Westhampton solar project wins special permit

WESTHAMPTON — The Planning Board has officially given an international renewable energy company its special permit for an $8 million, 5-megawatt solar energy system that will be located on Montague and North roads.

CVE North America, a subsidiary of the French company Cap Vert Energie, was awarded a special permit with conditions on Sept. 5 following a public comment period, and after six more meetings the Planning Board approved those conditions on Tuesday, Nov. 20. The project will be located on 20.9 acres of an 139-acre property that the company is leasing from Kurt Meehan of Agawam.

The special permit comes with a list of conditions specific to the project: no topsoil may be removed from the site; clearing of vegetation on the site will be limited to areas “necessary to construct and operate the solar facility;” the company is barred from using pesticides and can only use “non-toxic” solar panels; and the company will be responsible for providing operation and emergency response training to town officials and emergency response services.

One of the questions raised during hearings in front of the Planning Board earlier this year was whether the project would be visible to those walking or driving past. In its special permit decision, the Planning Board requires CVE North America to maintain a chain-link fence, “screening vegetation” and landscaped buffer areas in good condition throughout the life of the project.

Last Tuesday’s decision clears the way for CVE North America to potentially begin work on the site in the spring. 

However, the company has yet to finalize a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with the town. The company also hopes to take advantage of the state’s Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target tariff-based incentive — a program that begins accepting applications on Monday.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

Author: Going Green

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