Sunday, August 17, 2008

PC - Color it "green" - Another first!

On August 14th the Forks Planning Commission (PC) got its first look at a "combined preliminary plan and land development" for a solar power generation facility (a solar park) that Crayola hopes to construct just north of its Church Lane headquarters and plant.  

The presentation by Fotowatio representatives was well received.  According to the company website, Fotowatio was formed in 2004 in response to the Kyoto Protocol and is one of Spain's leading promoters of renewable energy.

The Crayola solar park will occupy 16 acres of a 128 acre parcel.  The panels themselves will be six feet high and the park area will be surrounded by fencing.  An existing tree line will prevent it from being seen from the street.  Planner Castrovinci suggested lighting so that the police can see in the area at night.  There will be a 24 hour security guard as well as security cameras.

The panels do not reflect light - they absorb light - and will not be a problem to the airport - or to the neighbors.  Two adjacent property owners were there, Tom McInerney and George & Rachel Hoagland, and both endorsed the project fully.  They said "yes" to fencing and "no" to lighting. 

The 16 acre footprint will involve minimal land disturbance.  The solar panels are supported by poles.  The holes for the poles are 12 inches in diameter and 48 inches deep.  Grass will be planted beneath the array.  Trenches will be dug for the wires.  There will be a 40 ft x 70 ft platform for the converter/inverter (DC to AC). 

The panels make no noise.  "They just sit there and generate electricity," said Johann Scheidt of Fotowatio.  The plant will generate about 20% of Crayola's needs - three megawatts.  Any excess will be sold to the Met-Ed power grid.  In fact, the PC was told, Met-Ed embraces Crayola's plan since it will generate electricity during peak hours and will take Crayola off of the grid.

Fotowatio asked that the PC add this as an agenda item to its August workshop so that the plan can then go to the Board of Supervisors for consideration/approval at its September 4th meeting.  Normally the PC does not consider plans at its workshop. 

The reason for the rush?  Federal Energy Tax Credits expire on December 31, 2008 and in order to qualify, the facility must be in operation by then.  The Planners were told that without the tax credits, Crayola will not build the solar park.  The entire project will take approximately two months to construct. 

Solicitor Karl Kline noted that a "utility generating facility" is a permitted use in all zoning districts.  Planner Vito Tamborrino said that if the PC approves solar, it means only solar.  Kline clarified that the approval will be just for a particular use and that windmills would require another plan.  In fact, he added, the (new in 2006) Zoning Ordinance has no regulations for windmills and solar panels and needs to be updated.

The PC voted 5:1 to add this solar plan to its August 26th workshop.  Tamborrino cast the nay vote saying that he would like more time to consider the plan.  Engineer Fred Hay said that he will email the review letter to the Planners. 

Please read Tony Nauroth (Express Times) and Tom Coombe (Morning Call) for more.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

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