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Solar panel facility in Calverton receives preliminary site plan approval

The Riverhead Planning Board granted preliminary site plan approval Thursday to sPower’s proposal to build a 20-megawatt solar panel facility on 117 acres south of Route 25 in Calverton.

That solar panel installation, which would be built on an existing sod farm, would connect by underground cables crossing under neighboring properties and Edwards Avenue to an existing 45-acre solar panel that sPower built several years ago.

The Edwards Avenue farm generates 6.3 megawatts of electricity under a power purchase agreement with LIPA/PSEG. sPower has obtained 15-foot wide easements allowing the use of those properties.

The new solar farm will still need final site plan approval from the Planning Board. The preliminary approval vote was 4-0; member Joe Baier was absent.

Planning Board chair Stan Carey voted yes, but added, “I’m concerned about the number of solar farms popping up. In my opinion, Riverhead is getting more than its fair share of them.”

The Town Board limited solar farms to agriculturally zoned property, but many industrially-zoned properties are being used as farms, and those seem to be the properties that are being converted to solar farms.

sPower has said it is preparing to build a third solar farm in Calverton, on 250 acres just east of the one that received preliminary site plan approval. It would generate 36-megawatts of electricity, according to sPower. That proposal would bypass approval at the town level because it will generate more than 25 megawatts of electricity and instead require approval from the state’s Board on Electric Generation Siting.

The company also has publicly told Riverhead Town Board members that it will offer more than the $40 million Calverton Aviation & Technology has offered the town to buy 1,640-acres of town-owned land, but officials say they cannot entertain that offer while they are in contract with CAT.

Photo caption: Solar panels at the Edwards Avenue facility. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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