08/01/14 8:00am
08/01/2014 8:00 AM
Credit: Patrick W. Moore

Credit: Patrick W. Moore

For years people have been talking about solar as a clean alternative energy source, but only recently has the prospect of large-scale solar farms started taking shape on the North Fork.

Two years ago, Long Island Power Authority sought proposals for solar energy projects that would generate 100 megawatts of power —enough to power about 13,000 homes —and 76 solar projects across Long Island were selected in April.

In addition, LIPA and PSEG-Long Island — which manages LIPA’s electric grid — are now seeking additional proposals for projects that would generate 280 MW more in renewable energy, including solar, natural gas and wind.

“One of the main reasons large scale solar development is initiated is because the utilities issue requests for proposals for projects, and that’s exactly what happened on Long Island,” said Chris Wiedemann, director of development for S Power Solar, a West Coast company that had three projects chosen in April by LIPA, one each in Calverton, Southold and Shoreham. In total, 12 projects were chosen that would be located in Manorville and throughout the North Fork. Project owners will be responsible for construction, installation and maintenance costs, which will then be offset by selling power to PSEG-LI.

But only now that solar power is starting to gain momentum are local municipalities catching up to regulating the energy source.

And not everyone is feeling so sunny about it.

Riverhead and Southold towns have both proposed restricting where power-generating solar farms that would sell energy back to PSEG can be built. The restrictions would not apply to farms that generate solar energy to power their own operations.

Both towns decided to limit commercial solar energy production to industrial zones, prohibiting the practice on agricultural parcels.

“This town, the County of Suffolk, and to some extent, the State of New York, have spent tens of millions of dollars preserving the Agricultural Protection Zone in town,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in discussing the zoning amendments last month. “I think it sends the wrong message that we would now allow this sort of industrialization [solar panel farms] on preserved farmland.”

Southold already adopted the code change in June, and the Riverhead Town Board has scheduled an Aug. 5 public hearing on its proposal.

Riverhead leaders actually based their proposal on Southold’s, which determined that the town’s two industrial zones were the best locations for solar farms — keeping agriculturally-zoned land out of the mix.

“There is a real demand now to locate solar arrays, and we’ve been getting inquiries from solar companies who are very interested in locating them on farmland,” Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said in an interview. “We didn’t quite go that far yet.”

Last July, LIPA announced that an increased focus on solar power would “help defer, reduce or eliminate the need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars on building new generation, infrastructure, and transmission and distribution lines.”

That announcement came after the utility had already called for 50 MW in solar projects in 2008, while it was calling for its next 100 MW — the request that resulted in the 76 solar arrays currently in the works — and before a request for another 280 MW of solar power last fall. Those bid winners will be announced this December.

All these requests for solar power projects — among other sources of cleaner energy, such as wind or natural gas — are bringing LIPA in accordance with its Electric Resource Plan 2010-2020, which called for reducing emissions by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020, and by 80 percent by the year 2050, benchmarks set by former Governor David Paterson.

Featured Story
07/31/14 12:00pm
07/31/2014 12:00 PM

Anthony Venetz family seeks benefits

More than 400,000 soldiers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

One of them is Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr., who was brought back to the United States from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on Jan. 30, 2011, two days after his death. He was carried off a plane at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware by seven servicemen on an U.S. Army carry team — an American flag draped over the case carrying his body.

Eleven days later, the Wading River native was laid to rest at Arlington with full military honors.

A married 30-year-old father of two, the Green Beret was remembered as a hero by those who attended his burial in section 60, site 9509 of America’s second most populated national cemetery.

That plot may be where Sgt. Venetz’s decade-long service to the military ended, but for the family he left behind, the battle continues today.  (more…)

Featured Story
07/30/14 2:24pm
07/30/2014 2:24 PM
Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

Dave Colone, Chairman of Suffolk County Planning Commissioner; Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Bob Delucca, President and CEO of the Group for the East End, County Executive Steve Bellone, Dick Amper, Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society and Deputy Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory. (Courtesy photo)

The Suffolk County Legislature OK’d the deal Tuesday, but voters will have the final say on an agreement that would drop two pending lawsuits environmental groups have filed against the county alleging a misuse of funds they say are reserved for protecting the county’s drinking water aquifer.

County legislators passed support for most of the deal 14-4 at their general meeting. First announced in June by County Executive Steve Bellone and the parties who initiated the lawsuits, part of the agreement maintained that after legislative approval, a public referendum would ultimately determine if the deal would go through.

The accord stems from what environmental advocates have called a “raiding” of a portion of the Drinking Water Protection Program, a quarter-percent sales tax that Suffolk voters have chosen to levy upon themselves through the year 2030. It is intended to protect groundwater through several specific uses, such as open space purchases and a fund dedicated to stabilizing residents’ sewer rates.

In 2011, and again in 2014, the county dipped into the sewer stabilization fund, using the money to help plug budget gaps. Environmentalists say that violates the terms under which voters agreed to tax themselves and is therefore illegal.

Under the proposed settlement, the county could still dip into the fund — which had a balance of around $140 million last year — until 2018, in order to meet long-term financial needs. However, any money diverted would have to be paid back in full by 2029. No interest would be attached to the repayment.

While the announcement in June required voter approval for any future changes in the Drinking Water program, legislators withheld support of that part of the deal on Tuesday. Deputy Presiding Officer Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said that because negotiations are still technically ongoing — the lawsuit has not been officially dropped — the legislature was advised to table support for part of the agreement.

North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said he was at first “disturbed” by the agreement, since it contains no provisions guaranteeing the purchase of farmland in the future.

However, he said that Mr. Bellone and the Legislature’s willingness to preserve farmland on the East End in the past have eased his mind. And in the end, voters will still have the final say on whether or not this agreement suits their needs.

“I would have structured this a little differently, but I wasn’t at the table,” Mr. Krupski said Wednesday morning. “So I didn’t have that option … But I think if you look at this globally, this is the hand we were dealt. And past decisions have really made our options limited financially. This was, I felt, the best option to take.”

With county budget forecasts looking grim, Republican members of the Legislature — though split on the issue — expressed concern about the long-term viability of paying back the debt.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he would rather see the dollars currently in the sewer stabilization fund — the section of the Drinking Water Protection Program that would be borrowed from — used to build sewers to revitalize the county’s downtown areas and update aging cesspool systems countywide.

“This is nothing more than kicking the can down the road with steel-tipped shoes,” Mr. Trotta said. “People are saying we cut a deal and fixed a problem. But we have beaches closing because cesspools are running into our water. Sewers would fix that.”

Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) voted in favor of moving the agreement to voters on the merits of giving the public the power to make its own decision. But he said paying the borrowed funds back by 2029 could end up being more trouble than it’s worth, a concern Mr. Krupski said the county would have to address before the payments come due.

Minority Leader John Kennedy (R-Smithtown), however, pointed out that if the lawsuits proceed, and the county prevails, it won’t have to replay the funds at all.

07/26/14 3:45pm
07/26/2014 3:45 PM
The land where the Calverton Manor project wanted to build just to the west  of Manor Lane on Route 25 in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)

The land where the Calverton Manor project wanted to build just to the west of Manor Lane on Route 25 in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)

A decade-old lawsuit challenging Riverhead Town’s 2003 master plan update, which Town Board members had considered settling two years ago, was decided in the town’s favor last week.   (more…)

07/24/14 8:00am
07/24/2014 8:00 AM
A six-mile stretch of Main Road could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The corridor includes Aquebogue’s Old Steeple Church, built in 1862 and designed by a farmer with no architectural experience, as well as Aquebogue Cemetery, which dates back to 1755 and contains the graves of numerous Revolutionary War soldiers. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

A six-mile stretch of Main Road could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The corridor includes Aquebogue’s Old Steeple Church, built in 1862 and designed by a farmer with no architectural experience, as well as Aquebogue Cemetery, which dates back to 1755 and contains the graves of numerous Revolutionary War soldiers. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

It’s a stretch of road where Benjamin Franklin placed mile markers and early 20th-century car racers ran the road ragged, hitting speeds up to 70 miles per hour at a time when horses were the dominant mode of travel.

(more…)

07/23/14 1:07pm
07/23/2014 1:07 PM
TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk opening her State Senate campaign in the summer of 2009.

Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk opening her State Senate campaign in the summer of 2009. (Credit: Tim Kelly, file)

In mid-September, the three co-chairs of a high-powered commission aimed at rooting out corruption in state politics arranged for a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who set up the commission last summer. In the governor’s mid-town office, William Fitzpatrick, a district attorney from Syracuse, raised concerns he felt were hampering the commission’s effort, the New York Times reported today .

At the center of those concerns were alleged roadblocks  planted by Regina Calcaterra, a New Suffolk attorney who had been appointed the commission’s executive director. The commissioners threatened to quit, alleging that Ms. Calcaterra was running interference on investigations that pointed back to the governor’s office.

Lawrence Schwartz, the secretary to the governor, responded by saying of Ms. Calcaterra: “She is not going anywhere.”

These bombshell revelations were detailed by a three-month New York Times investigation published today.  (more…)