OAKFIELD/ELBA — As a developer prepares to apply for a permit for the siting and construction operation of a 500-megawatt-maximum solar energy farm in Oakfield and Elba, residents later this month will have a chance to hear more about the proposal in about three weeks.

Hecate Energy Cider Solar, LLC plans to apply, toward the end of April, to the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) for the permit. The useful life for the solar farm, which is expected to be built starting in 2022 and operating in 2023, is about 40 years, said Harrison Luna, project manager for the Cider Solar Farm at Hecate Energy.

The proposed Hecate Energy project would be on about 3,000 acres in Oakfield and Elba. Lockport Road bisects the site from east to west, according to a project notice. Route 98 runs north and south along the eastern part of the project site.

“The project is entirely privately funded and will cost approximately $500 million-$650 million,” Luna said.

The informational meeting, the third one Hecate Energy has had, will take place from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. March 24 via Zoom.

“Information on how to join that meeting will be posted to the project website, cidersolarfarm.com, in the coming weeks. That website is also a good resource for general information about the project,” Luna said.

Additionally, he said. The Hecate team holds weekly public Zoom conference calls at 1 p.m. every Wednesday to answer questions, provide updates and generally discuss the project.

“We’ve been working on the project for a few years now, and we began interaction with local governments and other stakeholders at the beginning of 2020,” Luna said. “We’ve seen a great degree of support from the community and local officials. While it’s impossible for me to definitively explain the dynamics of the community response, I would say we at Hecate Energy have been very diligent in our efforts to collaborate with the community.”

The project will result in tens of millions of dollars in new revenue to the local tax bases, the project manager said.

“Hecate Energy has undertaken numerous studies to evaluate impacts to wildlife, wetlands and streams, cultural resources, visual/aesthetic resources and more. The project has been well sited to avoid impacts to the environment where possible, while maximizing the economic benefits to the community. Once operating, the project will be visible from some public vantage points along area roadways,” he said. “However, Hecate Energy will implement a planting plan to screen and minimize that visibility.”

Other operational impacts include conversion of active cropland/agricultural lands to project facilities, Luna said.

“However, upon the end of the project’s useful life, project components will be removed, and these lands will be preserved by the operation of the project for future use as agricultural lands,” he said.

During the construction phase, the project will create approximately 450-550 full-time jobs across a few categories: foremen, technicians, laborers, equipment operators, and construction managers. In addition, during its operational phase, the project will create between 10 and 17 full time jobs per year: field technicians, site management, operations monitor/control, administrative, etc.

“It is anticipated that the majority of the on-site construction workforce would be hired locally to the extent workers are available,” Luna said.

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