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Conquest solar project footprint expands amid resident opposition


NextEra Energy's solar farm project application includes this map showing where panels and fencing would be located.

The proposal to build one of the largest solar farms in New York in the town of Conquest has moved into a new review phase, as the project developer has filed its official application with the state Department of Public Service.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, a sister company of Florida Power & Light Co., filed the application for a 200-megawatt solar facility on June 28 with the state Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, the entity within the public service department that will make the final decision on whether to allow the project to move forward. Because of the project's size, state law strips local officials of the authority to approve or reject it.

The application is the next major step in a review process that began in January 2020, when NextEra first filed paperwork stating its intention to pursue the project.

The application includes some changes from the original project description. The overall project footprint, which includes land for the solar panels and associated equipment along with buffer areas, has grown from an estimated 1,900 acres to 2,289 acres. The company plans to lease property from existing landowners to build the solar farm. The project would also establish a 20-megawatt storage facility that would feed an existing New York Power Authority transmission line.

NextEra is scheduled to provide an update and answer questions about its project this week at the regular meeting of the Conquest Town Council. That meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, at Conquest Town Hall, 1289 Fuller Road.

A group of area residents have organized to oppose the project, saying it's a threat to the rural character and farm lands in the town. Some area farmers are planning to hold an opposition rally on Monday near the town hall.

An opposition group called the Rural Preservation and Net Conservation Benefit Coalition this spring collected signatures from 372 people. That petition has been filed with the siting board.

"Dozens of homes in Conquest will be in close proximity to the facility," the group's attorney wrote in a letter with the petition. "RPNCBC would like the Siting Board to be aware that a large number of local residents are opposed to this project."

NextEra has said it aims to secure state approval so it can start construction in August 2022, with the project going online in 2023. The company said the project would create roughly 250 construction jobs and three to four permanent salaried jobs. It also said potential payments in lieu of taxes, if approved by the Cayuga County Industrial Development Agency, would amount to millions of dollars in revenues for local governments.

New York state has committed millions of dollars in energy credits to the project as part of its long-term green energy goals. Those goals include an 85% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, net-zero emissions from the state's grid by 2040 and 70% of New York's electricity coming from renewal sources by 2030.

"The Project will safely generate enough clean, renewable electricity to power more than 67,000 households," NextEra wrote in a public notice announcing its application filing. "As a renewable resource, the Project will avoid harmful emissions and other adverse impacts associated with traditional fossil-fueled generating facilities, such as water usage."

Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer


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