West Laurens Landowners
Get Windfall From Project
By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
WEST LAURENS – Storke LLC, a renewable-energy company based in Springwater, south of Rochester, is offering as much as $1,000 per acre per year for West Laurens neighbors to lease their land to the company for a 3,000-acre solar farm.
“At 3,000 acres, the project would be one of the largest in New York State,” said James Denn, state Public Service Commission spokesman. That’s the equivalent of 4.6 square miles, or more than two miles by two miles.
And the idea is that the power produced will be fed into the New York Power Authority’s Marcy South 765Kv lines, which cross Route 23 near there, and carried directly to New York City.
“It’s going to tie into the Marcy South Power line,” said Bill Martin, who has signed a contract leasing his 240-acre property on Fox Hill Road to Storke. He is a member of the Laurens Board of Assessment Review and former town board member.
“They explained the situation to us and I listened to the proposal, but I didn’t sign it at the time,” he said. After reflecting on the financial possibilities, though, he did signed.
“Personally, I hope this goes through,” he said in an interview. “This would be a chance for landowners to make some money to put in their pocket.”
Ryan Storke, a SUNY Morrisville graduate who worked for John Deere before co-founding Storke Renewables, said he hopes the West Laurens community sees how the project can benefit them.
Currently, the company’s land agents are seeking “to establish if local landowners and the local community are interested in such a project in their town,” said Storke. “And, if that is the case, we’d like to go to the local community and share with them similar projects we’ve done.”
One such project, which appears to mirror the plan here, is in the towns of Concord and Sardinia, near Geneseo, where Storke has partnered with EDF Renewables, a French renewable energy company, to produce as much as 350 megawatts.
Typically, each megawatt produces enough to power 350 homes in the Northeast, meaning the Concord-Sardinia project could produce enough power to fill the needs of 120,000 homes.
“The ‘Genesee Road Solar Energy Center’ would be a 350 megawatt project, … with a final project size of 2,500 acres,” said Max Borsuk, editor at the Springville Journal, the local weekly newspaper there.
According to Martin, Storke needs commitment on 80 percent of 3,000 acres before it moves forward. “The last I’d heard is that, of the 3,000 acres, they had 2,100,” he said. That’s about 70 percent.
According to county Rep. Danny Lapin, D-Oneonta, a circuit-riding planner for the OCCA, the project is large enough to fall under the state’s Article 10 permitting process. “It’s a big test for the county’s willingness to accept these kinds of facilities,” he said.
Denn confirmed: “Article 10 provides a unified review and approval process for electric generating facilities in New York State that are 25 MW or greater, including renewable energy projects such as solar farms.”
A high-powered siting board would oversee project approval, Denn said. It would be headed by the Department of Public Service chair, James Rhodes, who was president/CEO of NYSERDA – the state Energy Research & Development Authority – before Governor Cuomo put him in charge of the PSC in 2017.
The siting board also includes the heads of the DEC, the state Health Department, NYSERDA and Economic Development, plus two West Laurens residents, Denn said.
Storke’s application fee will be $1,000 per MW of capacity, up to $400,000, for the siting board to hire expert witnesses, consultants and lawyers.
The siting board has 60 days to determine if the application is complete, then it would set a public hearing.
County Rep. Meg Kennedy, C-Hartwick, who chairs the county Energy Task Force, wasn’t aware of the project, but said she would be interested in knowing how it might benefit the county.
However, if Otsego County can obtained an allocation of the West Laurens power, and the local grid can handle it, “It would be a big step forward in achieving a higher proportion of our electricity from renewables, which is a goal for the state,” she said.