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Riverhead officials question proposed solar project that could power thousands of homes

Environmental impacts, tax concessions, restrictions on 290 acres that s-Power facility would be on are among the concerns raised by the town board.

Riverhead officials said they have concerns about a proposed 36-megawatt solar project from energy developer s-Power, including how much electricity  town residents would get from it and whether the company's land use would stymie future advances in energy technology.

The town board told s-Power representatives at a Sept. 27 work session that they have several questions about how Riverhead Solar 2 LLC — s-Power's proposed solar facility on 290 acres along Middle Country Road and Edwards Avenue — would impact the town. The facility would tie into a PSEG substation nearby on Edwards Avenue and is projected to generate power to more than 8,500 households, if approved, according to project officials. S-power is shooting to have the facility completed sometime in 2020.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith  said after the meeting that she had concerns about limiting the land for other industrial uses, whether a PILOT arrangement — or payment in lieu of taxes — would be made on the project, and what kinds of environmental impact the facility would have on the surrounding area, among others.

“There’s a lot of questions that they need to answer,” Jens-Smith said. 

Derek Kremser, project manager for the proposed facility, said Tuesday that the public would have the opportunity to comment on the project, including during the public scoping and permit application processes.  Residents could also help select two ad hoc members to join the seven-member Siting Board of the  state Department of Public Service to examine the permit application.

Kremser said the company would make about $800,000 in annual PILOT payments, if approved, which he said was “a substantial sum of money” that could benefit Riverhead. Regarding any future concerns on the project, Kremser said project officials want to “build a relationship” with the town, noting a 20-megawatt solar facility is being built in Calverton.

The town has until Oct. 5 to submit its comments on the project to the state Public Service Department as part of the project's public scoping process.

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