The approval of a new 22.9 megawatt solar energy facility on 198 acres in Calverton is on the town board’s agenda tomorrow.

The board is expected to act tomorrow on L.I. Solar Generation’s application for a special permit to construct and operate the Calverton Solar Energy Center facility on industrially zoned land west of Edwards Avenue.

The special permit, good for 30 years from the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy by the town, covers an initial operating period of 20 years, plus two five-year extensions, when “either party shall have the right to reopen the records solely and exclusively to address whether the security posted for de-commissioning is adequate,” according to the resolution.

The amount of the security to be posted is not specified in the special permit resolution, which says the amount and form of the surety — “escrow account, bond or otherwise” — to cover the cost of the removal of the solar installation and remediate the landscape shall be in the amount and form deemed reasonable by the town engineer.

The special permit approval specifies several conditions, including:

  • Site plan approval from the Riverhead Planning Board;
  • Easements from the Town of Riverhead and from a private property owner allowing the applicant to install an underground connection line to the LIPA substation on the east side of Edwards Avenue;
  • The issuance of a certificate of occupancy from the town building department within three years of the special permit approval;
  • A Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement with the town in an unspecified amount “to the satisfaction of the Town of Riverhead.”
  • The grant by the applicant of a 20-foot wide easement for a possible EPCAL recreation trail extension, in a form and location acceptable to the planning board, with “appropriate vegetative buffers” to screen the view of the solar facility from the recreational trail;
  • Vegetative buffers to screen the view of the facility from any public right-of-way or town highway.

The special permit is also conditioned on the agreement and execution between the town and the applicant of a “Community Benefit Agreement…in a form approved by the Town Supervisor and the Town Attorney.”

The special permit resolution does not provide any details of the community benefit agreement and, while the subject has been listed on several work session agendas for discussion in executive session, no agreement has yet been made public.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar at last week’s work session — which was pushed up to Tuesday morning, because of the Thanksgiving holiday — outlined publicly for the first time the terms of the community benefit agreement.

According to Aguiar, L.I. Solar Generation will pay the town a total of $1.5 million, to be allocated by the town across six benefit categories, as follows:

  • $350,000 for “health and welfare” which includes the creation and/or the improvement of parks beaches, recreational facilities, senior adult programs and not-for-profit outreach programs;
  • $250,000 for the protection, preservation and enhancement and maintenance of the functional integrity of the Peconic River, Long Island Sound and the Pine Barrens ecosystem;
  • $250,000 to the protection of agriculture and open space;
  • $350,000 for the protection, promotion and enhancement of police, fire and emergency medical response to provide training and equipment;
  • $150,000 to be allocated to the Riverhead Central School District with the goal of providing wireless internet access for students who do not have the financial means to obtain wifi; and
  • $150,000 for job promotion, enhancement and development and job training.

L.I. Solar Generation is owned by wholly-owned subsidiaries of NextEra Energy Resources and National Grid.

If approved, the LI Solar Generation’s proposed project would become the fourth commercial solar generating facility in the hamlet of Calverton.

A fifth pending proposal, sPower’s Riverhead Solar 2, a 36-megawatt facility on a 290-acre site off Edwards Avenue, is out of the town’s hands. Due to its size — larger than 25 megawatts — it comes under the jurisdiction of the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment, by state law. Tomorrow, the state board is holding two virtual public information sessions and public hearings on the Riverhead Solar 2 proposal. The sessions, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., will be webcast live on the Department of Public Service’s YouTube channel.

>>> State to hold virtual public hearings Tuesday on proposed 36MW solar facility in Calverton

The L.I. Solar Generation and Riverhead Solar 2 proposals would add 488 acres of commercial solar energy facilities in Calverton, which is already home to three operational commercial solar production facilities that are sited on a total of 168 acres and are already producing 26.6 megawatts of electricity.

The Calverton hamlet in the vicinity of Edwards Avenue is an attractive location for commercial solar energy facilities because of a LIPA substation on Edwards Avenue, which provides connectivity between the power generation facilities and the utility’s electric grid.

If the two pending projects are approved, solar facilities in Calverton will produce 85.5 megawatts of electricity.

Out of concern over the concentration of commercial solar energy facilities in Calverton, the town board on Sept. 1 held a public hearing on a proposed 12-month moratorium on all new commercial solar systems. The proposed moratorium exempted the L.I. Solar Generation and Riverhead Solar 2 projects.

Two weeks later, at the Sept. 15 meeting, the town board tabled a resolution approving the moratorium. Board members agreed to table the matter for 60 days, to provide the board further opportunity to discuss the moratorium. The moratorium has not been on a work session agenda since the resolution was tabled.

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