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ENERGY

Review timeline set for massive solar farm proposed in Conquest

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Solar project

NextEra Energy Resources has posted this map of its proposal solar farm on lands in the town of Conquest to its dedicated project website, garnetenergycenter.com.

The state board that will decide on whether approve the proposed 200-megawatt solar farm in Conquest has formally accepted the project's application, a step that has kicked off a final review period and a deadline for the decision.

The New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment issued a ruling Nov. 10 that establishes a series of review deadlines associated with the application of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources to construct a 200-megawatt solar facility on privately owned lands in Conquest.

The overall project footprint, which includes land for the solar panels and associated equipment along with buffer areas, would occupy 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.

The proposal has met resistance from many residents in the area who are concerned about the impact it would have on the town's natural resources and rural character.

The state siting board, with operates under the state Department of Public Services, has final say over whether the project can be built because of state law that removes decision-making power from local governments on large energy generation projects. The process began January 2020, when NextEra first filed paperwork stating its intention to pursue the project.

On Nov. 1, the siting board formally declared the project application in compliance with state requirements, a statement that established the deadline for the final decision as Nov. 1, 2022.

Ten days later, the board posted a ruling that established a series of deadlines for all of the official parties in the review to submit testimony and participate in an evidentiary hearing. There are currently 18 parties that are bound by these deadlines, including NextEra, the town of Conquest, the opposition group named Rural Preservation and Net Conservation Benefit Coalition and multiple state agencies.

The review timetable outlined in the ruling includes the following deadlines:

  • Application updates: Tuesday, Jan. 11
  • Direct testimony: Thursday, March 10
  • Rebuttal testimony: Tuesday, April 12
  • Status conference: Friday, April 22
  • Pre-hearing submissions: Wednesday, April 27
  • Evidentiary hearing: Tuesday, May 3

NextEra had originally said it aimed to secure state approval so it could 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.

Local farmer John Daly speaks during a town meeting Q&A about the solar panel project in Conquest held July 19.

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