Balancing Preservation and Progress in Red Hook

Photo by Daniel Case

The Town of Red Hook has been recognized locally, statewide and nationally for its historic architecture, landscapes, and viewsheds. And it’s intent on retaining those charms as it transitions to a more sustainable way of living.

The best testament to Red Hook’s promise to use renewable energies is the Red Hook Community Solar Array (CSA). Town Supervisor Robert McKeon initiated the breakthrough project that partnered with local company SunCommon to install the CSA on municipal land to create clean energy for municipal buildings within the town and villages, also offering subscriptions to residents.

The project was completed in December 2019 and is already on track to produce over 3,000,000 kWh of clean energy every year, which McKeon explains is the equivalent of taking 450 automobiles off the road.

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The town also boasts a community preservation fund, supported by a real estate transfer tax, which is used for preservation of farmland, historic resources, and other public benefit projects. Electric vehicle charging stations have also been installed at the town halls in Tivoli and Red Hook, and at Bard College.

Town historian Emily Majer explains that sensitivity is required with the placement of ground- and roof-mounted solar panels in designated historic districts and buildings. A local law spells out what kind, size, and placement of solar arrays is allowable in each zoning district to maximize the utilization of this renewable energy source, while preserving the historic and bucolic nature.

“Preservation of historic landscapes and structures helps define us as a community, shape our experience, and inform our decisions as we move into the future,” summarizes Majer.

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