SOS Industrial Solar Concerns

Save Ontario Shores represents individuals in the towns of Somerset and Yates who share a desire to promote and preserve the rural character of these towns. We question the benefit of large scale industrial solar projects, believing them to be counter to the Comprehensive Plans and Local Waterfront Revitalization Plans of both towns. Local communities must maintain the authority to make decisions regarding any such installation as they will impact the future of the area, local families, health, environment, future economic development and properties. Western New York is now faced with the possibility of massive solar and battery storage projects. The 2,000-acre Ridgeview Solar project in the neighboring towns of Hartland and Newfane and the 900-acre Bear Ridge Solar project in the town of Cambria are two projects which have been proposed for Niagara County. An 1,800-acre project has been proposed by Community Energy in the towns of Barre and Shelby in Orleans County. Others have been proposed and more will soon follow.

Reasons Why Save Ontario Shores is concerned about Industrial Solar Installations:

Home Rule

The decision to install large industrial solar “farms” must continue to be up to the local community. Municipalities should maintain the right to decide where and how large-scale utilities can be placed.

Change in Rural Character

“Preserving the rural character of our Community” is a concept that dates back decades and is imbedded in the Comprehensive Plans and ordinances of Somerset and Yates. Rural communities are being asked to transform their towns from rural agricultural to rural industrial for the benefit of urban communities hundreds of miles away. Consider the concept of Rural Equity– this is our home and we should not be regarded as less important because there are fewer of us, we do not have the per capita income or generate the tax revenue of cities. These projects are being rapidly forced upon communities without reasoned evidence that the benefit sought by the urban areas is tangible and meaningful.

Land Use

Large utility-scale solar panels take up a lot of space, which can result in environmental degradation and habitat loss. Solar projects can inhibit local vegetation growth and damage agriculture, affect existing land usage such as animal grazing, farming, and other agricultural uses. Land is the largest resource of rural communities and they must maintain the ability to determine their zoning. Industrial zoning forced by the State to the extent planned by the State effectively removes local control of zoning.
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Harm to Wildlife and Habitat Degradation

The impact that solar projects have on individual species can send ripples throughout entire ecosystems. When these projects harm species within a habitat, they also remove the valuable ecosystem services that the species provide to the habitat. The habitat becomes less diverse and less livable for plants and wildlife that have adapted to its specific conditions.
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Destruction of Farmland

The Western New York region is considered a probable area of climate refuge. The prime farmland and proximity to the Great Lakes means this area may offer a haven and the ability to feed people in a time of change, including those living in other parts of the state. The pandemic reminds us of the importance of local food production. The land will only be available for crops, however, if it has not been tainted with the products used to make solar panels, smothered in concrete, or filled with by-products of utility-scale installations.

Toxic Chemicals

The manufacturing of solar cells uses hazardous chemicals. These include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, acetone, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and hydrogen fluoride — all of which are detrimental to humans and the environment if handled or discarded improperly. Thin Film photovoltaic cells also contain toxic materials that are detrimental to both humans and the environment, including copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, cadmium telluride, and gallium arsenide. The mined quartz that makes up these cells emit sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide when heated in a furnace before production, and will enter the atmosphere if not adequately filtered. Also, these panels can catch fire and the smoke contains toxic chemicals that will pollute land and animals (including people and pets) that are down wind. These fires are often allowed to just burn themselves out.
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Pollution

Manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Consider the proximity to Great Lakes — streams and creeks that feed into the lakes run through the project area. Even though most solar projects state that they will use active farmland, they also have included that forests may have to be removed. This results in the removal of mature trees — that both take CO2 out of the atmosphere and store carbon — to replace them with solar panels that require great quantities of fossil fuels to produce.
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Rare Materials

Solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare. This includes thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). Another point of concern in the manufacture of solar panels is that the silver content used in the module is a dangerous waste material. Producing these panels in high quantities could also lead to the depletion of silver resources.
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Water Use

Creating energy with solar photovoltaic panels is a water-intensive process. Even though the solar cells themselves don’t use water to generate electricity, the manufacturing process requires large quantities of water.
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Construction

Clearing and grading land for construction results in compacted soil, alterations of drainage channels, and increased erosion. Manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, decommissioning and dismantling of solar cells and panels all contribute to the release of carbon dioxide. If new electric transmission lines or related facilities were needed to service new solar energy development, construction, operation and decommissioning of the transmission facilities could also cause a variety of environmental impacts, including tree removal.

Recycling of Solar Panels

Current methods for recycling of solar panels would be damaging to local environments if disposed of locally. Glass and metal are stripped from the unit and the remains are either land filled or burned, releasing toxic material into the environment. Future disposal of units could number in the millions as the panels reach the end of their useful life. This will become an issue in the coming decades when solar panels become decommissioned and need to be replaced. As it stands right now, there aren’t enough places that can recycle old panels, and there aren’t enough panels to make the recycling process economically viable. Additionally, how do you remove glass from the soil if a panel is broken? In some desert areas where utility solar panels were first placed in service and are now no longer in use, the panels have not been removed or they are removed yet the land is degraded and has not returned to viable farmland or diverse natural habitat.
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Intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times. Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not the first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. Western New York is already powered by renewable energy from Niagara Falls, a very reliable source. This requires a redundancy of energy production and highlights the questionable benefit yet very tangible burdens on local communities.

Federal, State, and Local Subsidies

Subsidized renewables have distorted the electricity grid. Wind and solar power do not provide the same value to the grid as conventional electricity sources. In addition to not operating on-demand, they provide little of the capacity value that is needed to maintain long-term reliability and cannot provide the essential reliability services the grid needs. State subsidies for renewables also have not lowered consumer electricity costs but increased them in part because our electricity fees are used to fund these projects.
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Local Jobs

One local proposed project has signs declaring the potential jobs that will be created. There may be construction jobs associated with the building of a solar installation but that same project team made clear at their open house that the project would be monitored 24 hours a day – from San Diego, California. It is unlikely to provide long term employment in the area.
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Brown Fields

If industrial solar projects are built they should use brown field sites. Using already-contaminated land for new solar projects lessens the pressure to build solar projects in open spaces, desert habitat, or on farmland.

Local Opposition

The “Coalition to Protect Our Rural Communities” is a local grass roots group that has been formed to oppose industrial solar in Western New York and throughout the state. To access their website click HERE.

Lockport Union Sun & Journal March 23, 2021
NIAGARA COUNTY: Backs new local law that would require manufacturers to pay to recycle their products.
Rick Pfeiffer
The Niagara County Legislature has set a public hearing for next month on a proposed new local law that would set new rules on the recycling of solar panels. The new local law would require that solar panel manufacturers finance the recovery and recycling of any of their solar panels installed in Niagara County when a panel needs to be replaced. “We are doing everything we can to battle against Governor Cuomo’s efforts to strip away local decision-making on where these green energy projects can be located in Niagara County,” Godfrey said. “But we need to be prepared to protect our community from becoming a depository for spent solar panels that contain hazardous waste, even for solar projects that enjoy the support from local residents.

Lockport Union Sun & Journal February 24, 2021
Newfane airs draft solar siting law
Benjamin Joe
The proposed Town of Newfane Solar Energy Local Law would declare the northernmost portion of the town off limits to large scale solar energy generation. Among other things, the law calls for the protection of  “prime farmland soil” and a complete ban on utility scale solar energy generation facilities on land north of the old New York Central Railroad right-of-way. The reasoning behind both rules is that the character of Newfane is in its farmland, according to town planning board chairman Bill Clark. The sole purpose is to protect the Town of Newfane the best we can from Article 94. If (large facilities) do go in, we want to have as much control as we possibly can without the state thinking we’re stepping over our boundaries and stepping in and overriding us.

Buffalo News December 22, 2020
Niagara County towns plan tougher regulations on solar power as new projects surface (link to attached document)
Thomas J. Prohaska
Two of Niagara County’s largest towns, Lewiston and Wheatfield, have responded to plans for new solar power projects in their communities with plans for tougher laws regulating them. The Lewiston Town Board will vote Monday on a revised local law requiring fields of solar panels to be located farther away from roads and homes than before. The Wheatfield Town Board has scheduled a Jan. 25 public hearing on a six-month solar moratorium. The new Lewiston law amends one passed in 2018 by banning battery storage of power in a rural-residential zone. Such batteries would only be allowed in industrial zones. It also says any solar array must be at least 700 feet from the nearest road or dwelling. The array must be surrounded by a fence of “natural color” at least 8 feet tall, with barbed wire not allowed. The entire site must be screened from view with trees or other vegetation.

Orleans Hub October 29, 2020
Many reasons to reject industrial solar projects, which threaten the countryside
Jim Hoffman
The heavy promotion of industrial solar electric generating installations and their many claimed “benefits” demand further scrutiny: Backup Power Needed; Load Mismatch; Battery Storage; Destruction of Farmland, Forests , Grasslands, Wetlands; Environmental Damage; Subsidies. Serious issues involving industrial solar installations alter the physical and social framework of a community. The same is true of industrial wind. Other options exist to clean up the environment.

Lockport Union Sun & Journal October 20, 2020
County opts out of green-energy tax exemption
Benjamin Joe and Rick Pfeiffer
For Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey the legislative battle over opting out of a state-authorized property tax exemption for solar and wind energy systems had nothing to do with going green. He said the issue was “local control” versus a “top down” set of alternative energy incentives passed on from Albany. We are sending a message. If a project comes to Niagara County and has no community support, there will be no tax breaks.

Orleans Hub February 4, 2020
Public Should Attend Town Board Meetings about Solar and Battery Storage Projects
Heidi Marciniak, Ridgeway Resident
Ridgeway is just the first of numerous solar projects being presented to our community and neighboring communities. This project alone would consist of 11,000 solar panels and a 3MW lithium ion battery which is the size of a tractor trailer. There are numerous concerns regarding a battery of this nature being installed near our residences.

New York Times March 18, 2020
He Set Up a Big Solar Farm. His Neighbors Hated It
Sarah Maslin Nir, Lewiston NY
A push toward renewable energy is facing resistance in rural areas where conspicuous panels are affecting vistas and squeezing small farmers who lease land parcels from bigger farmers or landowners. They fear that they will be squeezed out by energy companies willing to pay more to use farmland for their solar cells. Dropping them in the middle of an agricultural, residential community disrupts a way of life.

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