Riverhead gives up on energy park plan for EPCAL

Riverhead Town is abandoning its plans to create an energy park at the Enterprise Park in Calverton as it looks to sell 633 acres it owns on the property to a private developer.

In 2014, the Town Board agreed to set aside 94 acres on the site’s southwest corner as land it could rent to energy-generating facilities.

That land is now included in the acreage the town hopes to sell to a private company called Suffolk County Industrial LLC for $72,000 per acre, or about $45 million, said Supervisor Sean Walter.

“We wasted a lot of time and lawyer energy trying to negotiate these contracts based on requests for proposals with LIPA,” Mr. Walter said in a recent interview. “Nothing ever came to fruition because there was very limited ability to connect with LIPA’s grid. So we’re negotiating with Suffolk Industrial and the next owner can deal with it.”

“We’re giving up on the energy park,” Councilman John Dunleavy added. “If we sell, we’re selling the whole thing. You need a new substation there for energy projects to plug into.” He said the town had hoped LIPA would build a new substation on town land.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she felt the town should retain some land to lease, but that had no support from other board members.

In 2014, when LIPA issued a request for proposals for sites to build potential energy-generating plants, Riverhead submitted the EPCAL site. LIPA selected Hecate Energy to negotiate a power-purchase agreement for a solar energy installation on town land.

The town budgets for 2015, 2016 and 2017 included anticipated income of $750,000 each year from renting town land at EPCAL to Hecate, but the deal never came to fruition and the town didn’t receive any money.

At one point last year, the town decided against responding to future RFPs for energy projects at EPCAL.

There are two privately owned solar panel farms in Calverton that do have connections to the LIPA grid: one on Edwards Avenue run by sPower and one near the Riverhead Charter School off Route 24 run by STR.

Officials say those projects used up most of the remaining capacity that could hook into the LIPA grid.

sPower is proposing another solar farm in Calverton, but that facility would use transmission voltage, which has not reached capacity in the Calverton area, whereas the existing facilities used distribution voltage, for which there is no remaining capacity, according to sPower.

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