The Babylon Town Board approved legislation Monday that will allow solar energy farms on parcels of 50 acres or more in residential districts in the town.
While town officials say there are few properties that meet the criteria, the amendment to town zoning law will allow developers to move forward with a 9-megawatt photovoltaic array proposed for St. John’s Annex, a Roman Catholic cemetery in West Babylon. The land is owned by Saint John’s Cemetery, the nonprofit that manages Diocese of Brooklyn cemeteries.
Developers say the project would be one of the largest in New York State, capable of producing power for the equivalent of 3,000 homes a year. “I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Randy Van Yahres, director of planning and development for Saint John’s Cemetery.
There are 18 graves on the 114-acre Annex tract, but the land is mostly vacant and the solar panels will be away from the graves. A landscaped barrier will surround the array, Van Yahres said.
The parcel is bounded by the Southern State Parkway, New Montefiore Cemetery, Edison Avenue and Straight Path.
The Annex project still needs planning board approval. A similar project in an Archdiocese of Newark cemetery in East Hanover, New Jersey, uses on-site solar panels to power its mausoleum. A town-owned cemetery in Spain uses panels atop mausoleums to supply the local power grid.
A rush to build solar energy farms in Babylon seems unlikely, officials said. While the town has 41 properties eligible to host solar energy farms under the new law, 29 are municipally owned and 12 are cemeteries, many fully operating, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner.
Town officials might consider partnering with a private company to build solar arrays on its landfill, something other Long Island towns are contemplating, Bonner said. But no large-scale development will take place while the landfill is active.