Gravel pit, capped landfill eyed for solar farms

COLRAIN – A former gravel pit and a closed town landfill could become sites for future solar-energy systems, capable of generating at least 3 MW (megawatts) of electricity.

Brett Pingree, development director for Soltage, told the Selectboard that the solar energy company wants to build a 2.7 MW solar system behind a former gravel pit on privately owned land on Stacy Road. The solar system would be housed on about 20 acres of a 60.2-acre lot. If the project is approved by the Planning Board, Soltage hopes to lease the land for 20 years, while producing enough carbon-emissions-free electricity to power roughly 418 homes per year.

Pingree said the advantages of building on this site are that the solar array uses disturbed land, has three-phase electric power nearby, easy site access and only a few abutters. He said there would be limited- to no visual impacts, with surrounding woodland and possible plantings to obscure views.

The 12-year-old energy company has also submitted a plan to build a 700-kilowatt solar-energy system on land housing a municipal landfill on Charlemont Road. This would produce enough energy for roughly 107 homes per year, while re-using a brownfield site, with easy site-access, three-phase power, and few abutters and visual impact issues. If the town is interested in this plan, Soltage could either offer electricity for town-owned buildings at a free- or reduced price for 20 years, or it could offer the town Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT money) for a 20-year lease. However state procurement laws would require the town to put out a Request for Proposals before awarding such a contract to any solar provider.

“This sounds like a win-win for us,” said Selectboard Chairman Mark Thibodeau. “What’s in it for you?”

“I believe in clean energy,” said Pingree. Also, he continued, the company would be eligible for Investment Tax Credits, while the new energy source will enable Massachusetts to meet its carbon reduction goals. “All our projects are referenced,” he said.

According to Pingree, Soltage provides electricity to 16 different public entities in Massachusetts, including towns and cities, schools. Among them are Monson, Shirley, Gardner, West port, Barre, and the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District.

Author: Going Green

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