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Solar company says it can offer more than $40M for EPCAL land

An attorney for one of the largest solar energy generation companies in the country told the Riverhead Town Board on Wednesday night that it is prepared to offer more than $40 million to purchase over 1,600 acres at the Enterprise Park at Calverton in order to install solar energy generation panels at the site.

And another group made a pitch for allowing drag racing at EPCAL.

Jason Stern, an attorney representing sPower — Sustainable Power Group — said the company is the largest private owner of solar farms and related assets in the country, and operates two solar farms in the town: a 35-acre site on Edwards Avenue, and a 109-acre site that stretches from Route 25 to Edwards Avenue.

The company also operates a 60-acre solar farm in Shoreham.

“These facilities generate well over $1 million annually in tax revenue for the towns and are also largely self-contained and self-sustaining, with virtually no need for Town services,” he said, adding that sPower has more than 150 solar generating systems in the country.

sPower is headquartered in Salt Lake City with offices in San Francisco, Long Beach and New York City, according to its website.

Mr. Stern did not give an exact number for what they are offering the town, but did specify that it would offer more money than the $40 million currently being offered by Calverton Aviation and Technology.

The Town Board had originally scheduled a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing for CA&T Wednesday, but postponed it after one of the principals of that group, Triple Five Ventures Co, LLC, sought to change its name to Tripe Five Real Estate I, LLC.

Triple Five is owned by the Ghermezian family and is based in Edmonton, but officials said the principals, while from the same family, were different in Triple Five Ventures Co, LLC, and Tripe Five Real Estate I, LLC.

As a result, the board voted to hold off on the Q&E hearing until they get answers from Triple Five.

The Town Board on Wednesday also did not vote to set a new date for that hearing, which is designed to determine if CA&T has the financials and ability to carry out its intended development plan for the EPCAL site.

Triple Five is the third potential partner with Luminati Aerospace, which had previously sort to partner with United Refining Energy Corps, and before that, with a partner it said it couldn’t disclose, although officials said after the deal fell through that the partner was Facebook.

Mr. Stern told the Town Board that they can offer a better deal.

“sPower is prepared to offer much more favorable terms to the town than the deals currently under consideration,” he said. “sPower is prepared to offer more money than the $40 million purchase price under consideration. sPower is prepared to move quickly to develop this property. There are no concerns about sPower’s qualifications or eligibility to develop the property. There are no concerns about sPower’s experience with development and operation of such projects. There are no concerns about it sPower’s true identity and there are no concerns about sPower’s true intentions for this property.”

He asked to formally make a presentation of their offer at the next Town Board meeting on Feb. 6.

“We’re not in a position to entertain any other proposals,” said Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “We are in an agreement of sale and we have a letter of intent as of this time right now. We haven’t come to any conclusion on that, so at this time, we cannot entertain any other proposals, but that is subject to what happens over time.”

Riverhead Town in 2014 had sought to have a solar generating facility at EPCAL but ultimately failed, saying there was no capacity in PSEG Long Island’s existing Calverton substation for a new facility.

In a 2016 town meeting, sPower’s project manager John Moran, explained that there is, in fact, no additional capacity for 13-kilovolt output, which the town was seeking, at the Calverton substation. But there is additional capacity for 138kV output, which is what they planned for the 109-acre project. The 138kV output is transmission voltage, while the 13-kilovolt output is distribution voltage, he said.

sPower wasn’t the only group making an offer for EPCAL Wednesday.

A group called Long Island Needs a Dragstrip also made a pitch to use the inactive 7,000-foot western runway at EPCAL for drag racing.

John Consoli, the group’s vice president, urged the board to consider other options instead of CA&T and to consider leasing instead of selling the land.

“Bringing a motor sports park to this location would definitely help increase tax revenues and create jobs, not only construction jobs but full-time and part-time jobs,” Mr. Consoli said. “We have spoken with local business owners that are ready to move out to this area from other areas of Long Island. By bringing motor sports back to Long Island, you will definitely reap the benefits of that.”

He said there used to be three drag strips on Long Island and now there are none. The Englishtown track in New Jersey also recently closed, he said.

Not having a track will lead to people racing in the street, Mr. Consoli told the board.

Those agreements were signed by the prior board.

A number of residents also spoke, urging the board to end the deal with CA&T and consider other offers.

“The current Board is under pressure to accept a flawed contract despite another last minute change in the identity of the principal partner,” said John McAuliff of Riverhead.

“This is too important a decision with too murky a history to be steamrolled at hearings with limited and ever changing information.”

Mr. McAuliff also urged the board to amend the zoning for EPCAL to remove all residential, retail and entertainment uses.

Craig Dahlgren of Calverton said he’d like to see no development at EPCAL.

He said the more than 1,000 acres of undevelopable land at EPCAL should be used as public parkland.

Photo caption: sPOwer, which owns and operates two solar farms in Calverton, is offering more than $40 million for land at EPCAL. (file photo)

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