HOOSICK, N.Y. >> A solar committee in the town of Hoosick was charged in September with compiling information about solar panels to inform the zoning board. The committee met Wednesday night to hold a workshop with the town and hear from outsiders who work in the solar business.
The committee is made up of five volunteers, Jeff Wysocki, Gary Kjelgaard, Andrea Diel, Larry Bugbee, Jeff Delurey and Andy Beaty. Community members expected a presentation, but it was reiterated several times that the committee would present findings to the board in April. However, committee members did hold documents describing how other towns such as Newburgh, Schodack and Bethlehem integrated solar panels into their communities.
The solar committee's mission is to generate a standard guideline for solar panel implementation on residential and commercial properties. Residents hope the guidelines consider issues regarding taxation on the land and revenue from the panels; a definition of the terms solar, residential and commercial; and a set process for property owners to follow through when filing an application for a permit to install panels.
"We're trying to come up with a definition of commercial solar, residential solar and trying to place it into the grid of [zoning areas] where it would need a special permit," Beaty said.
Residents also wish to find out more about such issues as what can surround a solar farm (including propane tanks), endangered species and the removal of the panels after time.
"I guess what I'm looking for is 'hey here are the safety issues that we identified and this is how they should be addressed, these are the environmental issues, these are the taxation issues that we see.' Is that part of your process?" resident Mike Brewster asked.
A new concern to Hoosick residents involves a letter from Cypress Creek Renewables, a solar panel company reaching out to large property owners in the area offering its services.
Two pro-solar representatives attended the workshop to answer financial and fire safety questions. An ongoing question Hoosick residents have is whether or not the fire department will be able to handle a solar panel fire.
Nicholas Morgan from Legacy Power, certified partner of SunRun, reinforced the advantages of switching to solar panels and how common it is for a power line pole to fall over and start a fire, just as a solar panel could.
"When it comes to residential solar, and with these fires, think of one of the national crisis right now is climate control," Morgan said. "Do you want to still keep going with the same process of industrial energy with producing emissions and everything into the air for the next 20 years, not just in this town, but overall. Think of the damage that's happening overall everywhere without solar, for one, and two, just saying that fires can happen anywhere."
Bugbee added that there's electricity in households that could catch on fire at any moment.
Kevin Allard, certified pool owner and resident of Hoosick, proposed ways to shield the solar panels so they wouldn't be visible. One of the biggest issues people have with panels is how the structures look, John Crucetti, solar representative said.
"Let's take Bugbee's property, his field is completely flat, so he could screen with a 10-foot tree," Allard said. "You put them up in the back of mine and screen with a 50-foot tree, but you're still going to see them. It's a nice south-facing hill. You will never be able to screen them. You can't screen them all, so how do you deal with that?"
Other questions surrounded the removal of the panels after a certain number of years, as well as what would happen to them if a house was to foreclose. Morgan explained that it comes down to the solar company and contract because they're not all the same. Some lease out panels in which they are financed over time while others are bought outright and then owned by the consumer.
The next town board meeting is on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the New York State Armory at 80 Church Street in Hoosick Falls.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.