Study Concludes That Gabreski Airport Solar Farm Won’t Threaten The Environment

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A new study has concluded that a solar farm proposed for the infield of Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton would not have any detrimental impact on the environment.

Completed by TRC Environmental in Lowell, Massachusetts, on behalf of the applicant—Missouri-based solar energy firm SunEdison—the review concludes that the proposed solar farm would have no long-term negative impacts on the environment. The study does note, however, that there could be a temporary uptick in noise during the installation of the 14,112 individual solar panels that would make up the farm.

A separate glare analysis, completed after concerns were raised that the panels could potentially blind pilots, previously concluded that the panels would not produce eye-damaging glare.

SunEdison previously secured permission to lease 25.8 acres at the 1,451-acre airport that is owned and operated by Suffolk County. It intends to lease 18.1 acres that sit north of the airport’s three runways and 7.7 acres that sit to the south of the runways. The array, which is expected to generate 3.1 megawatts of power per year, would produce enough energy to power an estimated 1,000 homes, according to the company.

A copy of the environmental report is now available for public review at Gabreski Airport’s Administrative Building #1, located 150 Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton. Comments will be accepted until Friday, January 8.

Interested parties can email their comments to Anthony Ceglio, airport manager, at Anthony.Ceglio@suffolkcountyny.gov, fax them to his attention at (631) 852-8092, or mail them to his attention at the above address.

Once the public comment period is closed, the project will go through a 45-day review by the Federal Aviation Administration. If all goes as planned, the installation of the panels could begin as early as the spring, according to Mr. Ceglio.

In October 2014, the Suffolk County Legislature approved plans to allow SunEdison to lease land at the airport for 20 years, at a rate of $315,000 per annum, and install solar panels that would generate energy for PSEG. PSEG and SunEdison have a power purchase agreement in place under which the utility company has agreed to pay for all the energy generated by the panels at a rate of 16.88 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Suffolk County will incur no up-front capital or construction costs,” states a public notice published in The Press on December 10. “The Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning expects to provide the county with both economic and environmental benefits.”

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