The towns of Cambria and Pendleton have requested funds to hire experts and attorneys to review the preliminary scoping statement for a proposed solar project.
Cypress Creek Renewables, the company proposing the Bear Ridge Solar Project, would like to lease 900 acres of private land throughout a 5,000-acre project area in southern Cambria and a portion of northern Pendleton. The developers plan to install solar panels mounted in rows on racking systems up to 12 feet high. The panels would be visible from a distance of about 1-1/2 miles, including from sites on Bear Ridge Road and IDA Park Drive in Lockport.
The project is governed by Article 10 of the New York State Public Service Law, which outlines several things the company must do, including provide funds for municipalities and residents to finance experts to review the project and conduct studies. Cambria requested $35,000 and Pendleton requested $17,500.
According to Kevin Kohlstedt, the Bear Ridge Solar co-project manager, his company was required to submit $35,000 for this phase of the process. On April 15, an examiner with the state Department of Public Service decided that Cambria and Pendleton would receive $17,500 each.
Town Supervisor Wright Ellis said Cambria residents have a few concerns about the project, including the potential impact the solar project could have on nearby home values.
“We estimate some 300-plus properties that are directly impacted by the proposed locations, as they are concerned,” Ellis said.
Another more philosophical concern of the residents is that they believe the solar panels will change the overall rural character of the town, according to Ellis.
Kohlstedt said his company has heard concerns from community members and that the company is “really interested in addressing those concerns.”
Regarding concerns about home values, he said his company will be performing a property value study through a socio-economic impact report.
“Then, we will be able to really address those concerns,” he said.
Regarding the project’s impacts on rural community character, Kohlstedt said his company might not be growing a typical crop like corn or soybeans, but it is farming solar power. The panels will be a maximum height of 12 feet off the ground, and the company hopes to use vegetable screening and reasonable setbacks to make the panels less visible.
His company is also planning to open an office in the area in June to allow residents to come in and ask questions.