WESTTOWN — Residents in the Town of Minisink are bracing for a solar boom and asking their government officials to slow down the project approval process.
"How about we hit the brakes a little bit and find out how these other towns are being affected (by solar projects)?" Westtown resident John Falzon asked the Minisink Town Board during its meeting Wednesday. "Why do we have to be the guinea pig?"
About 40 people attended the Minisink Planning Board's public hearing last month seeking information about an application from Clean Energy Collective to install a community-shared solar farm at 159 Whitford Road. The project would take up 9 acres of a 44-acre parcel.
The planning board said at the hearing that concerns needed to be addressed to the town board, which has more authority over the project. But only about half of those residents returned for Wednesday's meeting.
Falzon said he does not want the town to act hastily on energy projects. According to documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Law, Falzon found that the town is currently considering 25 solar projects.
"I’m not here to say I don’t want solar. I am for solar and would vote for it," he said. "But can we do it in an effective manner that is going to protect the residents?"
Jacobs Road resident Robin Freund asked about the town's notification process for projects. She asked if it was true that the town only meets the state-mandated minimum requirements for giving notice about proposed projects.
"Are you doing as little as possible to notify people? I don’t understand?" she asked. Town board members did not respond.
Solar energy is trending in New York state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last month that the state's solar energy industry has grown by nearly 1,000 percent since 2011, according to a news release.
Solar energy is critical to achieving Cuomo's goal of having 50 percent of the state's electricity powered by renewable sources in 2030.
In 2016, about 24 percent of the state's electricity was powered by renewable sources, according to a past Times Herald-Record story. At the time of that report, about 13 solar farms were proposed in Orange County and 11 each were planned in Sullivan and Ulster counties.
The state's largest community-shared solar project just finished in Sullivan County, according to a release from Cuomo's office on Tuesday. The 2.7-megawatt array, owned by Delaware River Solar, consists of about 9,800 panels, will service 350 homes and businesses and received $1.3 million from the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative.