After nearly a year of debate, the Town of Grand Island has adopted a solar power law designed to open up undeveloped property for solar farms and set rules on smaller roof mounted and ground mounted systems.
The law sets minimum acreage and set-back restrictions for solar farms that provide power to the public electric grid and sets less stringent regulations for solar power equipment designed to provide power just to the home or business where it is located.
According to the law, the legislation preserves the rights of property owners to install solar energy systems without excess regulation, specifically free standing, ground mounted or pole mounted energy systems.
The law was approved 4-0, with Councilman Raymond A. Billica absent.
"It's a good step forward for Grand Island and clean energy. I'm really pleased to be part of it," said Councilor Beverly Kinney, who took the lead on crafting the law with town attorney Dan Spitzer and the Planning Board.
Councilman Christopher K. Aronica said he was originally not in favor of a new law.
"I don't like to see things which put more restrictions on businesses," said Aronica. "But really this helps give the Planning Board some direction. Now they have a road map they can follow."
At least one developer has been waiting for the law.
Thomas Guzek, the managing partner and CEO of SolarPark Energy LLC of Saratoga Springs, told The Buffalo News he has the capital and is ready to begin building a $7.5 million, 18-acre solar farm with an option to expand to another 40 acres on undeveloped industrial property on Lang Boulevard, off of Grand Island Boulevard. He said he was in negotiations with a private estate to buy the property and was waiting for approval of the solar law.
Deputy Supervisor James R. Sharpe told The News last month that the the company's proposal is to build two 9-acre farms - each with 2 megawatt systems - for a total of 4 megawatts. He said the project has received approval from the town's Zoning Board.
Guzek said the energy that is generated by the first solar park would be enough to supply about 800 residents in Grand Island and Western New York. He said if SolarPark Energy were to expand its proposed facility it could ultimately provide power to half of the island.
Kinney said the town won't spot rezone areas for solar use, but would grant special use permits. She said this will allow town officials to discuss each proposal on a case by case basis.