Amherst reaches agreement for second solar project with SunEdison



Last modified: Wednesday, December 23, 2015

AMHERST — Town officials are moving forward with a plan to bring photovoltaic solar arrays to the former landfill on the south side of Belchertown Road, even though residents who live near the site continue to voice concerns about the environmental impact of using the land for a solar project.

Interim Town Manager David Ziomek announced Monday to the Select Board that he recently signed a power-purchase agreement with solar developer SunEdison to construct a 2.8-megawatt solar array that, in its first year, would earn the town $47,500 in net-metering credits and $41,500 in tax revenues.

Ziomek said pushing for more solar energy is a response to messages from both the elected board and community members, who have encouraged town officials to explore options for bringing renewable energy projects to both the old capped landfill and the newer capped landfill next to the transfer station.

But he is not convinced that pursuing either project poses any potential environmental harm.

“At the end of the day, anything we propose, on either the old or new landfill, we want to make sure is safe,” Ziomek said. “We want to make sure we’re not doing anything to damage the old landfill or impact the cap.”

This is the second power-purchase agreement Ziomek has signed with SunEdison. Earlier in December, he came to an agreement that authorizes SunEdison to build a 3.7-megawatt solar array on the newer capped landfill.

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

The goal is to have both arrays in operation by December 2016, Ziomek said.

Old landfill concerns

Tanglewood Road Michael Krasnick, a member of Amherst Residents for Environmental Accountability, said his group maintains that the old landfill is only a suitable site if the town upgrades it by installing a new cap and lining.

Krasnick argues that the current cap on the older landfill poses risks to a water recharge area, and that the capped landfill should instead remain open space for passive recreation.

Roux Associates, of Islandia, New York, conducted a report on behalf of the residents’ group that was presented to Town Meeting in November. Roux is continuing its analysis, but its original conclusions were that solar development at the site would conflict with state guidelines for solar projects at landfills, and that the project would have a negative environmental impact.

“The environmental state of the old landfill is not appropriate — not only for solar panels, but it’s dangerous for the environment,” Krasnick said, citing the findings by Roux.

The old landfill is where the late Town Manager John Musante first proposed a 4.75-megawatt project with BlueWave Capital in 2011, a project that led neighbors to file a lawsuit that stopped the development — even though the suit was ultimately dismissed earlier this year.

Ziomek said the SunEdison project will use a smaller area on the old landfill, and ensures 400-foot setbacks from any homes. He said the project will address concerns regarding views of the panels from neighboring backyards, noise and protecting hiking trails.

Ziomek assured the Select Board that there will be meetings with abutters and concerned residents. “We will continue to have those dialogues,” Ziomek said.

He hopes the 2.8-megawatt plan will include a community solar field to serve residents who cannot install solar on their homes.

SunEdison is moving forward with requests for permits, as well as findings from the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the town’s Conservation Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

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


 

Support Local Journalism


Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy