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Public hearing scheduled for Sept. 21 on proposed solar moratorium

A public hearing date has been set for a proposed 12-month moratorium on new solar energy production systems within the Calverton ZIP code. 

The Riverhead Town Board voted Wednesday to schedule the hearing for the Sept. 21 Town Board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in Town Hall. 

There are currently five “solar farms” that were recently built or approved on land in Calverton that was being farmed.

Town zoning only allows solar farms on industrially zoned land, but agriculture is permitted on all zones in the town.

Thus, industrially zoned land that had been used for sod farms is now being used for solar farms.

The five solar farms that have been built or approved total 660 acres, according to town officials. 

The Town Board had proposed a similar moratorium in 2020 but put the idea on hold after it ran into opposition at a public hearing from environmental groups and others who supported renewable energy. 

That proposed moratorium would have exempted the two largest proposed projects — the 36-megawatt Riverhead Solar 2 and the 22.9-megawatt NextEra, which were already in the review phase. 

Both have since been approved. 

Councilwoman Catherine Kent said it was “disingenuous at best” in that the prior moratorium proposal didn’t apply to the two largest proposals. She also criticized the fact that the attorney for NextEra, Steven Losquadro, was also the parliamentarian at the Riverhead Republican Party’s nominating convention earlier in the year. 

The Riverhead Solar 2 and NextEra proposals were under review at the time of the September 2020 public hearing but neither had approvals. 

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said that if the Town Board had instituted a moratorium while two large projects were still in the review process, the town would get sued. 

With no active solar farm proposals, now is the time for the moratorium, she said.