As the Town of Columbia moves to making a decision on a 2,200-acre commercial solar project, residents have come together in opposition of the project.
The group, called Protect Columbia, has about 200 people interested in seeing the project proposed by EDF Renewables be rejected in Columbia. About 50 acres would also be along the east end of the Town of Litchfield.
Nathan Seamon, a spokesman for the group and Columbia resident, said the group is not against commercial solar farms. The concerns are about what they believe will be the negative impacts on the community by taking up about 10 percent of the town’s size.
“Many of us are concerned that a project of this size will take prime, tillable and pasturable farmland off the table in a time where food production is becoming more challenging that ever,’’ Seamon said.
Protect Columbia also has health and safety concerns over the project, which would also include 32 battery storage areas for the lithium batteries used on such projects. Seamon said the environmental impacts could harm soil, drinking water, wildlife and the ecosystem in general.
The California company began working on the project - which would be one of the largest in the Northeast - in 2019. Once in operation, the solar farm would be able to provide power to 80,000 households.
Although New York state has endorsed the project by providing state funding, one of 22 such large-scale projects given funding, the Town of Columbia has not yet been involved in the process required for permits.
Jack Honor, Director of Development for EDF on the Columbia Solar and Storage Facility, said the project is in the Development and Permitting phase. The permitting is through the New York State Office of Renewable Energy Siting, Honor said, because of the project’s size.
EDF is performing the requisite environmental studies and engineering to submit the permit and anticipate a permit submittal in mid-2023, Honor said.
Honor said once the permit application is submitted, typically a permit is approved around 18 months. During the permitting process there are opportunities for public and municipal participation and consultation, he said.
Once the permit is approved, the project can move towards the construction phase which is scheduled to take two years – 2025 and 2026.
Over the summer EDF…