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2,000-acre solar power project proposed for eastern Niagara County

Niagara County continues to be the focus of local solar power generation efforts, as a California company this week disclosed a plan to cover 2,000 acres of land with solar panels in two largely rural towns.

The Ridge View Solar Energy Center would occupy 1,500 acres in Hartland and 500 acres in neighboring Newfane, generating up to 350 megawatts of electricity.

EDF Renewables, the San Diego-based developer, already has made arrangements to lease the land it needs in Hartland, Supervisor W. Ross Annable said Thursday.

Newfane Supervisor Timothy R. Horanburg said he expects EDF to begin contacting landowners in the southeast part of his town next month.

"The first thing they said when they walked in is, 'If you don't want us here, we'll walk out and leave,' " Horanburg said.

Annable said he was contacted by representatives from EDF's Toronto office earlier this summer. EDF has developed solar and wind power projects all over the United States, Canada and Mexico, and it is planning a solar project near Mount Morris in Livingston County.

EDF did not immediately respond to request for comment Thursday.

While another California company, Cypress Creek Renewables, has run into official and public opposition to its 900-acre Bear Ridge Solar plan in Cambria and Pendleton, Annable said he's more positive about the Ridge View project.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Annable said. "We're a little different set-up than the Town of Cambria. ... We don't have a large infrastructure here or a business district. If this is something that's welcomed by the townspeople, it would provide some additional revenue for the town to help stabilize our taxes."

He said EDF has discussed a host community agreement that would pay what Annable called "a conservative estimate" of $1 million a year, divided among the towns and the Newfane and Royalton-Hartland school districts.

The footprint of the project in Hartland would be L-shaped, running generally along Route 104 from the Newfane border to Johnson Creek and north to the Somerset border.

Annable said the location was chosen to make it relatively easy to connect the solar farm to the high-voltage power lines that connect the Somerset Operating Co. power plant to the state's power grid.

The owners of that coal-burning power plant have said they plan to close it next year and build a data center on the site.

Opponents of Bear Ridge Solar and single-farm solar projects approved last year in Lewiston and Wheatfield have complained about the look of masses of ground-based solar panels.

Annable said EDF has promised "landscaping or trees that eventually will block the view of those panels. They're a maximum 12 feet high."

EDF has not yet filed an application for the project with the state Department of Public Service. Annable said he expects the company to begin filing documents next month.

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