On July Fourth, I drove from my home in New Hampshire to my friend’s lake house in New York. I love driving pretty much anytime, anywhere, but I’m particularly fond of cruising through the narrow, two-lane mountain roads of New England that some people refer to as highways — it’s beautiful.
I was trying to enjoy the last bit of scenery as I entered the sparsely populated Craryville hamlet, located within the town of Copake, both in upstate New York. I say trying because I was distracted by a barrage of yard signs. I tried to make out what they said as I drove by, but all I could see was the word, “STOP” on the blue ones and “NO” on the green ones.
That was just the first cluster though. I could see in the distance that nearly every yard on the street had built a barrier between the road and their homes with these signs as if they were fence posts. I picked up a few words from each sign as I followed my GPS.
“Did that say solar?” I asked myself and squinted.
“500 acres,” to my right.
“TOO BIG,” to my left.
I slowed down a bit — it definitely said solar.
“Weird,” I muttered to no one.
A few minutes later, I arrived at my destination, happy to see no signs in the yard.
“What’s wrong with your neighborhood?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she replied, looking a bit concerned.
“Why are there so many signs everywhere?”
The answer: hypocrites.
“Everyone wants sustainability,” her husband said, “but no one wants to see it.”
For the most part, I agree. But, my Alice in Wonderland complex kicked in, making me more and more curious. So, I looked into the project.
In 2020, Hecate Energy introduced the idea of Shepherd’s Run Solar Farm to the residents of Craryville and Copake. Although the zoning law limits solar installations to 10 acres, Article 10 would allow Hecate to move forward with the 500-acre, 600-MW farm with the approval of a siting board. However, that route seemed more complicated than leaning on the Climate Leadership and Community Benefit Act (94-C), since 94-C accelerates large-scale project approvals by reducing taxes for developers and skipping the environmental review process.
Is it just me, or does it seem like the environmental review process should be more stringent for projects that are allegedly going to benefit the environment? Hypocritical? Maybe …
Let’s use Shepherd’s Run as an example.
According to Sensible Solar for Rural New York, which is a coalition of concerned citizens in strong opposition to Shepherd’s Run, the farm site location was chosen because it benefits Hecate, not because it would have the greatest environmental impact. For starters, the town’s electrical transfer station has the available capacity for the project whereas remote, nonresidential areas would require that transfer stations be built or expanded. Couple that with the fact that there are few landowners involved in the purchase, making the acquisition quick and easy.
So far, 4,562 have signed an online petition at change.org to prevent Hecate from moving forward with Shepherd’s Run.
The petition, started by Sensible Solar states the following:
Hecate Energy’s planned industrial-scale solar installation will impact our rural community, county, and Hudson Valley region in many detrimental, unreversable ways, including:
- Adverse, long-term consequences on Taghkanic Creek, the Copake Lake Watershed, protected wetlands and forests, and other natural resources on or neighboring the proposed site;
- Displacement of the area’s thriving native and endangered wildlife and birds due in part to the proposed site’s close proximity to the Hillsdale’s Rheinstrom Hill Audubon Center and Sanctuary;
- Removal of hundreds of acres of prime farmland from agricultural use, which is in direct conflict with Copake’s Farmland Protection Plan and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets mission;
- Degradation of rural, scenic viewsheds on a major thoroughfare to Taconic State Park, Catamount Ski Resort, the historic hamlet of Hillsdale and the neighboring Berkshires;
- A decrease of up to $18 million in surrounding property values caused by the wrongful siting of this utility-scale operation in a densely-populated rural area;
- Concerns and costs related to the proper disposal of 200,000 solar panels and storage batteries and the land being returned to its previous natural conditions at the end of the project; and
- Most important, the proposed 500-acre, 200,000-solar-panel installation is in direct conflict with the Town of Copake’s 2017 prohibition on large-scale solar energy systems.
As such, it is incumbent on renewable energy companies and New York State officials to avoid siting large-scale solar and wind projects in highly agricultural, ecological-sensitive, historic, and densely-populated rural areas. Instead, low-conflict sites – such as brownfields; closed landfills; current and former industrial sites; parking lots; commercial structures; and remote, sparsely-populated regions of the state – should be identified and prioritized. Additionally, renewable energy companies must respect local zoning laws and protect natural resources, including wetlands and forests, wildlife and birds, prime farmland, rural viewsheds, property values, and community values.
I’m not a money-driven person, so I can’t stand behind the decreased property values argument. And, while I love a scenic view, we ruin those for less.
The real debate lies in the community values. Are they right? Will Shepherd’s Run have an overall negative effect on the environment once you take into account the displaced and possibly endangered or extinct (unlikely but not impossible) species? And, if the answer is no, would it have a more positive impact somewhere else, or are the residents of Craryville and Copake just a bunch of hypocrites who want the work to get done without exerting any effort?
There’s a point where today’s quality of life will exceed tomorrow’s possibility of life if we don’t do something to change that. When? I don’t think anyone really knows. But, the key to finding more answers is asking more questions.
If we want people to be more sustainable and less hypocritical, then we have to find a way to make them more and more curious.
Report Abusive Comment