By Michelle Karim and Jakub Lewkowicz
A 24.9 megawatt solar farm is set to open in Shoreham, Long Island but is involved in a dispute around the installation which will be decided in five days.
The farm will be built by Invenergy, a Chicago based clean energy company, and the panels will cover 150 acres of land on a the Tall Grass golf course, including the sod farms north of it. The site will include between 100,000 to 110,000 solar panels and according to the Invenergy website, will create 175 jobs in Shoreham and the surrounding region.
Just this year, Riverhead built its own solar farm in 126 acres of land owned by Calverton Links golf course.The prospective land in Shoreham is currently under the residential and agricultural zoning but Invenergy officials are looking to change it to a private sector.
And some have already voiced their opposition to the plan.
A group of town locals collectively named Shoreham Wading River Advocates for Justice motioned against Invenergy to stop the company from installing the panels, a motion which the court denied at an August 3rd hearing this year. According to acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti, the residents failed to offer testimony or “scientific justification” for their case.
“If we destroy natural areas to build solar panels, we might as well destroy them for shopping malls and roads. From a wildlife and nature standpoint, destruction is destruction,” Carl Safina, a marine ecologist and a visiting professor at Stony Brook University, said.
At the golf club, many are also resisting the change.
“Everyone is against it- the members, the employees. Everybody will lose their jobs.” John Semmig, a manager at the golf course said. Semmig also added that the Invenergy officials are giving them a “couple of different answers” regarding the solar panel project.
The firm is set to build the second largest solar power plant in Long Island and in the State and will power 3,500 homes in the Shoreham area. It was picked as the ideal site because it will help achieve New York’s new clean energy goals – cutting the Long Island Power Authority’s carbon footprint in the Brookhaven area by 50%, according to the Shoreham Solar Commons website.
Invenergy officials could not be reached for comment even after multiple attempts.
“It takes away from the fossil fuels and there is lesser carbon footprint”, Ryan Maloney, an employee at Vivint Solar, said. “The only downside for the solar field would be the fact that they are being used for crops,” Maloney added, referring the sod fields in Shoreham.
Vivint does not deal with large scale commercial projects but caters to the residents in the Long Island area.
Even though this project is set to create a clean environment and jobs, according to the Shoreham Solar Commons website, a lot of residents are not happy with the prospect. “Everyone wants to benefit but no one wants it by their house,” Corrine Dureau, a resident of Shoreham said.
When asked to comment about the solar project, councilwoman of the town of Brookhaven Jane Bonner refused to comment. “This particular subject is under litigation and she cannot comment on anything,” Kimberly Farley, the legislative secretary, said.
“Absolutely, I think it’s a great idea,” John Repucci, a resident of the retirement home Leisure Knowles in Ridge, said. “I have solar power now and in our community we have had 30 to 35 houses equipped with solar panels in the last two years. It reduces the annual cost tremendously and it’s the best investment you can make,” he added.
The solar panels are to replace “greenhouse gas emissions” by taking the place of five fossil fuel producing plants in the surrounding area, according to the Shoreham solar commons website. The community at Tall Grass course will hear on the status of the bid for the land on September 30th.