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Cloudy skies with periods of rain late. Low around 35F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%..

Cloudy skies with periods of rain late. Low around 35F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%.

WATERLOO — An 80 megawatt solar facility in the west end of this Seneca County town will be a hot topic in the coming year.

Some of that discussion began Wednesday at an open house hosted by the developer, NextEra Energy Resources, at the Serven Fire Department.

The Florida-based company plans to lease 1,072 acres of farmland from multiple property owner. The parcel borders Packwood, Serven, Border City and Pre-Emption roads. They will use 450 acres to install many of 10 foot-high, ground-mounted solar panels to generate electric power to be added to the state power grid.

Emory Oese-Siegel, one of the property owners involved, said he will lease about 500 of his 700 acres to NextEra.

“I’ve been growing corn, soybeans and hay and graze some beef cattle for the past 11 years,” he said. “The land has been in our family for a long time, and family members talked about this for 18 months, trying to decide if his was the right thing to do. We negotiated some protections in the lease. It was a big decision.

“I will continue to farm any land where the panels are not located,” Oese-Siegel said. “Crop prices are really low right now. Soybeans are at the lowest price ever and its tough to make a profit. Leading the land will help me pay debt, improve operations and provide income.”

“I’m OK with solar energy projects,” Rich said, “but I’d like to see the town use the additional revenue it will receive from the developer to extend water and maybe sewer, cable and high-speed internet service to Packwood Road.”

The company set up information boards on easels, touting their belief that the project will create no air or water pollution, not use water, and reduce carbon emissions by an average of 86,000 tons a year, the equivalent of taking more than 23,000 cars off the road.

A fact sheet distributed to attendees said there would be a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that will provide additional revenue to the county, town and school district.

The company plans to spend up to $10 million to construct the solar panel farm, creating 100-150 construction jobs and 1-2 full-time positions once the facility begins to produce electricity for the 30-year life of the project.

NextEra officials said local businesses will have a chance to supply materials to support construction of the project. The local construction workers will also generate business for hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues during construction, adding that others could get work contracting for snowplowing and mowing services.

They said the Waterloo site was targeted because there is existing transmission infrastructure, adequate sunlight on mostly open parcels of land, an existing road infrastructure, and New York State Electric & Gas’ willingness to buy the power from the facility to add to the grid.

“The project will supplement the local agricultural economy by an influx of revenue to allow family farms to diversify their income,” said project manger David Boxold, adding that a host agreement could be worked out to benefit specific community programs and needs.

The company will seek permits and approvals through the Article 10 review process of the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. The town of Waterloo and Seneca County will not have a permit or approval role. A fund will be set up for partyies that want to intervene in the process.

As sunlight hits the solar panels, that energy is converted to Direct Current or DC electricity. That DC energy flows into a power inverter, which converts it to Alternative Current or AC power. That AC power then goes to a transformer, which add a voltage boost prior to delivery to the transmission grid.

The facility will be completely fenced in. The developer said the project will help the state meet its goal of producing 70 percent of its total power from renewable sources by 2030.

For more information, go to www.trelinasolarenergycenter.com. For more information about the Article 10 review process, go to www.dps.ny.gov/sitingboard/

Nextera has solar facilities in operation in New York in Sharon, Scoharie County, Florida in Montgomery County, Byron in Genesee County and Dix in Schuyler County.

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