New York State is planning to construct a solar array within the exit loop of the eastbound off-ramp of the Long Island Expressway at exit 73.
The exit 73 site is one of 13 locations in Suffolk identified by the New York State Department of Transportation as sites for solar facilities. The project is part of a statewide “solar highways” initiative first rolled out in 2015.
The state has designated a contractor to build the net-metered solar array on the approximately five-acre site, according to documents on the NYSDOT website. The provider will install and operate the equipment at no cost to the state, which will enter into a 15-year power purchase agreement with up to five two-year renewals. The electricity will be used for highway purposes and signal maintenance.
A state DOT engineer recently asked for the site to be “parcelized” — that is, assigned a Suffolk County tax map number — said Laverne Tennenberg, chairperson of the Riverhead Town Board of Assessors. The site now as a Route 58 address, she said.
But the town won’t be able to tax the installation, which Tennenberg estimated would have a taxable value of $367,000, because the parcel was not assessed to the state as of March 2006. That’s when legislation was passed to allow state-owned lands within the town to be assessed for school taxes; the statute says a state-owned property is taxable only if it was assessed to the state as of the date the legislation was passed. Tennenberg lobbied for the legislation, which was sponsored by Sen. Ken LaValle. It has brought $16 million in tax revenue to the Riverhead Central School District over 10 years, she said. Tennenberg has spoken with the senator about having the date restriction removed from the statute.
A spokesperson for the NYSDOT was not able to provide information about when the array will be built.
The exit 73 off-ramp is frequently the scene of motor vehicle accidents, often involving rollovers, as vehicles fail to negotiate the exit’s long curve. Information was not available about safety features to protect the solar installation from vehicle impacts.