|Pittsfield Airport Projects Still Underway Despite Challenges |
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff|
02:35PM / Friday, March 17, 2023
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Oak Leaf Energy Partners has been working to resolve a couple of challenges it ran into for the Earhart Solar Project near the Pittsfield Municipal Airport.
Oak Leaf has been working with the city, airport, the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to identify the constraints crossing the connection between Doolittle 1 and Doolittle 2.
There are two different parts of the array: one near Barker Road and the other closer to the water tower near Tamarack Road, Oak Leaf representative Michael McCabe told the Airport Commission last week.
"We're kind of doing our best to stay as close as possible to the constraints and as far away as possible from all the various things that matter to airport operations," he said.
The hope is to have the connection issue resolved in the next 30 to 60 days.
Oak Leaf is also in the process of moving some existing facilities that currently go through the Doolittle 1 site, including an Eversource line, a Berkshire Gas gas line, and a currently unused Verizon line.
Airport Manager Daniel Shearer and Oak Leaf have been collaborating to find the best path to reconnect those to the same location but around the solar farm.
The airport has been in communication with the city regarding the conduits, one of which is currently abandoned, and utilizing it for fiber, Shearer said.
"As I understand it will be removed by Verizon. They've not yet confirmed that but I think that's their point," McCabe said.
The project does have interconnection approval from Eversource and had a good "call" with MassDOT regarding getting final updated approvals for the sites.
McCabe said transportation officials provided great guidance on how to get those final approvals.
"So we do have some work to do on Doolittle but we're quickly as we can catching that project up to Earhart, which would be our ideal scenario," he said.
The airport has funded the first tranche of the Eversource interconnection for solar project, which is a big milestone, McCabe said, and all of the other various easements have also been approved.
The company hopes to produce electricity by the end of this year, but has also run into a "hiccup" at the FAA, from which it is waiting on a perfunctory approval.
Once in hand, that will initiate the building permit process and ordering of additional pieces of equipment, and then getting things constructed, McCabe said.
Last November, Oak Leaf submitted two 7460, or notice of construction, applications to the FAA. One was approved in January but the other has not yet come in.
That application had previously been approved but expired. The newest application included a small adjustment "literally a matter of feet" to accommodate something for the utility, McCabe said.
"And so we find ourselves about three times the length it typically takes to complete a 7460 application. So we have started to escalate things with our contacts at the FAA," he said.
"I did hear just before this meeting, a couple hours ago, from one of our FAA contacts that he is going to have a conversation with the woman who oversees the 7460s tomorrow, so I hope to have a good update from that."
Although Oak Leaf has been working on a lot of the engineering behind the scenes, it cannot start the process as far as the financials until this application is approved.
"Our investors want to make sure that there's not an issue which has been my concern, too. Why would this take three times as long for something you've already approved," McCabe said.
"So, we just want to confirm there's no issue that we're missing, which I don't think there is. I just think it's probably that she's just overwhelmed with lots of these applications."