Protecting our drinking water is of utmost importance, even when it comes to siting renewable energy projects that may reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
The Ulster County Legislature is on the verge of awarding a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement to SG Pioneer PV to build a giant 20-acre solar farm directly next to the Binnewater Reservoir, which provides water to 23,000 Kingston residents.
The project will require 20 acres of forest to be razed that is directly next to our source of drinking water. According to the Center for Watershed Protection, there are many natural connections between protecting water from pollution and tree cover.
Additionally, metals like lead and cadmium used in solar panels may leach out and get into groundwater, as well as affect plants. These metals have a detrimental effect on human health. Lead impairs brain development in children, and cadmium is a carcinogen.
Waste from used solar panels is going to be a huge problem by 2050, because solar panels only last five to 25 years and can easily be damaged by weather events and crack open. The decommissioning agreement SG Pioneer PV has signed with the Town of Ulster only accounts for the removal of the panels and remediation of the panels after 25 years; it has no timeline or duty for the company to replace panels or to report how long panels were damaged before they replace them.
The Legislature has a duty to the people of Kingston to look further into this project before it is awarded a PILOT. It has not been in the newspaper once. It requires tax breaks and grants to be financially viable. It is directly next to our sole source of drinking water. The public must be thoroughly informed about the tradeoffs and risks of siting this project directly next to our drinking water.