A 20-megawatt solar project slated for a site southeast of the intersection of Churchland Road and Churchland Lane has been delayed, according to developers.
At a Sept. 17 town planning board meeting, Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy submitted a site plan revision for the 100-acre project, dubbed the “Blue Stone Solar Project,” noting that they had leased an additional six-acre parcel of land at the western end of the site and are revising their initial roadways within the solar array and drainage system plans. An amended SEQR negative declaration and planning board site plan approval would be required. However, according to a representative from the energy company, this is not the reason for the holdup.
“There’ll be some delays,” said Town Councilman Paul Andreassen of the project at a Sept. 18 town board meeting. “That project may be delayed for abut a year, according to the developers.”
“The interconnection process [the process through which a developer obtains permission from the electric grid operator to connect the project to the grid] has been delayed, thus causing some minor delays in the project’s overall timeline,” wrote Lindsay T. Smith, the company’s director of marketing and communications. “This is a common issue across many renewable energy projects in New York State and is not unique to the Blue Stone Solar Project.”
Smith said the project “is fully permitted by the local planning board, and the permit includes the total acreage within the project footprint, so neither the permitting process nor the acreage within the project footprint have delayed the project’s progress.”
According to Central Hudson spokesperson John Maserjian, the interconnection process has many steps, and involves not only their company, but the New York Independent System Operator and other agencies. Essentially, he said, while Central Hudson owns the electrical lines, NYISO approves new interconnections to it. The NYISO is a non-profit that, according to their website, is not affiliated with the government or energy companies and paid for by a “small fraction” of consumers’ energy costs; the organization bills itself as “the organization responsible for managing New York’s electric grid and its competitive wholesale electric marketplace … [that works] with power producers, utility companies and stakeholders to provide power to meet New Yorkers’ electricity needs.” The group plots the future of the state’s power grid, conducting studies on each proposed energy project, ensuring that they meet national and state regulations and providing data and analyses.
The size of a solar project, according to Maserjian, determines whether developers must follow the state process (5 megawatts or less), the federal process or both (more than 20 megawatts). In this case, the NYISO’s studies are being overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Maserjian said Central Hudson had already conducted an impact study, and may conduct more studies based on the recommendations of the NYISO; the NYISO has conducted a “System Impact Study” (which includes a cost analysis and examines the project’s voltage and thermal impacts) and a “Facilities Study” (which determines the cost of connecting the solar array to the electric grid and outlines a more detailed design for the array) for the Blue Stone project. As of now, an “Interconnection Agreement” is being discussed, and Central Hudson is waiting to hear whether they need to conduct further research on the project. Maserjian said that these studies “look at the impacts the solar project may have on the stability and reliability of the electric grid, what type of equipment may be needed to maintain stability and reliability and determine the need and cost of electric system upgrades required to accommodate the solar project.” He said that these costs are “generally borne by the developer” to avoid cost impacts to energy customers.
“This is a very large solar project,” Maserjian said. “Interconnecting large generators requires comprehensive study to maintain the proper voltage on the electric grid, as well as other considerations, and can involve several agencies. Although there are some minor delays as noted, this project is moving forward.”
According to a spokesperson for NYISO, they have the project coming online sometime in 2020. “The Saugerties Solar project, which is being developed by Blue Stone Solar Energy, LLC, is currently in the NYISO’s interconnection queue,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Saugerties Times. “The NYISO continues to coordinate the completion of the interconnection process with the developer and impacted utilities. The NYISO’s publicly posted interconnection queue currently shows that the developer provided a projected in-service date of October 2020.”
Shortly before the project was initially considered by the planning board in 2018, Smith said that the timeline for the project “propose[d] construction this year or early next year and an operational facility by 2019.” The project was awarded a Renewable Energy Credit from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) — it’s one of 26 large-scale renewable energy projects selected to divvy up $1.4 million of funding.