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Grid, NextERA propose solar farm at Shoreham nuke plant site

Aerial view of the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant

Aerial view of the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant on July 13, 2015. National Grid and NextEra are proposing to build the largest solar energy array in the state on 350 wooded acres west of the plant. Credit: Daniel Brennan

National Grid and NextEra are proposing to build the largest solar energy array in the state on 350 acres of wooded property beside the shuttered Shoreham nuclear plant in a move that could stoke the green-for-green debate.

The proposal, to be submitted Wednesday as part of a LIPA/PSEG Long Island request for proposals for green energy, would have a maximum capacity of 72 megawatts — enough to power the equivalent of 13,000 homes and more than double that of the state’s largest array, which is at the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

National Grid and NextEra, a Florida-based energy company, have partnered on other energy projects. The joint venture, called LI Solar Generation, would create up to 175 construction jobs, NextEra said. Newsday first reported on the prospect of such a plan in April.

Ross Groffman, executive director of NextEra Energy Resources and LI Solar Generation, said the project, if selected by LIPA and approved by the state, would cost an estimated $100 million and could be operational by 2020.

Groffman said the site’s size and proximity to a large energy transmission infrastructure make it ideal for a big solar array. NextEra has built large solar arrays across the country.

Groffman said the company has studied the topography of the site and believes it can accommodate such an array.

The project would be located on around 350 acres of heavily wooded land in an area west of the decommissioned nuclear plant, which is home to deer, turtles, fox and other wildlife. There are deep hollows and high hills within the site, with high bluffs overlooking the Long Island Sound.

The project has already drawn some early opposition.

“We are adamantly opposed to this project, and we will not allow any trees to be cut,” said Ed Romaine, supervisor for the Town of Brookhaven, where the project would be located. “This is not the place for solar. It’s the wrong place for the wrong project for the wrong reasons.”

MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Brookhaven Affiliated Civic Organizations, said she expects opposition to the plan to be “enormous.”

“Look, we’re not going to trade green for green and the sooner LIPA understands that the better,” she said.

To address such concerns the companies are offering to fund a tree-restoration program that could entail planting new trees elsewhere to offset the losses, Groffman said. The company also has received letters of support for the project by Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the Advanced Energy Research and Development Center of Stony Brook University, of which Groffman is an advisory board member.

National Grid acquired the site as part of its acquisition of KeySpan in 2007. National Grid owns a total of 800 acres, mostly wooded, around the nuclear plant, both to the north and south of North Country Road.

The solar array would include the optional component of 25 megawatts of battery storage, Groffman said. Separately, NextEra and National Grid are proposing to build a 23-megawatt solar array in Calverton in response to the LIPA bid request.

National Grid, which previously operated the Long Island electric system under contract to LIPA, still owns most Long Island power plants, including the largest at Northport, Island Park and Port Jefferson. NextEra, formerly FPL Energy Resources, operates smaller, peak-time power units on Long Island, and previously proposed building a wind farm off the South Shore, near Jones Beach.

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