Suffolk solar farm plan sparks backlash
A plan by Suffolk County to build a solar farm on county-owned properties isn't sitting well with some environmentalists and elected officials.
The county is seeking to install solar panels on about 150 acres of county land. Five sites are being considered, including ones in Bellport and Yaphank. But about 45 acres of trees would need to be cleared off those properties to make way for the panels.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider says most of the land in question has been declared surplus, meaning Suffolk could sell it and it could be developed. By putting solar panels on them instead, he says, taxpayers will save about $1 million a year in lower electricity costs.
But environmentalist Dick Amper opposes the idea and says it pits "the environment against the environment." He argues that solar panels should be put on previously cleared land.
Suffolk County has solar panels atop some municipal buildings, carports and parking lots. Opponents of the new proposal say more such projects should be pursued.
The solar farms still need the approval of the Suffolk Legislature. Legislator Kate Browning says she's against it.
"Private developers have been cutting down a lot of trees for development and there's always been an outrage," Browning says. "So when you tell people you're going to cut down trees for solar panels, I think there's going to be some outrage."