|Eversource Plans Solar Projects In Pittsfield and Lanesborough|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
03:58AM / Wednesday, December 07, 2016
|Eversource officials outlined the Pittsfield plan to the Community Development Board on Tuesday.|
Amy Voisine-Shea said the two projects are part of a more than a dozen throughout the state as the company aims to develop 62 more megawatts of electricity statewide.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Eversource is now in the permitting stage for two solar projects, tallying some 6.2 megawatts in central Berkshires.
That's one-tenth of the total 62 MW it hopes to develop statewide.
The electric company is looking to build a 2.2-megawatt facility on land it owns on Partridge Road in Pittsfield and another 4-megawatt array on Route 7 in Lanesborough. Both projects are on plots of land the company already owns and is considered "underutilized."
"The governor has a goal of 20 percent renewables by 2020. The Legislature passed a bill to allow utilities to own up to 35 MW in each of our companies. We own eight [megawatts] already, one in Pittsfield and two in Springfield, that we built back in 2009 to 2014 timeframe," Eversource's Senior Environmental Specialist Amy Voisine-Shea said.
"So we are looking to develop the 62 MW left in our program. We are starting with properties we own to keep the cost down for our customers and it is a tight timeline, construction has to be done by the end of 2017."
Eversource is the parent company for Western Massachusetts Electric and NStar, each of which is allowed to own and operate up to 35 megawatts of solar. The two projects in central Berkshire are part of more than a dozen projects proposed across the state to build out to those numbers.
"It is a great project. Global warming is a real thing and we have to start someone," Voisine-Shea said.
In Lanesborough, the company envisions some 15,000 panels with three equipment pads spanning 23.3 acres. The entire project is on 86 acres of land owned on the eastern portion of Route 7 between Town Hall and Bill Laston Memorial Park.
"It is similar to [the Pittsfield] one. It is set back from the right of way so neighbors can't really see it," Voisine-Shea said.
The company presented those plans to town officials in Lanesborough on Monday and is expected to go before the Planning Board later this month.
The Pittsfield project will encompass 10.6 acres of 36 acres the company owns here, with some 6,000 panels being installed. The group presented those plans to the Community Development Board on Thursday and will be seeking a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals later this month.
"We have had contact with the neighbors to the north who would like to do some additional screening. We'll be meeting with them on Thursday," Voisine-Shea told the Community Development Board, adding that the company had already met with the other abutters to discuss the project.
The Pittsfield project is set some 240 feet from the road, she said, and after construction, small vehicles will only be in and out of the property three or so times a year.
Both projects are planned to be under construction in the spring and operating shortly after — three to four months for the Pittsfield and four to five months for the larger Lanesborough project.
"It will provide property tax for the town, jobs during construction, union contractors will do all the electrical work," Voisine-Shea said.
Eversource delivers electricity to customers and this will provide more renewable energy to the grid. Voisine-Shea said the program was designed to pass along the tax credits — SREX — to the customer.
The Community Development Board suggested that city officials keep an eye on stormwater runoff issues into the future.
The Pittsfield project did have some concerned neighbors, who focused their attention mostly on stormwater runoff and noise. Ray Costello has been living on Partridge Road for some 40 years and knows that the entire area has issues with stormwater.
He called on city officials to keep a close eye on it and make sure Eversource fixes any disruption to the hydraulics caused by the development.
"I have seen stormwater runoff that has caused, at least in my opinion, significant downstream issues and damage," he said. "If one of those mitigating measures fail, there are serious consequences."
Community Development Board member David Hathaway agreed. While the stormwater runoff issue is under the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Community Development Board voted to pass along a recommendation that the city follows up on the stormwater as well as project screening issues well into the future.
Meanwhile, Mark Densmore raised concerns about the noise levels. He asked city officials to consider requiring screening that will help buffer out any sound.
Voisine-Shea said a sound study was done and it is estimated to only add 1 decibel to the noise during the day and nothing at night when the system isn't running.
"I'm glad to hear you are meeting with the abutters and fielding concerns," Community Development Board Chairwoman Sheila Irvin.