The site of the former landfill on Youngs Avenue in Calverton is again being eyed for a possible solar energy facility. Image: Google Earth

A solar energy company is proposing putting a three-megawatt facility at the 70-acre former town landfill on Youngs Avenue in Calverton.

The town board heard a pitch at Thursday’s work session from David Froelich, the director of business development at CVE (Changing Visions of Energy), an international solar power producer based in France, who said the facility will both generate revenue and save energy costs for the town. 

“The purpose of this — and I know this is solar moratorium, the solar moratorium is on live land, land that’s alive. This land is dead. And that’s why I am happy to engage with you guys that make this land come alive,” said Councilman Bob Kern, who requested the item be put on the work session agenda.

The board adopted a one-year moratorium on commercial solar energy production systems in October, which prohibits the processing of new applications for commercial solar energy production facilities while the town completes an update to its 2003 comprehensive plan and possible zoning code changes. Contrary to Kern’s statements, the town’s landfill is not exempt from the solar moratorium and the application would need to be made after the moratorium expires, Town Attorney Erik Howard said in an interview after the meeting.

Froelich said the company is interested in a 25-year lease of the property, with two optional five-year lease extensions, which would generate around $3.66 million for the town. The development would also include a PILOT agreement with the town that would generate an estimated $301,917 over a 15-year period for the town, Froelich said.

The solar plant would also give power to some town facilities and save an estimated $71,280 in energy costs in the first year, Froelich said.

Froelich said the topography of the landfill site makes much of the area unsuitable for the placement of solar panels, “nut we think there’s a good amount of flat enough areas that we can build a nice size project and generate about 4 million kilowatt hours a year of electricity [per year].” Froelich said.

Froelich also said the three-megawatt facility will cut roughly 3,066 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from other energy sources.

“If you can put solar on a landfill, it’s kind of the ideal solution, right? Because there’s just nothing else you can do with that land. It’s already cleared, there’s no trees growing on the top of that landfill. You could just cover it with panels and generate electricity, it’s kind of an environmental win-win,” Froelich said.

Riverhead Town has in the past pursued the idea of a solar facility at the landfill, which was shut down in 1993 pursuant to state law and subsequently capped by the town to help prevent groundwater contamination. The town issued a request for proposals for a solar project there in 2012 and in 2019, but nothing came of those efforts due to the distance from the landfill site to the nearest LIPA substation that could accept power generated at the facility. Councilman Tim Hubbard asked Froelich how that would be addressed in CVE’s proposal.

Froelich said the company would have to check on the same thing. “As I’m sure you guys can appreciate, our goal is to identify what we think we can do; gauging interest from the town,” he said. “If the town is interested and wants to engage us to actually go ahead and do it, we will dive in.”

“So there are a whole bunch of questions, some of which will give a red flag right away, and some of which might take a little longer to figure out. But the interconnection question, when we had looked originally, it seemed feasible. There’s capacity at the substation,” Froelich said.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]