Large solar array in works for old gravel pit in Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG — A portion of a nearly century old former sand and gravel pit on Briar Hill Road could soon be home to a large solar array featuring 17,000 solar panels stretching over 18 acres.

The Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals held a public hearing Thursday evening at which officials from Dynamic Energy Solutions LLC pitched their plan for the 4-megawatt ground-mounted solar array on property owned by Hull Forestland.

John Perry, director of project development for Dynamic Energy, a Pennsylvania solar energy provider with local offices in Andover, said that the proposed solar array would be located on 18.5 acres of the 30-acre sand and gravel pit that is part of a 370-acre property.

The proposed project calls for 17,000 solar panels mounted on poles that will be driven directly into the ground without concrete footings, and three transformers to be located on concrete pads.

The site is not visible from any road and energy provided from the installation would feed directly into the grid.

According to Perry, the gravel pit is an excellent location for ground-mounted solar.

“This has been mined as a gravel pit since the 1930s, there is nothing else there,” Perry said. “It is the best type of soil to avoid runoff and I don’t think that we will have to cut one tree.”

Abutter Emily Cohen of Old Goshen Road asked Perry if herbicides or other chemicals would be used on the site for weed control.

“We are right down stream from this and my main concern is the groundwater,” Cohen said, noting that her water comes from a well and that her family is also trying to grow food organically.

Perry assured Cohen that herbicides would not be necessary at the site.

“We try never to use herbicides, it is not our practice,” he said. “We will only cut the grass once or twice a year.”

Perry added that the company would inform anyone doing landscaping or maintenance at the site not to use any chemicals.

Zoning Board Chairman Charles Dudek also noted that refraining from chemical use on-site could be a condition written into the special permit, if and when it is granted.

According to town bylaws, a solar installation may not take up more than 20 acres and there are regulations in place regarding the decommissioning of the installation once it is no longer in use.

The ZBA will now wait for official recommendations from both the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission before it reconvenes to vote on the special permit.

Perry said that if the permit is granted, they hope to begin work on the project in the spring.

Author: Going Green

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