No action yet on Hadley solar array

  • A south-facing view of Eversource Energy-owned land in Hadley at the intersection of South Maple Street and Moody Bridge Road. Eversource plans call for 5 acres of solar panels on the southern edge of the property. GAZETTE STAFF/Jack Suntrup

Saturday, April 22, 2017

HADLEY — The Planning Board took no action on a proposed solar array Tuesday night, more than a month after the Eversource Energy project received an icy reception from some members at another public hearing.

At a Feb. 21 public hearing, the five-member panel requested from Eversource a list of surrounding properties and their distances from the proposed solar array, which would sit on five acres at the intersection of South Maple Street and Moody Bridge Road.

The board also said the company should plant more trees around the array to ensure “adequate” screening by trees as outlined in the town’s bylaws.

Eversource came back Tuesday with increased screening and a list of properties near the site.

But John Earle, who lives south of the project at a higher elevation, said the increased screening — including staggered planting of fraser firs, white firs, blue spruce, mountain laurel and dogwood trees — would not be enough from his perspective.

“This will have an impact on the value of my house,” he said. “This is a commercial business in a farmland. My house was designed around the landscape.”

He added the area, which, looking south, provides an unencumbered view of the Mount Holyoke range, is popular with birders, photographers and painters. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns parcels abutting the Eversource land.

“This is not something to play with,” Earle said.

Representatives with Eversource and Earle agreed to meet before May 16, when the panel scheduled the next Eversource hearing, to try to work out a solution, which would include Eversource planting trees on Earle’s property to block sight of the array.

Because construction on the site requires the issuing of special permits, a supermajority of the board — four out of five members — would have to vote “yes” on the permitting.

At the Feb. 21 meeting, members John Mieczkowski Sr. and Michael Sarsynski criticized the project’s effect on the landscape.

On Tuesday, however, Mieczkowski showed an openess to ultimately backing it the project if Eversource and Earle reached a resolution.

The project would generate .9 megawatts of electricity, which would generate enough electricity to supply energy to about 150 homes, Amy Voisine-Shea, an environmental specialist for Eversource, said at the February public hearing.

The array and others are part of a long-term strategic plan for Eversource to boost renewable energy production.

Even if permits were issued for the Hadley project, it may never come to fruition. That’s because Eversource is in talks with the Kestrel Land Trust about an alternative solar array site in Sunderland

“We are pursuing permitting an alternate site that Kestrel suggested,” Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress wrote in an e-mail. “We will continue to work on permitting the Hadley site as well.”

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