblestone Drive. He and others have a large buffer of trees behind their homes, and Invenergy is expected to establish another buffer inside the farm. “I saw it as a done deal,” Anketell said, adding that he preferred a solar farm to a housing development. “I’m still going to get my sunsets.”
Construction won’t require the removal of trees, Pnazek said, and Invenergy plans to plant more than 2,000 evergreen and deciduous trees to further screen the solar array.
Invenergy expects to employ around 100 workers during construction of the array over the next eight to 10 months, but no full-time workers when it’s operating. The project awaits a building permit from Brookhaven Town that Pnazek said he expects to receive in coming weeks.
Invenergy will pay $670,000 a year to local taxing districts, a figure that increases over the 20-year contract. Pnazek said this was roughly 10 times the taxes paid by the golf course. A clubhouse on the property will remain in place.
The Invenergy project was one of 11 that LIPA awarded to solar projects in December 2014, as part of a plan to develop 400 megawatts of renewable energy. Many of the 11 projects have yet to receive power purchase agreements or have been withdrawn.