A Solar Farm in the Pine Bush? Balancing conflicting environmental needs

by Lynne Jackson

COLONIE, NY: A solar farm is proposed to be built on 75 acres of Pine Bush ecosystem in the Town of Colonie. The proposal is called the Lishakill 1 Solar Farm at 2772 Curry Rd and Lishakill 2 Solar Farm at 2792 Curry Rd.

Save the Pine Bush supports sustainable energy production, including wind, solar and other renewal types of energy. However, taking seventy-five acres of Pine Bush ecosystem to build a solar farm is not acceptable.

The solar farm is proposed to be built in an area of land that the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has designated as “Full Protection”. The Pine Bush Commission defines full protection as “a recommendation that the undeveloped portion of an area be protected in its entirety.”

In a letter dated December 21 from the applicant’s representative to the Town of Colonie Planning board states that “The applicant is working with the Albany Pine Bush on this site to improve habitat for the Karner Blue Butterfly.” The letter continues “A detailed biodiversity management plan will be developed in conjunction with the Pine Bush.” How can habitat be improved for the Karner Blue if the habitat is covered with solar panels? The feed plant for the Karner Blue only grows in the sun, won’t the solar panels shade out the lupine? How can biodiversity be encouraged in the shade of the panels?

There are two, significant world-wide problems we need to address — climate change and the world-wide sixth major extinction of species. Both of these serious problems are caused by human activity. Of course, solar panels address the issue of climate change. The more energy generated by renewable methods, the better. But, covering 75 acres of Pine Bush ecosystem is not the solution.

There is no question we need more renewable sources of energy. But, is destroying Pine Bush habitat the answer? We need better solutions to the climate crisis than destroying habitat.

The applicant for the solar farm is, Lisha Solar, LLC, a subsidiary of Eden Renewables, located in Troy, NY. According to their website, th founder and CEO, Harry Lopes, has developed rooftop solar projects.

Here is one possible idea: Since we need solar, why not offer Lisha Solar a trade? Lisha solar could give the 75 acre site to the preserve in exchange for New York State allowing them to put a massive solar project on the roof of all of the buildings at the Harriman Office Campus. Land trades have been done in the Pine Bush before to protect the ecosystem — why not a solar farm trade? Surely, we can find solutions to the climate crisis without destroying Pine Bush ecosystem.

The Town of Colonie Planning Board will be reviewing this project at their next meeting, Tuesday, February 15 at 6:00 PM at the Town of Colonie Memorial Town Hall, 534 New Loudon Road, Latham, NY 12110. The meeting will be held in person, with no online option that I could find. I hope people either attend the meeting or write to the Town of Colonie Planning Board.