Seamon: Survey Shows Project To Be Very Unpopular

Letter from Nathan Seamon

Survey Shows Project
To Be Very Unpopular

The Town of Columbia survey results for the proposed Columbia Solar Project and Battery Storage Facility conducted by mail in March and April are in and have been tabulated. At the request of the Columbia Town Board, the survey was conducted by the Columbia Planning Board to better understand the opinions of the residents and property owners about the proposed solar project that developer EDF Renewables has been pitching in the towns of Columbia, Litchfield and Winfield (Herkimer County) since 2019. Of those that responded with an opinion (oppose or favor the project), 83 percent were opposed. Below is a summary of results:

• Oppose project: 78% (577 out of 736 respondents)
• Favor project: 16% (116 out of 736 respondents)
• No opinion of project: 6% (44 out of 736 respondents)
• Return rate: 47% (346 surveys replied out of 731 mailed)

The overwhelmingly unpopular proposed 350 MW and 20 MW battery storage facility project is being pushed by EDF Renewables, headquartered in France. To date, approximately 3,000 acres—which represents 13 percent of the land within the Town of Columbia—are under 40-year leases, giving the foreign-owned company the rights to develop prime farmland, pasture and woods for the proposed industrial solar project. To date, more than half of the land the project developer is proposing to develop is considered prime farmland. The proposed project does not comply with Columbia’s Comprehensive Plan or its local laws.

The capacity factor for solar photovoltaic units is largely a function of weather, climate, and latitude, and varies significantly from state to state. New York State has one of the lowest capacity factors in the country, which seemingly makes the proposed solar project an unreliable energy source, and one that will fall well short of projected numbers that are being marketed by the project developer. The electricity would not be utilized locally, but instead transmitted downstate, meaning the actual usable electricity would be lessened even more by the time it reaches its end-use point, due to the transmission distance.

Most people in Columbia have serious concerns that the proposed project would take prime, tillable and pasturable farmland off the table in a time where food production is becoming more challenging than ever. There are concerns about the threats that it would bring to the environment, soil, drinking water, wildlife, and degradation of the ecosystem in general, along with the health and safety concerns that come with it. And then there is the negative visual impact it would have on the area. All things considered, the negative issues related to a solar and battery storage project of this size and scale far outweigh the positives that people may perceive there to be. Once the farmland and woodlots are developed, they’ll be gone forever. This is ultimately a choice between food production, the environment, and our health, or an unreliable energy source along with all the negatives that come with it.

Nathan Seamon
Richfield Springs

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