HOUNSFIELD — Convalt Energy officials were told Tuesday night that they are moving in the right direction to get site plan approval for the company’s mammoth solar panel manufacturing plant near the Watertown International Airport.
Last month, Convalt officials were surprised to learn that it would take several months to get site plans approved by the Hounsfield Town Planning Board.
But Michael Wiser, the company’s chief strategy officer, met with the Planning Board on Tuesday night about the 330,000-square-foot facility that would be built on Route 12F in the town.
“Okay guys, I think you’re moving right along,” Planning Board Chair Yvonne M. Podvin said after Mr. Wiser gave a progress report on where the company stands with the project.
“Keep communicating,” Mr. Wiser promised her as they continue to work on the company’s final plans.
He promised the planning board that he’ll get a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration and Fort Drum to ensure the plant won’t interfere with the flight paths of aircraft at the airport. He will also submit information to the Sackets Harbor Fire Department about the project.
“We’re back on track,” Hari Achuthan, CEO of Convalt Energy and DigiCollect, said after the meeting.
Convalt officials have a target date of May 1 for construction to start.
“We have some slip time,” Mr. Wiser said, adding that it could be a little later than that. “If it doesn’t happen, we’re not going to scramble.”
If the company submits its final plans to the town, a public hearing on the site plans would be scheduled for April 5.
The Planning Board is sending out information to get input from surrounding municipalities about Convalt’s plans.
It’s the first step for the State Environmental Quality Review process so that the Planning Board can become the lead agency on the project, town engineer John Condino said.
However, Mr. Condino stressed the importance of getting those final drawings submitted to the town. He said the company already has made a number of changes in the plans, including telling the town on Tuesday that construction of the building would have to shift 180 degrees due to issues with bedrock.
The solar manufacturing plant would initially employ between 200 and 210 workers, with 60 to 70 working per shift.
The company has purchased equipment from a solar manufacturing plant in Oregon. The 115,000 pieces of equipment have been dismantled, and all of it is wrapped up and ready to be transported by rail to the north country.
If the project is fully developed, the Convalt plant could create 4,555 jobs in 10 years, according to the company.
The company needs 300 megawatts of electricity for the proposed plant that would generate as many as 2 million solar panels a year.
Its sister company, DigiCollect, a software company that manufactures sensors for monitoring residential grids and transmission lines, would also build a 50,000-square-foot facility near the airport.
Mr. Achuthan is still waiting to get approval from the Watertown City Council on plans to purchase the defunct hydroelectric plant on Sewall’s Island and redevelop it to power the manufacturing plant.