Solar plan in Hadley gets cold reception

  • A southern-facing view of Eversource Energy-owned land in Hadley at the intersection of South Maple Street and Moody Bridge Road. Eversource plans call for five acres of solar panels on the southern edge of the property. Jack Suntrup—

Thursday, February 23, 2017

HADLEY — Plans by Eversource Energy to construct a solar array received an icy reception from two Planning Board members Tuesday night.

The Eversource-owned land on South Maple Street and Moody Bridge Road is next to parcels owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, giving commuters driving south on South Maple Street have an uninterrupted view of the Mt. Holyoke Range.

“This is 2017’s version of Joni Mitchell’s song ‘Take Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot,’” Board Member Michael Sarysnski said, adding it was “too bad” the company wanted to build on “some of the most pristine, beautiful land in Hampshire County.”

Sarysnski also expressed a skepticism toward man-made climate change in general, calling the phenomenon “quote-unquote climate change” and “so-called climate change” at various points throughout the public hearing.

The Hadley project is part of a broader push by Eversource to expand its solar capacity.

The company’s plans in Hadley call for solar panels that could generate enough power to supply electricity to 150 homes, Amy Voisine-Shea, an environmental specialist for Eversource, told the five-member Planning Board.

The company has had to steer clear of wetlands on the property, meaning only 5 acres of Eversource’s 31 acres would be covered with solar panels.

Board Member John Mieczkowski said the company’s screening plan was not “adequate” and asked it to seek approval from the town Conservation Commission to plant trees in now-off-limits wetlands to block sight of the array. The board also asked for a list of nearby homes and how far away they are from the project. The public hearing is scheduled to pick up again at the board’s March 21 meeting.

This back-and-forth Tuesday could be all for naught. Eversource is in talks with the Kestrel Land Trust about an alternate location for a solar array, Voisine-Shea told the board.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.