Those trees are part of the Long Island pine barrens, and existing environmental and zoning rules protect Long Island pine barrens. The lab is not bound by those rules but generally complies with them.
The energy company BP Solar wants to build the equivalent of a 32-megawatt generator, enough to power 4,500 homes.This is a project that was proposed by Gov. Paterson last year. In fact, he was proposing a slightly larger project sufficient to power 6,500 homes and not the 4,500 homes in today's news report. Other reports actually have the footprint for the solar collectors at 200 acres, but I think the discrepancies may be because there are several providers involved, not just BP Solar.
The U.S. Department of Energy, which operates the lab, will host the clean-energy project in exchange for research opportunities.
Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society says clearing about 150 acres of trees would undercut the project's environmental goals.
Yet, the project is seeing environmentalists opposed to clean/renewable energy sources because of their environmental impacts, and they're using all measures at their disposal to prevent and/or limit construction of such projects.
This once again highlights the amount of land necessary to build solar and wind power projects of any substantial size. It would take 150 acres to build a 32mw project, while down the road, the Shoreham nuclear power plant never got commissioned despite $6 billion spent on the project would have provided 820mw on 450 acres (comparison to show the amount of land needed for wind power versus that needed for nuclear power). To build a wind or solar power facility comparable to what would have been produced at Shoreham, it would take 3843.75 acres. The footprint necessary for wind or solar power is vastly larger than necessary for nuclear (or coal or oil or natural gas). Nuclear power is capable of providing much greater energy per acre needed for the facility than wind or solar; a figure that must be included when contemplating siting needs and whether a given project is actually beneficial to the environment.