A decision regarding the proposed “dual use”solar arrays on Pine Meadow Road may come Thursday, when the Planning Board will start deliberations after several months of continued public hearings.
The Planning Board will conduct its deliberative meeting starting at 4 p.m. via Zoom. The meeting can be accessed at bit.ly/2Rk7Klk . The meeting ID is 923 4665 5198. It can also be accessed by phone by calling 1-929-205-6099. (https://zoom.us/j/92346655198#success)
Planning Board Chair Stephen Seredynski said discussion on Thursday will be among Planning Board members, as the opportunity for public comment has passed. The board first reviewed the proposed project in November and has held multiple sessions during a public hearing process.
The three arrays, proposed on property owned by Four Star Farms and the L’Etoile family, are being submitted as three separate applications, and may be approved or denied by the Planning Board individually.
“Array A,” the largest of the three arrays at roughly 26 acres, would generate about 4 megawatts of power and be situated along Pine Meadow Road in a eld around the bend from Riverview Road. The second array, “Array B,” would generate about 6 megawatts of power through 1,400 panels and be located across from the Four Star Farms main building. A third small array, “Array C,” at roughly 2 acres, would be located on the Connecticut River side of Pine Meadow Road and generate a half-megawatt of power.
“I hope the board will come to a decision after several months of meetings,” Seredynski said via email this week. “If the project receives approval, another meeting would occur to apply conditions to the project.”
He explained that conditions are attachments to the site review and special permit that are intended “to protect the town and its inhabitants.”
“We know BlueWave (Solar), if approved, will sell the solar project at some point,” Seredynski said. “We have to ensure that statements promised in the application and at hearings carry forward to a new owner.”
If the solar arrays are approved, the L’Etoiles will receive income both from leasing the land toJesse Robertson-DuBois of Finicky Farms for a sheep and livestock farming operation, and from leasing the land to the solar owners who purchase the project from BlueWave Solar. The initial agreement for the life of the project is for 20 years, but it can be renegotiated and extended.
During the public hearing process, residents expressed concerns about the scale of the project, and its zoning impact. Neighbors voiced concerns about the visual impact of covering scenic fields with solar panels, the loss of agriculturally zoned “prime farmland,” and a lack of direct benefit to residents and abutters.
To that end, in January, Melissa Gamache, a resident of Pine Meadow Road, created the petition “Save our farm land from permanent damage,” on change.org, which has collected 223 signatures. Gamache has said the solar project “affects everyone who drives, rides, walks or runs this road to enjoy our beautiful historic agricultural landscape.”
While the project will see upgrades to Phase 3 power, benefiting Four Star Farms, WhitneyTrucking and other businesses that might come to town, residents will not see a change to their electric bills. BlueWave Solar Project Developer Jackie Firsty has said the company, as the developer, does not have control over electricity rates for area customers.
In addition to being cleaner energy, Firsty said these upgrades will also help build a “more resilient” electric grid, potentially avoiding power outages from windstorms or other weather events. However, Firsty did acknowledge that area residents and abutters have not expressed issues with power outages.
Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.
This article & photograph originally appeared in a Greenfield Recorder post on May 18th, 2021.