Guest Editorial: Surveying for a Sustainable Future

Energy transformation is in the process of forever changing the landscape of New York State. And the reality is surveying is the basis for all of this work. Organizations are leveraging underutilized, or unwanted, areas to develop solar sites with overwhelming public and government support. Professionals planning and designing need quality survey data to properly develop these projects. There is a huge opportunity for the industry.

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We are seeing projects of all shapes and sizes. Despite the emerging industry, the work is consistent with most surveyors’ experience and skill set, like establishing a preliminary boundary/topographic survey (ALTA) to identify easements and restrictions so engineering can start making a site plan. We create lease areas and easements to support the site plan created. Or tree surveys to identify the amount of deforestation and calculate shade analysis for surrounding trees and their impact on planned solar array. We also stakeout the solar array, roadways, buildings, utilities and stormwater management. In terms of development and maintenance, surveyors conduct drone flights periodically throughout the process, and potentially beyond, to support maintenance. There is plenty of development at every level that any sized surveying company could accommodate.

Land surveys should be the foundation upon which renewable energy projects are built. A little planning can save a lot of headaches down the road. I once worked on a new solar site where I wasn’t provided the title report to review until just before the due date of the project. Upon inspection, I immediately noticed covenants that prevented the development of the property. If that information had been reviewed sooner, then it could have saved many thousands of dollars in survey and preliminary planning that all had to be scrapped.

Our industry needs to be aware of the opportunity in this type of work. At the end of the day, this work is no different than any other, but due to tax incentives and the overall direction associated with New York State’s energy goals, we see these sites popping up all over the state. The reality is that renewable energy sites will need not only survey work to become established, but also to maintain, improve, and integrate into the next step into the future of green energy. These sites, while experiencing a boom of development presently, will also produce work that will go on for many years to come.

Robert H. Capucilli, PS of Halfmoon Land Surveying is a member of NYSAPLS, NSPS and his local regional, the Mid-Hudson Valley Land Surveyors Association. He currently serves on the NYSAPLS Public Relations Committee.