Survey Says: NYS Historic Preservation Office Requires Cultural Resources Survey for Solar Facility Development

The NYS Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) recently established “guidance for the assessment of historic and cultural resources associated with the development of ground-mounted solar facility projects in New York State.” The guidance categorizes solar facilities, referred to as solar arrays, by size and requires establishment of zones of visual impact (ZVI).

For solar arrays covering 20 acres or more, SHPO recommends (1) completing a GIS analysis of areas that will have positive visibility of the solar array based on topography and (2) a historic resources survey report identifying all properties 50 years old or older within a specified distance from the ZVI that are eligible for inclusion in or already listed in the NYS or the National Registers of Historic Places. For solar arrays less than 20 acres, the guidelines do not call for a GIS analysis, but documentation of all properties that are 50 years of age or older within a specified distance from the project. The distance of the survey from the solar field increases for each visual impact area category as follows:

For categories 2, 3, and 4 above, surveyors qualified under 36 CFR 61 should submit a proposed ZVI methodology/survey work plan to SHPO’s Cultural Resources Information System (CRIS) prior to undertaking required survey field work and use the Trekker mobile survey application to prepare required survey forms for review by survey/National Register unit staff. Finally, historic resources survey reports and property lists should be submitted via CRIS.

The SHPO guidance also recommends any solar array covering less than 300 acres be submitted to CRIS to determine the necessity of a Phase 1A/1B archaeological survey. A Phase IA archaeological survey, including recommendations for potential Phase IB archaeological field testing, is recommended for all solar facilities covering 300 acres or more. If Native American cultural resources may be affected, the Phase IA should be provided to the pertinent Indian Nations for review and comment. Indian Nation contact information can be obtained by contacting the archaeology reviewer responsible for the county in which the project is located.

If you have questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Corey Auerbach, Land Use & Zoning Practice Area co-chair, at; Ari Goldberg, associate, at; Rick Capozza, Renewable Energy Team co-leader, at; or Brenda Colella, Renewable Energy Team co-leader, at