SHELBY — In his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 200 megawatt solar farm in Orleans County as part of an emphasis on green energy.
Cuomo mentioned the Orleans project as among 24 aimed at reducing the state’s dependence on fossil-fueled energy sources.
“Nature is telling us, or I will,” Cuomo said, adding America and the world are beyond the debate of whether climate change is real or whether green is good.
He said the planet is in crisis with sea levels rising, ice caps shrinking, California burning, a once-in-a-century storm happening twice a year, and 2020 was tied with the hottest year in history.
“We are not making enough progress,” Cuomo said. “ Why? Because change is hard.”
And that’s where projects such as that proposed in Orleans County would come in.
Cuomo said New York could be the nation’s leader for renewable energy innovation and production, all while securing jobs of the future for New Yorkers. He said the entire green energy program will create a total 12,400 megawatts of green energy to power 6 million homes, directly create more than 50,000 jobs, and spur $29 billion in private investment all across the state.
The 200-megawatt solar project is currently being proposed in Barre and Shelby by Community Energy. The project is named Orleans Solar.
The project would cover 1,300 acres, with three quarters of it being in Barre and the remaining quarter in Shelby. An informational meeting regarding the project was held at the end of December.
According to the project’s website, it will safely generate enough renewable electricity to power over 36,000 households and offset 282,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
Despite Cuomo’s announcement, enthusiasm for the project isn’t universal.
“(Wednesday)’s announcement of a 200-megawatt solar energy project proposed for Orleans County displays the governor and his administration’s complete disregard for the opinions and desires of Orleans County residents,” said state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-Tonwanda in a news release. “Residents and local officials have been vehemently opposed to industrial energy projects proposed in the past, yet Gov. Cuomo continues to ignore our concerns.”
Ortt is the State Senate’s minority leader.
“Along with disrupting and destroying the quality of life where these projects are placed, they also raise energy costs for local businesses and families,” Ortt said. “Democrats in Albany are intent on silencing the voices of our community so that they may fulfill socialists’ desires for a Green New Deal.”
Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Lynne Johnson declined to comment on the project, noting that its environmental impact studies currently aren’t in.