Geronimo Energy is making waves to harness rays in Saugerties. The company announced a plan in March. Last month, it appeared before the town planning board seeking site-plan approval to install a 20-megawatt project. The 100-acre array of solar panels southeast of the intersection of Churchland Road and Churchland Lane has been dubbed the Bluestone Solar Project.
Company representatives will meet again with the board and answer questions from residents at an August 21 meeting of the planning board at the Frank Greco Memorial Senior Center on Market Street.
“We will generate a revenue source out of this project once it’s built, like any other development,” said town supervisor Fred Costello. “We will develop revenue streams as part of our local economy [via taxation or payments to the town]. There’s a philosophical argument that this type of energy is better than fossil fuel as well. With any type of development, there are tradeoffs and impacts on neighborhoods. We are considering the potential impacts of this property. It’s not going to generate a meaningful amount of traffic or noise, so it’s not very impactful. It will have a potential impact on water issues, but that’s what the planning process if for, to have those issues addressed.”
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Geronimo has 1800 megawatts worth of functional renewable energy projects or ones under construction, Over the past three years, the firm sais it had overseen the completion of 75 similar solar projects.
“By reinvesting in our local cities and towns, Geronimo and community members will invigorate the local economy and will build stronger rural communities,” stated the company in a fact sheet. Boasting a “farm-friendly development approach,” the company said it would be “exhibiting a respect and appreciation for hardworking farmers, their communities, and the rural American way of life.”
Geronimo’s marketing director Lindsay T. Smith said that the project was awarded a Renewable Energy Credit from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on August 6. It is one of 26 large-scale renewable energy projects selected to receive such funding through Nyserda’s program. The company’s current timeline, she said, proposes construction this year or early next year and an operational facility by 2019.
Last year a Cypress Creek Renewables solar project proposed for the intersection of Old King’s Highway and Schoolhouse Road was opposed by neighbors. People in the vicinity of this prospective site are wary of the project and hope to hear assurances at the next meeting of the town planning board.
“Has Geronimo inquired into the existing properties available in the industrial zone and the two properties behind CVS?” asked Churchland Road resident Alan Spivack, who has sent in numerous letters to the editor concerning the solar panels over the past weeks. “Why not select a property in an industrial zone instead of a residential area?”
Spivack said that he and his wife purchased their property because the sprawling field reminded them of idyllic scenes in Tuscany. In a conversation on August 6, Spivack expressed concerns about the disruption of animal habitats, contamination of the groundwater, runoff from herbicides and declining property values in the neighborhood.
“They’re looking for solid answers on those issues and what the scale of their impact might be,” said Costello. “That’s what the planning process is for. If you look at a map where there’s access to the power lines and space, you can see why Geronimo chose the space they did. It’s relatively close to the transmission lines. As far as why Geronimo chose this particular location, that’s a question that they would have to answer.”
Representatives from Geronimo could not be reached for a response.
Costello said that the process could go on for months. Even if this project is thwarted, other solar projects are on the planning board’s queue.