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Solar power company makes surprise offer to buy EPCAL site

Photo: BusinessWire

On a night that was supposed to see the opening of a public hearing on the proposed sale of the Calverton Enterprise Park to Luminati Aerospace and a megadeveloper partner, the Riverhead Town Board instead heard an unsolicited overture from the largest private owner of operating solar power generation systems in the United States.

sPower, which already operates a nine megawatt solar generation facility on Edwards Avenue in Calverton and is pursuing approvals for a 20-megawatt solar facility off Middle Country Road in Calverton, wants to buy the Town of Riverhead’s land inside the Calverton Enterprise Park.

Jason Stern, an attorney with the Weber Law Group in Melville, told the town board last night that sPower wants to formally present its proposal to the board at its next regular meeting on Feb. 6.

“sPower is reliable, responsible, successful, environtly friendly and profitable,” Stern said.

“sPower is in the process of finalizing its proposal for the EPCAL property, but we can reveal the following,” he said. “sPower is prepared to offer much more favorable terms to the town that the deal currently under consideration. sPower is prepared to offer more money than the $40 million purchase price under consideration. sPower is prepared to move quickly to develop this property.”

Attorney Jason Stern of the Weber Law Group announced the desire of sPower to bid on the EPCAL site. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Salt Lake City, Utah-based company owns and operates more than 150 distributed electric power systems across the country and to date has invested more than $2 billion in the facilities, which generate more than 1.3 gigawatts of electric power. It has another 10 gigawatts of generating capacity under construction, according to its website.

sPower was acquired last year by joint venturers AES Corporation, a Fortune 200 global power company, and Alberta Investment Management Corporation, on behalf of certain clients, for approximately $1.6 billion. sPower was established in 2014 by the New York investment firm Fir Tree Partners and quickly grew from a startup with no operating projects to the nation’s largest independent utility-scale solar business, according to a press release announcing the completion of the sale to AES and AIMCo.

“There are no concerns about sPower’s qualifications or eligibility to develop the property,” Stern said. “There are no concerns about sPower’s experience with development or operations of such projects. There are no concerns about sPower’s true identity. And there are no concerns about sPower’s true intentions for this property,” he said.

“In making use of the EPCAL site for solar power, the town will be making use of it for a clean and environmentally friendly beneficial use, which will significantly and reliably add to the town’s tax base,” Stern told board members, who listened without comment or question.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith later said the town “right now is not in any position to entertain any other proposals,” citing the existing letter of intent with Luminati Aerospace and the agreement of sale the town negotiated with a new entity, Calverton Aviation and Technology, which is owned by Luminati Aerospace and the Canadian developer Triple Five.

The town board was scheduled to hold a public hearing last night on the prospective purchaser’s qualifications and eligibility to develop the site, but decided to postpone it after the board learned that a different Triple Five business entity was to be substituted for the entity originally listed in the agreement as an owner of Calverton Aviation and Technology.

Last night, Jens-Smith said the hearing was “adjourned until further notice.” A public hearing is required by New York State General Municipal Law to determine whether a purchaser of land in a designated urban renewal zone like the enterprise park is a “qualified and eligible sponsor.”

The town board is scheduled to hold a closed-door meeting this morning with its lawyers to discuss the EPCAL contract, according to a published agenda.

Morton Weber, founder of the Weber Law Group, which represents sPower, said last night he hopes the town board will agree to hear a formal presentation by sPower at its next meeting.“We are here to bid for the property. We are prepared to pay substantially more money for the property,” he said. “It can be built very quickly. It’s a benign use and there’s great support for solar. We wanted to make the town aware that we are fully prepared to enter into a contract,” Weber said.

Weber said the company would not seek any tax abatements or exemptions for the development and it would require minimal town services.

He said he reached out to David Pennetta of Cushman and Wakefield to let him know of the offer. The town had an exclusive brokerage agreement with Cushman and Wakefield that expired on Dec. 18 and has not been renewed. A resolution to extend the agreement with the brokerage firm was on the town board’s agenda Dec. 5 but was tabled. Cushman and Wakefield representative David Madigan, who attended last night’s meeting, said he was not aware sPower would be making a public statement at the meeting.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to reflect a correction concerning the status of the brokerage firm. As originally published, the story did not reflect the fact that the contract with Cushman and Wakefield expired in December.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.