Westfield solar project still in planning phase | News, Sports, Jobs

While a proposed 270-megawatt solar project in South Ripley is in the hands of the state for final approval, it’s not the only large-scale solar project the state is considering building in Chautauqua County.

There is also the Empire Solar Project, a proposed 125 megawatt solar photovoltaic power generation facility in the town of Westfield. The project will cover approximately 1,500 acres and plans to connect to the 230 kV line from South Ripley to Dunkirk.

Proponents say the project is expected to have a positive impact on both the environment and the local economy by reducing carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 160,000 metric tons each year – the equivalent of removing approximately 34,000 cars off the road – and generating significant tax revenue and other economic benefits. for the region. If approved, the project is expected to create more than 250 construction jobs.

Eric Will, a senior AES executive, said they were very interested in the Westfield project; however, there are environmental challenges they are working on. “There are a lot of wetlands there, he said during a phone call.

Unlike the smaller 5-megawatt solar projects that are being considered by a number of municipalities, Will said this one won’t go through the Chautauqua County Planning Board and will instead get final approval from the county office. Renewable Energy Siting Board, the same council that will give final approval for the Ripley project.

The 125 megawatt solar project at Westfield has been under discussion for over two years now.

When first proposed, it was announced that the project would be built on 4,237 acres of land located near Westfield’s border with Ripley and Chautauqua in the areas of Pigeon Road, Ogden Road and Douglas Road – 2.3 miles southwest of the village of Westfield and 3.3 miles west of the village of Mayville.

Chautauqua Gorge and Chautauqua Creek lie to the east of the nominated site. Approximately 1,500 acres of the site would be required for actual solar production. Additional land provides setbacks from neighboring land uses.

Last year, during a virtual presentation of the project, the developers said they also planned to install 20 megawatts of battery storage. They said battery storage is important due to the intermittent nature of wind and sun.

During this presentation, the developers stated that their goal is for construction to begin by the end of 2022 and for the project to become operational by the end of 2023. It is not clear at this stage if this schedule has been delayed.

On the State Department of Public Service website, it says that on January 13, a Notice of Termination of Proceedings was filed on behalf of the New York State Board of Electric Generation Sitting and the Environment. This was the last deposit made since February 25, 2021.

Will was unable to give a timeline on what will happen next. He said they are currently working on other solar projects in the state that are more advanced before they eventually return to the Westfield site.

Westfield Town supervisor Martha Bills also spoke to Will after the January 13 filing, but said she was also not given a better schedule. “He didn’t really give much more information. It was more of a formal acknowledgment that they filed a 94C (the Notice of Closing),” she says.

Bills said she hopes to hear from the company when it’s ready to move forward with the project, but admits it’s in the hands of the state right now.

“I know they work on environmental issues, but I don’t really know more than that,” she says.

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Louisa R. Loomis