ROSE — Residents got their first look this week at a proposed solar farm that would be one of the largest in the nation.
The first of two public information sessions was held at the Rose Union Community Center Wednesday to outline the Rosalen Solar Energy Center, a proposed solar power facility on 2,000 acres that would generate up to 350 megawatts of electricity. It’s estimated it could power up to 80,000 homes.
The event was hosted by EDF Renewables, which is hoping the Rosalen project will be among the next round of large-scale solar projects selected by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
If approved — and this process is about three years long — construction would start in 2023 or ‘24, with the solar farm operational by 2024.
“We want to share the facts of the project to the community,” said Kevin Campbell, development manager of EDF Renewables, one of several project members on hand to answer questions from the public. “We really want to get their feedback on a one-to-one basis.”
He said Rosalen could be tweaked based on that input, which is required under the state’s Article 10 law governing the construction and operation of major power-generating facilities.
EDF is hosting a second public session next Wednesday at the Clyde Grange.
Local support is an important component of the state application, Campbell said.
The meeting, held in the former school’s gymnasium, featured 35 informational placards explaining the project and the benefits the estimated $300 million power-generating facility would provide to the county, towns and school districts through job creation and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and host-benefit agreements.
Estimates provided by Campbell say the taxing entities could share $1 million or more yearly and that those revenues would be far beyond what those schools and governments get from the crop and grazing land that comprises a majority of the project focus area. Those boundaries are likely to be modified, based on community feedback, company officials said.
Rose Town Supervisor Kenan Baldridge said PILOT discussions are preliminary at this point because the project — estimated to create about 300 jobs during construction — has not received state approval.
PILOTs are essentially negotiated agreements that reduce the tax liability of the land in exchange for business and sometimes residential developments. Campbell said that while the cost of building large-scale solar projects is dropping, PILOTs are still needed to make them financially feasible.
He said EDF has hired a firm to discuss leasing options with landowners, and that the company has commitments from 60 to 70 percent of those in the project focus area, which straddles Rose and Galen. That is beyond the 50-percent threshold needed to apply under state guidelines.
The leases are for 30 years, although decommissioning could begin as early as 20 years. Solar generation could go beyond 30 years, he said, although new landowner agreements would be needed.
And while there would be a loss of farmland, Campbell is hoping the land could still be used for limited agriculture, such as sheep grazing, something that is being done on a 200-acre solar farm near the Canadian capital of Ottawa.
Baldridge said he’s had more questions than concerns about the solar project.
“Right now, it’s curiosity more than anything,” he said. “Some people are not understanding the scale of this.”
Campbell said EDF is doing large-scale solar projects in New York because of strong state incentives related to the state’s efforts to get 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. The large area of cleared farmland in Galen and Rose is another reason for choosing Wayne County.
The other reason EDF chose Galen and Rose: A major transmission line nearby that allows them to send the electricity into the state grid. It’s possible some of the electricity will be stored on site, Campbell said.
And though Baldridge said he’s heard little opposition from residents, early arrivals at the public meeting Wednesday expressed skepticism.
“I’m not in favor,” said Galen resident Mary Alonso. “I don’t like the farmland being taken away.”
“They want some of my farmland,” said Alonso’s friend, John Young. “I don’t like to look at them either.”