There were fourteen items on the agenda for last night's Conservation Advisory Council meeting, but only one topic was discussed: the solar farm being considered for North Bay. At one point, Common Council president Tom DePietro told the CAC, "The common fear is that these things snowball, and no one can stop them. That's not going to happen." To this observer, it seems it has already happened.
The notion of building a solar farm within the two square miles of Hudson started out as an idea for monetizing unused and otherwise unusable City-owned land. The original idea was to have a solar company install solar panels on a specific parcel north of Charles Williams Park and make lease payments to the City for the use of the land, thus creating a new source of revenue for the City. That was back in February.
Now, ten months later, there have been three responses to the City's request for expressions of interest (RFEI), all three of which have their eye of the capped landfill, which was not the intended parcel, is not owned by the City of Hudson, and is a significant habitat for rare species and an important open space for the residents of Hudson. It seems time to step back and ask why are we doing this?
Is it to create revenue for the City of Hudson? Despite the fact that it is located in Hudson, the landfill belongs to Columbia County, and revenue from a solar farm would go to the County not the City. To get any financial benefit from the solar farm, the City would have to work out some sort of revenue sharing agreement with the County.
Is it to provide a lower cost, renewable energy alternative for the residents of Hudson? Last night, Michael O'Hara, who serves on the CAC and chairs the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, said that Columbia County is "looking at community solar that would cover the entire county." According O'Hara, the plan is already in the works, and Hudson residents can participate.
Is it to enable the City to complete another Climate Smart Communities action and earn some more points? O'Hara asserted that the community solar project being pursued by the County would be sufficient to do that.
Although it is unclear precisely why the plan to establish a solar farm in North Bay is being pursued, Peter Bujanow, commissioner of Public Works, said he was going to set up a meeting with the County Solid Waste Department, which has responsibility for the landfill, and the county attorney to discuss "what the sharing agreement would be." He later said he wanted to "meet with the County and get the OK to move forward." He also said he wanted the Common Council to discuss the solar project at its informal meeting on Monday, December 13, and "give the go-ahead for the RFP [request for proposals]." First Ward supervisor Sarah Sterling, who has worked to preserve the landfill as a bobolink habitat and fought back a plan to install solar panels on the landfill proposed by the County in 2016, cautioned, "The assumption when you do an RFP is that you want to do this."
One wonders about Bujanow's zeal to move this forward.
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