Combatting Climate Change: Renewable Energy in the Hudson Valley

Governor Cuomo and New York state agencies have adopted important policies to transition the state to 50% renewable energy supply, reduce fossil fuel emissions, and mitigate climate change. Now, we need to ensure that the development of solar energy projects in the Hudson Valley is maximized, while protecting its priceless natural resources, scenic views, and historic sites.

The Hudson Valley can serve as a regional model of how to respond to climate change by promoting renewable energy development to meet state goals, while simultaneously preserving important natural and economic resources.

Significant time, energy and funding have been expended to protect the irreplaceable natural and economic resources that make the Hudson Valley a great place to live and work. These assets now face their greatest threat ever—from climate change. Hudson Valley residents will be impacted by changing temperatures, shifting weather patterns, and sea level rise along the Hudson's shoreline. To help mitigate climate change, New York has adopted ambitious policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40% from 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% by 2050, with an additional goal for New York to get 50% of its electricity from clean, renewable energy supplies by the year 2030. These policies will transition the state’s energy supply away from a system of large fossil-fuel power plants and long-distance transmission and toward a two-way smart grid that integrates both utility-scale renewable energy facilities, like large wind and solar farms, and smaller-scale projects, such as community solar farms and rooftop solar.

Scenic Hudson Developing Design, Siting and Construction Guidelines for Solar Energy in the Hudson Valley

Solar power is the renewable energy technology with the most potential for increased development in the Hudson Valley. Because it is so scalable, solar energy projects come in many shapes and sizes.

Like other types of development, large-scale solar facility construction, if poorly sited, may result in environmental and visual impacts, which result largely from its land use requirements. Use of proper siting and design and construction best management practices can avoid, minimize and mitigate any effects on important natural resources, scenic views, historic sites, and community character. Scenic Hudson has developed siting and design principles for renewable energy development to help stakeholders find common ground in a regional model for increased renewable energy development that also protects natural and economic resources:

  • Prioritize Development on Previously Disturbed Areas
  • Protect Agricultural Lands & Promote Co-Location
  • Protect Scenic Views
  • Protect Ecological Resources
  • Protect Historic & Cultural Resources
  • Maintain the Purpose of Conserved Lands
  • Avoid & Minimize New Transmission and Distribution Lines
  • Use Construction & Operation Best Practices
  • Promote Sustainable Renewable Energy Development through Planning & Zoning

Under these principles, areas with high conservation, agricultural, ecological, and cultural value should be avoided for development. Instead, low-conflict sites and areas—such as brownfields, previously disturbed and developed lands, or closed landfills—should be identified and prioritized for use. Projects can be sited and designed to minimize visual impacts through use of techniques such as avoiding designated viewsheds, keeping below tree lines, and including robust vegetative screening. Opportunities to achieve dual-use, or co-location of solar energy projects and other uses, such as pollinator-friendly plantings, livestock grazing, or crops, should be taken advantage of.

Developers must be sensitive to local values and community concerns and take them into account when selecting sites and planning a project. Involving the public early and reducing conflicts from the start is extremely important for minimizing the amount of time, costs and complexities of environmental analysis during project review. And very importantly, municipalities must proactively plan for how they will help achieve renewable energy goals through comprehensive plans and zoning and other local laws.

Scenic Hudson will publish an illustrated guide that includes details on these siting and design principles in the early part of 2018.

Scenic Hudson to Host March 27, 2018, Symposium "Solar Smart Hudson Valley: Building Clean Energy while Preserving Important Lands"

Register today! We are planning a day-long symposium in early spring to discuss some of the important questions and tough issues surrounding the rapid development of solar energy projects in the Hudson Valley, including: the state policy and market forces that are driving renewable energy development; maximizing renewable energy development through planning and zoning; reducing public opposition; developers’ responsibilities; responsible building of renewable energy on farmland, conserved lands and previously disturbed areas; and how to develop a regional renewable energy plan.

Register for the symposium here and check back for updated agenda details

Scenic Hudson Participates in Renewables on the Ground Roundtable

Scenic Hudson participated in the Renewables on the Ground Roundtable in 2017, which brought together diverse stakeholders to develop a set of principles and policy recommendations to reduce barriers to large-scale renewable energy siting while mitigating impacts on the ground, and help meet New York’s ambitious goals through the responsible development of clean energy.

Led by Alliance for Clean Energy New York and The Nature Conservancy and facilitated by The Consensus Building Institute, the Roundtable included many non-traditional partners, including land use planners, environmental organizations, conservationists, renewable energy developers, agricultural interests, utilities, regulators, and government officials.

The Roundtable produced a report in October, 2017, Accelerating Large-Scale Wind and Solar Energy in New York, which sets forth recommendations for action by various state agencies and others which are meant to eliminate hurdles and help accelerate renewable energy development in a sustainable manner.