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Officials neutral about solar farm

The Fulton County Planning Board reviews a project Tuesday at the Fort Johnstown Annex in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Planning Board on Tuesday remained neutral on a Massachusetts company’s project for a solar farm at the former Gloversville landfill property in the town of Johnstown.

The board voted at the Fort Johnstown Annex to stay out of the project, in which Ameresco Inc. of Framingham, Mass. is seeking a special permit through the Johnstown Town Planning Board. The permit seeks to operate a solar farm on the former Gloversville landfill’s cap, along the north side of Route 29A (East Fulton Street Extension).

“This one’s almost five megawatts,” noted county Senior Planner Sean Geraghty.

Geraghty said Ameresco Inc. is looking to develop an AC solar farm, or a solar energy collection and electricity generation and distribution system.

He said two parcels involved in the project are about 160 acres in size. He said the project will utilize roughly 25 acres of the closed landfill. An existing access road will be extended to a high point on the property to service the solar farm, he said.

About three to four years ago, SolarCity proposed a similar project and backed out, Geraghty said.

But he said the city of Gloversville liked that project and put out a request for proposal for a new developer for a solar farm at the landfill.

The Gloversville Common Council last Aug. 14 approved a resolution awarding a contract to Ameresco, Inc. for the project, which the city at the time calculated might save the city $1.88 million over 20 years. The project involves installation of over 17,000 solar panels.

Geraghty told the county board Ameresco plans on using existing roads for the project. He said the firm is also trying to use existing fencing, but may end up seeking a variance.

“I think this is a good use of land,” said board member Jerry Moore.

With this project, Geraghty said 20 percent of the energy would go to the city of Gloversville, 20 percent goes to the Gloversville Enlarged School District, and 60 percent is earmarked for a “community” solar farm. He said some of the users may end up being located outside of Fulton County.

Geraghty told county planning officials there is no visual impact with the project. He said town of Johnstown officials indicated no trees are needed to obscure the solar farm site.

“You have to go up into the [former] landfill to see this thing,” Geraghty said.

He said no environmental review is necessary for a project the types of which the state endorses.

“They are encouraging folks to use these old landfill sites,” Geraghty said.

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