Amherst signs agreement with SunEdison for 3.7-megawatt solar array on capped landfill



Last modified: Wednesday, December 09, 2015

AMHERST — A power-purchase agreement that will allow solar developer SunEdison to build a 3.7-megawatt solar array on the capped landfill next to the town’s transfer station on Belchertown Road has been signed by interim Town Manager David Ziomek.

“The goal is to have it constructed by the end of calendar year ’16,” Ziomek said Tuesday.

Ziomek announced to the Select Board Monday that he had signed the 20-year deal, which was prepared by Finance Director Sanford “Sandy” Pooler and presented to the board last month.

The contract with SunEdison allows the company to build and operate photovoltaics at the site for 20 years, and obligates the town to purchase the power its solar arrays generate.

If built by December 2016, the town would receive more than $180,000 in new revenues annually.

The agreement means SunEdison can move forward with requests for permits and findings from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the town’s Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

“This really engages them and they then can begin to do due diligence on site in earnest,” Ziomek said.

Ziomek said work will include identifying any vernal pools and wetlands and analyzing the integrity of the cap and liner.

“We want to make sure this project is safe and won’t impact the cap or landfill in any way,” Ziomek said.

Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello has been regularly talking to neighbors and abutters and listening to their comments, including during a meeting Monday at the Bangs Community Center, Ziomek said.

SunEdison and the town will work on screening to reduce visual impacts.

Under the terms of the deal, the town would get either rent or property taxes equal to $55,000 each year. The rent is $15,000 per megawatt, but would be reduced by whatever amount the town collects in property taxes.

In addition, the town will get net-metering credits from Eversource for each kilowatt-hour of electricity produced by the photovoltaics.

SunEdison estimated net-metering credits would total $128,000 per year based on a fixed electricity rate of 9.25 cents per kilowatt hour.

This would mean about $1.87 million in net-metering credits over 20 years, if installed by December 2016.

The agreement does not include a smaller solar project on the older capped landfill, where a solar array was first proposed in 2011. That site was the subject of a lawsuit filed by neighbors that was dismissed without prejudice in March.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.




 

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