Calverton Solar Energy Center, a 22.9 MW commercial solar facility, marks one year of operations

The Calverton Solar Energy Center celebrated one year of operations Wednesday in an event attended by elected officials, energy professionals, and community members.

The facility generates 22.9 megawatts of electricity and powers over 4,200 households, according to the National Grid.

The center — known as NextEra throughout the application process — opened a year ago, on the west side of Edwards Avenue in Calverton, on property previously occupied by the LI Sports Park and, before that, Calverton Links golf course.

As a condition of approval by the town, the applicant, LI Solar Generation, a joint venture of NextEra snd National Grid, entered into a community benefits agreement, which required a $1.5 million community benefit payment. That payment was allocated across six categories: health and welfare, environmental protection, agriculture and open space protection, the provision of wireless internet for Riverhead public school students, and job promotion and training.

Energy company and town officials celebrated one year of operation for the Calverton Solar Energy Center on Edwards Avenue Wednesday. Photo: Quint Nigro

“In the Town of Riverhead, we are proud to host Calverton Solar Energy Center because it will bring New York one step closer to its climate targets,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. She congratulated the developers on one year of “drastically reducing emissions.”

The facility was first proposed in 2016, the same year that New York State adopted the Clean Energy Standard (CES), pledging to generate 70% of all electricity in New York from renewable sources by 2030. Commercial solar farms, like the Calverton Solar Energy Center, can be steps towards achieving those goals.

According to the most recent CES progress report, New York used 27% renewable energy in 2021, up from 25.3% renewable energy in 2014.

Will Hazelip, National Grid Ventures’ president, noted that “we’re producing more energy than we initially expected, which is great.” When asked if the success of the Calverton facility meant good things for similar projects in the region, he said that “it certainly bodes well for the energy transition.”

The Calverton center employs one full-time operations employee, and regularly hires temporary personnel for maintenance.

“It’s like dog years,” said Long Island Power Authority CEO Tom Falcone. “In one way, it’s the first anniversary, and in another way it’s the seventh,” referring that the earliest stages of planning for the project began seven years ago, in June 2016.

Falcone added that “the only way to reduce carbon emissions by 85% is to electrify transportation and heating, because that’s 60% of the state’s carbon emissions; the electric grid is only 15%.” New York’s CES has agreed to reach 70% renewable energy sources by 2030, but 100% renewable resources by 2040. Energy and climate officials are focused on the short-term 2030 goal, and also the long-term 2040 goal.

NextEra Energy Resources presented Sal Matera of United Way of Long Island with a $10,000 grant for training workers in solar and other renewable energy fields at the event. “[NextEra’s] Support not only provides us with the necessary resources to enhance our workforce training program, but also gives us an opportunity to uplift and transform more than 125 lives,” Matera said.

“We’re really proud of the part we’re able to play in the community… not just the clean energy,” said Hazelip.

“It seems easy,” said Falcone, “but believe me, there’s many hurdles along the way to get a project like this done.”

The Calverton Solar Energy Center is one of five utility-scale commercial solar energy projects to be approved in the hamlet of Calverton. The five projects comprise 660 acres of solar arrays and associated facilities. One of the projects, the 36-megawatt Riverhead Solar 2 facility on 275 acres, has not yet been completed. All are in the area of ​​Edwards Avenue, where a large LIPA substation is located. Proximity to a substation is needed in order to connect the solar facilities to the electric grid.

Riverhead Town has had a moratorium in place on new commercial solar facilities since October 2021. The second of two one-year moratoriums will expire this fall. The moratoriums exempted commercial solar facilities are already in review as well as solar production facilities on town-owned properties.

The Town Board recently approved a lease of its closed and capped Youngs Avenue landfill to Changing Visions of Energy, which plans to build a four or five megawatt facility.

The South Fork Wind Farm, which has been in progress for a decade, is set to generate more than 130 megawatts of electricity from a 13,700-acre offshore site and is slated to begin operations in December.

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