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What is being done to mitigate the visual effects from the panels for homeowners?
The Excelsior Energy Project is using proven tools and strategies to screen views at key locations where solar panels may be visible. The proposed arrays will be setback a minimum of 300 feet (the length of a football field), and in many cases greater distances, from all neighboring residences in order to maintain large open space areas consistent with the Project Area’s existing setting. These areas may continue to be utilized for agricultural purposes as they are today. Additionally, these strategies include planting native trees and shrubs in specific locations and the strategic placement of panels.
Solar panels will cover less than half of the Excelsior Energy Project’s approximately 1,630-acre fenced area. Throughout this area, the Project will improve or restore all areas temporarily affected by construction. Native grasses and perennial vegetation will be planted within and around the fenced area to provide a stabilized ground surface along with favorable wildlife habitat to grassland species. Additionally, Excelsior Energy Project is proposing that all collection lines (which convey the energy generated from the solar arrays) from the Project inverters to the Project collection substation will be buried underground in order to further limit visibility of Project components.
Why isn’t there screening around the whole Project?
Where the Project may be visible at select residences and other key locations, the Excelsior Energy Project will mitigate visual impacts by using vegetative landscape screening. It is unnecessary to screen areas where there are distant, naturally screened or very limited views of the Project. Further, a Visual Impact Assessment will be presented in the Application, showing predicted visibility of the Project and assessing potential visual impacts.
A Landscape Plan will be included in the Article 10 Application prepared by a landscape architect and will indicate areas of proposed vegetative screening. Native evergreen and deciduous shrubs and trees will be included. The landscape architect has selected appropriate species needed to reach an adequate height and width to provide visual screening, yet not be too high at maturity that they could ultimately produce shade over the Project in later years. Native pollinator species will also likely be included.
Why is there not a natural barrier in front of the solar areas on Walkers Corners Road?
Where the Project may be visible at select residences and other key locations, the Excelsior Energy Project will screen views using landscape screening. It is unnecessary to screen areas where there are distant, naturally screened or very limited views of the Project. On Walkers Corners, screening is proposed either in front of or behind residences to screen views of the Project.
Why is there no visual screening indicated on the conceptual map on the Ivison Road site?
Where the Project may be visible at select residences and other key locations, the Excelsior Energy Project will screen views using landscape screening. It is unnecessary to screen areas where there are distant, naturally screened or very limited views of the Project.
Based on inputs and discussions from the Excelsior Informational Mailer and the Virtual Open House, the predicted visibility from Ivison Road will be assessed in the Application and various alternative layouts will be presented.
Is there a way to sign up to be considered for vegetative buffer?
A Landscape Plan will be included in the Article 10 Application prepared by a landscape architect and will indicate areas of proposed vegetative screening. Once the Application is filed, Project stakeholders are invited to review all the Application materials, including the Landscape Plan, and submit comments via the Project website and/or by posting them to the New York Department of Public Service’s webpage for this Project, here.
For questions specific to individual properties, we invite landowners to contact project representatives by calling (800) 674-8613 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who will maintain the Project’s landscaping?
The Excelsior Energy Project will maintain the Project’s landscaping. For its solar energy projects located throughout the United States, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC typically contracts with a local contractor for the installation and/or maintenance of Project landscaping. Additionally, as part of the Article 10 review process, certificate conditions approved as part of the Article 10 Certificate will describe the required vegetation control methods for the Project, including regular maintenance of landscaping.
Will the Project be set back from roads, property lines and residences?
Yes. The proposed arrays will be setback a minimum of 300 feet (the length of a football field) and, in many cases, greater distances from all neighboring residences in order to maintain large open space areas consistent with the Project Area’s existing setting. Additionally, the arrays will be setback a minimum of 200 feet from all roadways and a minimum of either 100 feet or 200 feet (depending on the parcel’s zoning district) from side and rear yards. These areas may continue to be utilized for agricultural purposes as they are today.
Further information about the visual impacts will be presented in the Project’s application.
Can you show how you have implemented local feedback in your design?
Examples of how local feedback was taken into consideration will be presented in the Project’s Article 10 Application. Examples include setbacks from residences, relocation of a snowmobile trail, preservation of wooded areas and other stakeholder input.
Who will maintain the setback areas?
The setback areas will be maintained by the property owner, who may use the land for farming or other appropriate uses.
Will these panels impact property value?
The Siting Board does not examine property values through the Article 10 process.
When will residents know what they will seeing?
Visual simulations from multiple locations throughout the Project’s five-mile Visual Study Area will be included in the Project’s Article 10 Application in order to provide representative views of the Project.
How will Excelsior support current farm jobs if it is taking land away that is farmed?
The Excelsior Energy Project will occupy less than 1% (0.96% to be precise) of the farmland in Genesee County.
The Project will support farms in the Town of Byron that employ approximately 70 people. Through land agreements, the Excelsior will support the agricultural economy by infusing revenue into local farms and diversifying income.
Farming is a low-margin, competitive industry. Solar development helps keep farmers in business by providing a steady source of income to balance the variability of market prices.
This Project will only support local farmers who are signed up, how will it help others?
The Excelsior Energy Project has the potential to create new jobs, provide long-term revenue and economic development to Genesee County and the Town of Byron.
In addition to potentially lowering the tax burden on residents, the Excelsior Energy Project will also propose a substantial Host Community Benefits package for the Town of Byron. Funds from this benefit package will be provided in addition to tax/PILOT payments and will be used as the community sees fit for special projects to benefit the local community.
Another alternative for Byron to consider is a portion of the Project may be set aside for community members and businesses. Byron-area homes and businesses will be able to reduce energy bills by subscribing to this Community Solar portion of the Project.
What are the Benefits of Excelsior?
The benefits offered by the Excelsior Energy Project include:
Additional Revenue to Community
The Excelsior Energy Project will bring numerous benefits through a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, which will provide millions in revenue to the taxpayers of Genesee County, Town of Byron and the Bryon Bergen School District to invest in infrastructure, additional services and resources for residents.
The Excelsior Energy Project’s new tax revenue will contribute to the local tax base without raising the tax cap. Since Excelsior Energy Project does not require additional municipal services, no increased spending will be required. Thus, the Project would allow the Town of Byron to lower the tax burden on its residents should they choose to do so.
The Excelsior Energy Project’s goal is to hire as many workers as possible from the local area. With a construction labor budget of approximately $40 million, the Project will invest a significant amount of money in construction labor, creating employment opportunities for those in the construction trades, including equipment operators, truck drivers, laborers and electricians.
The Project will create 200-250 jobs during construction, three to four full-time positions, and opportunities for landscaping and snow plowing throughout the life of the Project.
Support to Local Businesses
There will be opportunities for local businesses to supply materials to support construction of the Project. Additionally, the service industry (e.g., hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues) will benefit from an increase in worker activity throughout the construction period.
Support to Local Farmers
Through land agreements, the Excelsior Energy Project will support the agricultural economy by infusing revenue into local farms and diversifying income.
How many construction jobs will be granted to residents in Genesee County or Byron?
The Project intends to hire, to the extent practicable, local labor for the construction of the Excelsior Energy Project, in accordance with the Genesee County Economic Development Center’s Local Construction Labor Policy. The policy requires that at least 90 percent of the total number of Project employees, excluding construction project management, working on the Project Site reside within the Local Labor Force.
The Excelsior Energy Project will work with an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractor to achieve this requirement, as well as all other hiring goals relevant to prevailing wage and State mandates.
With a construction labor budget of approximately $40 million, the Project will invest a significant amount of money in construction labor, creating employment opportunities for those in the construction trades, including equipment operators, truck drivers, laborers and electricians.
Further, the Project is expected to create three to four full-time positions during the Project’s life in addition to the hiring of local contractors for vegetation maintenance and snow removal.
How long will construction last?
Should the Project receive its Article 10 permit, construction is expected to last 14 to 18 months.
How will roads be managed and repaired during and after construction?
The Excelsior Energy Project intends to enter into Road Use Agreements with the Town and County, as applicable. The Project’s Article 10 Application will provide information on these potential road use and restoration agreements, including information on the repair of local roads if they are damaged by heavy equipment or construction activities during construction or operation of the Project.
Are there other projects nearby we could visit to see?
Proposed Article 10 projects can be viewed at the Department of Public Services website, here.
How does the Community Solar Portion of the Project work?
This program would be free to join and would allow Town of Byron residents and businesses that choose to participate to receive solar bill credits that will help reduce their electricity utility bill. Subscribers can subscribe to a portion of the Project for up to 25 years at no cost to the subscriber. Based on their historical usage, subscribers will receive an allocation of the Project’s solar energy production. Once the Project is operating, every unit of energy (kWh) generated creates a credit value. The credit value varies month to month depending on the Project’s generation and conditions in the New York electricity market. The Project’s energy output is allocated to community members based on each subscriber’s energy use and 10% of the credit value associated with the allocated energy will appear on the subscriber’s electricity bill. This would be offered on a first come, first served basis. Eligibility is covered defined under National Grid’s electric tariff.
Can Excelsior hold an in-person Virtual Open House?
The Excelsior Energy Project held an in-person open house in September of 2019. A Virtual Open House was held on August 31st of this year.
Will the Project stop until an open house can be held?
On August 13, 2020, Examiners Gregg C. Sayre and Molly T. McBride requested that public information sessions be held and conducted online, for protection of the public and participants.
Based on this direction and feedback from area residents, virtual open houses were held on August 31, 2020 at 12PM and 6PM.
In accordance with its August 3, 2020 PIP Supplement, Excelsior Energy Project also mailed an informational mailer to stakeholders including host and adjacent property owners.
Where can the public find this presentation?
The Elba-Oakfield Alabama project takes ground that is half the quality of this ground—will both these projects go [proceed]?
We cannot comment on other projects, but the town of Byron possesses the critical elements required for an efficient solar and energy storage project. This includes available land from willing landowners, a strong solar resource, existing road infrastructure, ready access to transmission infrastructure and available land in an area well suited environmentally to host such a project. Excelsior Energy Project has worked with its participating landowners who determined which parcels to include as part of the Project Area based on their own operational preferences.
Where will power transmission lines be? Above or below ground?
Power from the Project’s collection substation will be transported to an immediately adjacent switchyard and then interconnected via two proposed 160-foot 345 kilovolt (kV) overhead transmission lines to the existing NYPA 345 kV Line that traverses the Project area. The switchyard and transmission line will be transferred to NYPA to own and operate. Both the collection substation and switchyard are proposed immediately adjacent to the existing NYPA transmission lines. The Project’s 34.5 kV collection lines, which convey the electric generated by the solar panels from the inverters to the Project collection substation, are all proposed to be sited underground.
Why are the gravel access roads not shown on the map?
The locations of proposed access roads will be included in the Excelsior Energy Project’s Article 10 Application. Preliminary, detailed site plan drawings will depict the location of all proposed Project components.
Why are you putting this between a park and cemetery?
The Project Area is located adjacent to, not in between, the Byron Cemetery and Turtle Park along Swamp Road. In order to mitigate views of the Project from these resources, Excelsior is proposing a minimum setback of over 750 feet from the arrays. Additionally, a photo simulation will be included in the Article 10 Application to provide a representative view from the location of this minimum setback. Additionally, screening in the form of a vegetative landscape buffer is proposed along the western side of the Project’s northeastern-most parcels to provide additional visual mitigation.
Where are the solar panels manufactured and what is their efficiency?
The Excelsior Energy Project is examining a number of panel manufacturers for this Project. Typical panel models will be described in the Article 10 Application and will be one of the most efficient solar panel types available.
How long does a panel produce electricity (useful life)?
The Excelsior Energy Project and the panels it will employ are designed to operate for at least 30 years.
Have you done any ag-economic impact studies on how this will affect agriculture in both Byron and Genesee County?
While the Article 10 process does not require this specific study, in support of the permitting process, the Excelsior Energy Project must conduct numerous detailed studies to ensure the project is appropriately and thoughtfully designed. In consultation with various agencies and stakeholders, the studies have been, or will be, conducted by subject matter experts. These studies must adhere to rigorous guidelines and are subject to regulatory oversight by New York state. Included in the Application will be a socioeconomics analysis and review of existing land uses which will assess the economic impacts of the project and impacts to existing agriculture at both the town and county levels.
Will NextEra/Excelsior commit to be the Merchant Operator for the financial and physical life of the facility, roughly projected as 40 to 50 years?
The Excelsior Energy Project intends to own and operate the Project.
The Project’s sponsor, NextEra Energy Resources, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun with more than 21,000 megawatts (MWs) of generating capacity primarily in 37 states and Canada as of year-end 2019. NextEra Energy was named to Fortune’s 2019 list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies” and was also recognized among the top 25 companies worldwide, across all industries, for innovation and social responsibility.
What are [is] the decibel level of the hum given off by the solar arrays?
Solar projects operate quietly during the operational period.
In support of the permitting process, the Excelsior Energy Project must conduct numerous detailed studies to ensure the Project is appropriately and thoughtfully designed. Sound is one of the issues studied. Additional details can be found in the Project’s application.
Can residents receive compensation for the dust, disruption and views during construction?
Details of a formal complaint resolution plan will be included in the Application. The plan will be in place prior to construction and will remain active throughout the life of the Project. Members of the public may file complaints in accordance with the plan. Excelsior Energy Project will work in good faith to address and/or resolve reasonable complaints as soon as is practicable. All complaints will be resolved within the timeframes specified in the Project’s Certificate Conditions. Where Excelsior Energy Project and a complainant cannot agree on a resolution of a complaint, the compliant resolution procedures available at the New York State Department of Public Service will be available if necessary.
How are damaged or dysfunctional storage containers managed? How quickly are they removed from Byron and where do they go for decontamination?
The energy storage system will have a staged approach for prevention and control to optimize safety. The stages include 1) Physical Safeguards; 2) Battery Management System (BMS) Safety Controls; 3) Site Controller Safety Controls; 4) Remote Monitoring Facility and 5) UL Cascading Testing.
Physical safeguards include setbacks and the battery enclosure. The BMS monitors the individual modules and controls the voltage, temperature and current for the safe, reliable transfer of energy. The system automatically shuts off if the batteries are operating outside predefined parameters. The Site Controller Safety Controls include manual shutoffs, fire detection systems, alarms and the BMS. NextEra’s Remote Monitoring Facility can remotely shut off systems from the center located in Juno Beach, Florida. The UL Cascading Testing includes the UL listings on batteries and inverters. All these systems together provide a staged approach that optimizes safety at the Project and in the vicinity.
Additional details regarding the energy system will be provided in various exhibits throughout the application.
Where in the Northeast can you find ground of this quality that has an aquifer under it that will produce 4,000 to 5,000 gallons/min?
Information on groundwater, including aquifers in the area of the Project, will be included in Exhibit 23 Water Resources and Aquatic Ecology of the Application.
Can we see actual plans or maps prior to application submission?
All current Project maps are available on the Project website here. Additional maps will be posted with the Application, which will be available to view on the Project website, including detailed site plan drawings.
Are the results of the soil sampling available for reviewing? Are the watershed studies available for review? Where are these located for review?
Information on soils and the site-specific geotechnical study will be included in Exhibit 21 Geology, Seismology and Soils of the Article 10 Application and information on watersheds will be included in Exhibit 23 Water Resources and Aquatic Ecology.
How large will the Community Solar Project be?
The Community Solar Project is proposed to be 5 MWs, if selected as an alternative.
Can more land be added to map for panels or is this already decided?
The land depicted in the map shown during the Virtual Open House on August 31, 2020, shared in the informational mailer distributed on August 7, 2020, and on the Project website, here is what will be shown in the Article 10 Application.
What percentage of the power will it take to transport the power to where it has to go?
The New York Independent System Operator (NYSIO) is in charge of operating the transmission system safely and reliably and will control where the power will flow based on supply and demand.
How many questions have been submitted and how many participants have been at each session?
There were 132 of participants at the two sessions and 122 questions and comments were submitted. In certain instances, the Project received several questions pertaining to the same topics. Those questions have been consolidated and, in some cases, presented for clarity.
Do landowners have to re-up after 30 years?
The anticipated life of this Project is 30 years. At the end of that period the Project may continue operating, be repowered or be removed through a process called decommissioning. If the solar facility is decommissioned the land would be able to return to farmland.
Rumor is that the landowners have to pay for a water line. Can you comment on this?
No water is required for the operation of the Project. As such, no new water line is proposed for the Project.
Are there cameras that will invade my privacy?
Any cameras proposed are for site surveillance purposes and will not invade the privacy of adjacent landowners. Information on site security features can be found in Exhibit 18 Safety and Security of the Application.
We were only given a few days to respond to the Project mailer, how is that fair?
Members of the public are invited to comment on the Project at any time via the New York Department of Public Service ’s webpage for this Project, here, and to provide feedback via the Project’s website, here.
Will any X-ray or sound technology be used to find 100-year-old clay tiles in the fields that the landowner probably doesn’t know exist?
Information on impacts to drain tiles and overall drainage issues will be included in Exhibits 21 Geology, Seismology and Soils and 23 Water Resources and Aquatic Ecology.
How can someone who is not from Byron be assigned to the Siting Board? How is that giving us representation?
The process for selecting the two ad hoc members to the Siting Board is prescribed by law under Article 10. The chief executive officers at the county and municipal levels each submit a list of four individuals for consideration as ad hoc members. The Speaker of the Assembly and the President of the Senate are responsible for appointing the ad hoc members from those lists.
Aside from nomination of local ad hoc members, however, the Town of Byron is automatically a party in the review process and is entitled to apply for intervenor funding to support its legal and technical efforts in the hearings. It has all the rights parties have in the Article 10 review process, including the right to present expert testimony, conduct cross examination, and submit legal briefs.