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OHS senior pushes for solar farm in O'side

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Oceanside High School senior Rebecca Weissman has worked to increase environmental awareness through her school club Community Activists Recovering Earth. The 90-member organization has a the ambitious goal of getting a solar farm installed on the Oceanside landfill in an effort to make renewable energy a powerhouse on Long Island.

Weissman founded C.A.R.E. during her freshman year at OHS in 2017 to stimulate environmental awareness in the community. The student organization got its start in activism by addressing plastic and paper pollution, hosting beach cleanups and meeting with government officials. However, with the pandemic’s arrival last March, all in-person activities were paused. That did not stop Weissman from continuing the mission of her club.

Weissman said she wanted to network and find different ways to further the club’s environmental goals in the community. That led to a meeting last March with the Sierra Club, a nationwide environmental organization that boasts a 3.8 million person membership group. Jessica Enzmann, one of the leads for the Sierra Club on the solar farm project, contacted Weissman and asked if she would be interested in advocating for the plan locally.

“I was immediately sold,” Weissman said.

C.A.R.E. got to work spreading awareness by drafting an ongoing petition to gather signatures from community members. The students sent out emails and made calls and eventually got in contact with Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito to further the cause.

Since Weissman will be heading off to college later this year, she wants to make sure she leaves the hamlet with a lasting positive impact.

“This would amplify our efforts to make Oceanside more sustainable and a green community,” Weissman said. Additionally, the plan would provide jobs in building, installing and maintaining the solar farm, creating an economic benefit to the community, too.

The Sierra Club’s website continues to ask for signatures from community members looking to support the plan. The project claims that the area of the potential site is enough to house 10 megawatts of energy, which could then power 1,500 Long Island homes. Additionally, the plan could cut down on carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by 10,000 metric tons, bringing about $300,000 in revenue for the leasing of the land.

In December 2018, the Hempstead Town Board awarded Clearview Consultants of Coram a $10,000 contract to run a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed plan.

“Right now the individual commissioners and department heads are reviewing the parcels that were reviewed that are specific to their department,” D’Esposito said. “So they’re going to report back to us as to what they feel is feasible and what may not work so well and we’ll go from there.”

In his Jan. 13 State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a $26 billion green-energy plan to increase solar and wind projects, including two offshore wind farms, one of which is slated to connect to the E.F. Barrett Generation Station in Island Park.

The Island Park plant will serve as an interconnection point for a new, 2,500-megawatt offshore wind farm. The transmission cable connecting the wind farm and the plant will run through Jones Beach, while the cable connecting the turbines off Montauk with Astoria, Queens, will run 200 miles under the Long Island Sound, the governor said.

“This is the largest production of renewable energy by any state in United States history,” Cuomo said at the time.

Cuomo’s plan includes 100 projects, 68 of which are already in the works, and they include 52 solar projects, 13 on-shore and three offshore wind projects. Offshore and land-based wind projects will reduce carbon emissions by almost 16 million metric tons per year, Cuomo said, noting that there would be nearly $26 billion in direct investment and more than 17,000 jobs created.