RiverCityMalone.com

On the issues that matter in Malone NY (USA)

Solar plant in the

Village of Malone?

The Village
wants it

The Town
does not

Picture of Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

June 24, 2024

The Project

For over 2 years an outfit which appears to consist of two men (John Watson and Lluis Torrent) calling themselves the Quantum DPI Group, has been negotiating with the Village of Malone to build a 5 MW utility-scale solar plant on 23 acres of land owned by Scott Smith at 189 Fort Covington St. (The village kept the project under public radar until several months ago. I attended the “coming out” meeting. Even the trustees seemed surprised to hear of it.) The industrial-scale plant (it’s not a “farm”) will consist of 11,300 photovoltaic (PV) single-axis rotation panels mounted on fixed poles up to 12 feet above ground level.

Watson & Torrent are pitching this as a community benefit: “The energy [electrons] will feed into the National Grid electrical distribution system to be distributed throughout the community.” 

This claim is as hilarious as it is preposterous. The truth of the matter is that as soon as electricity is fed into the distribution grid it travels at near the speed of light as electro-magnetic waves to all users connected to National Grid throughout the state and beyond (owing to power agreements with other utilities). Electrons can’t be portioned out like M&Ms.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t willy-nilly dump electrons into the grid. If the grid is at capacity, it’s like dumping water into an already full bucket. In this case the NYISO (NY Independent System Operator) tells Watson & Torrent to dump their electrons into the ground, a point I shall return to below.

In reality what Watson & Torrent are doing is subsidizing their customers’ National Grid bills through the chump change they earn by selling small amounts of unreliable, intermittent power to National Grid. More significantly, Watson & Torrent will be paying their customers a small portion of the huge amount of money they were given by the federal government to build this solar array. This is what the Inflation Reduction Act (2022) was all about—a colossal financial windfall for solar and wind entrepreneurs. This is why there has been a massive build-out frenzy by wind and solar companies across America since 2022: they have had hundreds of millions of $ thrown at them by Joe Biden and the Democrat Congress.

Utility-scale solar (as distinct from solar panels on your roof) is, for all practical purposes, useless in NYS. For two reasons: (1) We are too far north vis-a-vis the sun’s angle (latitude) to the earth. (2) Winter snow and annual cloud cover. You can see this documented in the chart below by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Look for a yellow line in the chart. You won’t find it.) Solar’s contribution to NYS electricity generation the rest of the year is only slightly better.

Which leads to the inevitable question, why are Watson & Torrent proposing this utility-scale solar plant? The only reason I can see is the federal subsidies. The project appears to be more about harvesting federal subsidies than harvesting electrons that can actually be used by the grid. This is true for all the wind and solar energy projects in the North Country

The Dispute

Andrea clearly wants this project. Since the project is entirely within the village, the village is the lead agency in the DEC-regulated permitting process, called SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review).

Nevertheless, SEQR considers the town to be a major agency in the decision and stipulations process, since the town’s airport is potentially affected by glare from the PV (photovoltaic) panels.

View of the Thomas Hill project, all of it on land owned by Scott Smith.
Note that the Malone-Dufort Airport is slightly to the east of the project.

Andy Stewart and her board clearly don’t want this project. (Click here for the town’s 16-page formal objection.)

I believe the town’s main objection is the potential hazard from solar panel yellow “flash” glare, which is manifestly hazardous to air navigation. (It causes temporary blindness.)

The Issues

Solar glare interfering with airport navigation

It turns out solar glare is not an issue—to my surprise. Quantum had a solar glare analysis done using the FAA-recommended software—ForgeSolar—and it revealed only non-hazardous green glare affecting the Malone-Dufort Airport.

I repeated the ForgeSolar analysis and came up with the same result: only green glare. (Click here for my ForgeSolar analysis.)

Note, however, that the proposed Cipriani solar project on Bare Hill Road (in the Town of Malone) does have significant yellow “flash” glare. For this reason, the Cipriani project should be denied.

Inverters at utility-scale solar plants are loud

Click here and here. Thomas Hill plans on having two inverters (click here for their spec sheet). Note that the spec sheet does not give a noise (dB: decibel) rating. 

On warm, still nights in July, neighbors will go nuts.

The mayor and trustees don’t appear to be aware of this, and Quantum would doubtless like to keep them ignorant of it. (Quantum would likely deny there is inverter noise.)

Transformers at utility-scale solar plants are loud

Thomas Hill plans on having one transformer (click here for the spec sheet). Note, once again, that the spec sheet does not give a noise (dB: decibel) rating. 

As with inverter noise (click here for transformer noise), the mayor and trustees don’t seem to be aware of this.

Any conversion of electricity between AC and DC inevitably creates noise. When these conversions occur at a utility-scale electricity plant, the noise—a loud hum—is troubling. Any honest electrical engineer will confirm this.

The "decommissioning" proposal is worthless.
The real plan is almost certainly an "exit"—a wave goodbye.

Click here for a copy of Quantum’s Decommission document, although you would be wasting your time to read it.

The real decommissioning plan is spelled out in the lease with Scott Smith, and that lease is confidential. Mr. Smith filed a “memorandum” of the lease—a digest of the lease—at the courthouse, but it, too, is worthless when it comes to revealing exactly how the PV panels will be disposed of at the end of their useful lifetime. (PV panels are not recyclable. Since they are coated with environmental toxins, they must be disposed of at a federally-approved toxic waste site—not the county landfill. Getting rid of the panels is extremely costly. NYSERDA has a formula for calculating the cost of PV panel disposal.)

Typically the lease with the property owner stipulates that the developer (Thomas Hill, in this instance) can sell the project to another party well before the end of the lease term—when the federal subsidies and tax write-offs have nearly dried up. The original developer typically assigns or otherwise conveys all its interests, obligations, and liabilities to the new owner—let’s call it Fast Eddy Solar, LLC. When this happens, neither the village or property owner have any realistic way of forcing the new owner to properly decommission the project, since Fast Eddy Solar, LLC, has no assets and can readily declare bankruptcy. 

The village already has a massive derelict project on its hands. The TAP Industries wasteland. The likelihood of the Thomas Hill plant turning into another industrial dump is very real.

Schematic of a generic BESS
Tesla MegaPack
Cut-away view of a Tesla MegaPack

Don’t be fooled! This innocent-looking white container is a bomb. A time-bomb. The Lithium-ion batteries stacked on those shelves are thermodynamically unstable—a scientific way of saying they are extremely volatile and combustible owing to rapid charging and discharging coupled with destabilizing temperature and humidity swings.

The electrolyte in the batteries is Lithium Hexafluorophosphate. When a single battery goes into “thermal runaway,” one of the combustion products is hydrogen fluoride (HF) gas and hydrofluoric acid. HF gas and acid are extremely destructive to human and animal tissue; in fact, HF acid is the most corrosive acid known to mankind.

Tesla BESS fire in Victoria, Australia, July 2021

There have been many BESS explosions and fires around the world. Click here for a global compilation. (As it happens, there was a huge one a day or two ago at a BESS manufacturing factory in South Korea. Sixteen dead, 7 injured, 6 missing. Click here.)

One of the most notorious fires was at a BESS in Surprize AZ (near Phoenix) several years ago. Click here for an interview (go to minute 1:45) with two of the Peoria AZ firemen who literally walked into this bomb as it exploded, hurling them many feet away from the sudden blast. Both men were badly injured, suffering brain trauma, broken bones, and multiple burns. Both are now campaigning against BESS.

In NYS, there was a BESS fire in Chaumont (near Watertown) in July of last year (click here and here), Town of Warwick (Orange County) in June of last year (click here), and East Hampton in May of last year (click here and here).

Following the Chaumont, East Hampton, and Warwick BESS fires last spring and summer, Gov. Hochul set up a panel of so-called experts to figure out how to handle these fires. The panel issued a preliminary report earlier this year (click here).

The report is garbage. For two reasons, (1) air sampling at all 3 BESS fire sites measured for ozone levels, not HF gas, and (2) there is in fact no realistic way of either preventing or extinguishing these horrific “thermal runaway” fires, as the report by UK Professors Fordham, Allison, and Melville explain below.

Thermal runaway is a fireman’s worst nightmare (click here).

Source: Professor Paul Christensen, PhD, Professor of Pure and Applied Electrochemistry Newcastle University, UK
Source: Professor Paul Christensen, PhD, Professor of Pure and Applied Electrochemistry Newcastle University, UK

Here is the cover page of two major reports on hazards from BESS fires, one published in the leading science journal Nature, the other published by the US National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). Click here for copies of these and other reports.

Click here for a copy. Click here for a more comprehensive, updated summary. 

Andrea Dumas

Mayor

343 W. Main Street, Malone, NY

[email protected]

(518) 483-4570

1 thought on “Solar plant in the Village of Malone?”

  1. Good one. The people vs. the machine in another small town—yours, I take it.

    For years my engineer husband has brought up the idea of a solar panel or two or three on our two properties. I just cannot get on board, especially every time The Government is promoting or incentivizing in some manner. Automatically I smell rot.

    “What are all of these homeowners going to do with this junk when it’s outlived its usefulness? Plastered atop their roof? Littering their property? What’s going to be the cost to remove these eyesores?”

    I’ve recently read some good digs that nuclear energy isn’t (and was never) the looming dirty danger it was painted to be by the Industrial Media Complex.

    “So many sleights-of-hand, so little time.”

    I hope and pray your article reaches many a good Malone town folk who will stay persistent and loud.

    Keep going, my friend.

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