30K solar panels proposed on Calverton sod farm

This sod farm on the east side of Edwards Avenue, just north of the railroad, may host a 38-acre solar energy farm. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
This sod farm on the east side of Edwards Avenue, just north of the railroad, may host a 38-acre solar energy farm. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A solar company out of San Francisco has proposed building over 30,000 solar panels on a Calverton sod farm, the second large solar farm in the area pitched in recent weeks.

S Power Solar is planning on buying 45 acres from DeLalio Sod Farms on the east side of Edwards Avenue, just north of Tuthill Petroleum and the Long Island Rail Road. The site is just north of a LIPA/PSEG Long Island substation.

The proposal is to build 30,460 solar energy panels on 38 acres of the land, with the capacity of generating up to 6.3 megawatts of energy.

S Polar has a purchase agreement with LIPA/PSEGLI to sell the power to the utility provider. The 20-year agreement is facing time constraints, the applicant said at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Planning Board meeting, where they urged the board to approve the project quickly.

The Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the plan, scheduled for July 17 at 3 p.m.

S Power Solar also will need three property line setback variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has a June 26 hearing planned.

The Planning Board also recently granted preliminary site plan approval to another solar farm in the same area.

STR Systems of Kingston, N.Y. is leasing 14 acres south of the Riverhead Charter School on Route 25 in Calverton, just east of Edwards Avenue, in order to build 13,068 solar panels that would produce about three megawatts of power, which also would be sold to LIPA/PSEG.

That applicant also has said they have a 20-year agreement with LIPA/PSEG and as such, face time constraints in getting the project approved.

Both projects are located in land zoned for industrial uses, although the DeLalio property is currently being used as a sod farm.

Figuring out where to permit solar farms came up in town hall recently, as the Riverhead Town Board discussed a proposal on Thursday to ban solar farms that sell energy back to LIPA/PSEG on all agriculturally-zoned property, and to only allow it in industrially-zoned land.

The prohibition would not apply to farms that have solar panels to generate power for the farm operation, rather than to sell to a LIPA/PSEG. It also wouldn’t apply to the town itself, which is proposing to build solar panels on a number of town-owned properties.

In addition, the proposed prohibition discussed by the Town Board would only apply to ground-based solar panels, as opposed to ones mounted on a building.

“If you allow this use on farmland, they will come in here in droves and turn it into an industrial property,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who is a farmer, said he feels that permitting the sale of solar energy could drive up the price of farmland, and if that happens, “goodbye future farmland, because no one will be able to afford it.”

The Town Board will need to hold a public hearing on its proposal to ban solar farms on agriculturally-zoned land, but has yet to set that date.