Eversource plans 1.3 MW solar array on Route 116 in Sunderland

For the Bulletin
Friday, April 14, 2017

SUNDERLAND — Eversource wants to expand its clean energy production with a relatively large solar array on Route 116.

“We’re looking at a site along 116, just north of the Amherst line,” said Mark Kasinskas, a Burns and McDonnell senior environmental scientist, who is helping Eversource with permitting.

Kasinskas, who briefly presented preliminary plans at Monday’s Select Board meeting, described a 1.3-megawatt solar array constructed on land already owned by Eversource, south of Plumtree Road.

Monday’s presentation, requested by Eversource, was intended “to get a better understanding of the process that would be required from us,” Kasinskas explained.

“Sunderland has a solar bylaw that was spearheaded by one of the members of our Planning Board,” Select Board Chairman Thomas Fydenkevez said. Determinations are made by the town’s Planning Board and Zoning Board, Fydenkevez said, noting, “we went through it ourselves when we put in the (project) at the elementary school.”

“Our read of the (town’s) regulations so far is that we will need to submit a special permit to the Planning Board, and we’re anticipating a notice of intent to the Conservation Commission, and we’re working to put those together as soon as possible,” Kasinskas said.

The proposed project is part of a broader, statewide push by Eversource to ramp up its solar output by about 60 megawatts, the result of a bill passed last summer expanding solar energy caps.

“Eversource will soon begin breaking ground on new solar projects across Massachusetts following approval by the Department of Public Utilities of the company’s plan” increasing the company’s solar limit from “eight megawatts currently to 70 megawatts statewide,” says a press statement released earlier this year, given to the Select Board Monday.

Increased limits, combined with “federal investment tax credits available for the construction of the new facilities and a substantial drop in the cost of solar panels,” and “the company’s ability to buy in bulk,” are driving expansion efforts.