It’s official: Solar array at North Landfill in Amherst is complete

  • Amherst officials held a ribbon-cutting Monday to mark the completion of the installation of solar arrays, seen in the background, at the North Landfill at 740 Belchertown Road. STAFF PHOTO/SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 2022

AMHERST — Over a 20-year period beginning in 1982, trash from the town’s households and businesses was piled more than 300 feet above sea level at the North Landfill at 740 Belchertown Road.

Capped with clay and seeded in the early 2000s, the high mounds, with vents to keep the gases from building inside it, have since loomed over the transfer station used by Amherst, Pelham and Shutesbury residents.

On Monday, at the peak of land once deemed unusable, town officials marked the completion of the installation of solar arrays by Cypress Creek Renewables. Those photovoltaics are producing 4 megawatts of green electricity and are expected to bring the town annual payments of around $100,000.

“Many hands, a lot of partners, a long journey,” said Town Manager Paul Bockelman as he and members of the Town Council completed a ribbon-cutting on a brisk, sunny day.

Council President Lynn Griesemer said the solar project represents an opportunity to move forward to meeting the town’s climate goals with renewable energy.

The completed project came seven years after the town first signed an agreement for solar on the site, and since then has included hurdles such as the initial developer going bankrupt. The town also had to abandon a similar project at the South Landfill across Belchertown Road due to the need to protect the endangered grasshopper sparrow.

“This has been a long and winding road,” Bockelman said.

Sustainability Director Stephanie Ciccarello credited late Town Manager John Musante and Finance Director Sandy Pooler for their vision, that began with an announcement of the idea of solar on the capped landfills in 2011. She also applauded Department of Public Works employees Steve Telega, who supervises the transfer station, and Beth Willson, an environmental scientist, for their work on the project.

While there was a possibility the project would fall through, they never allowed it to.

“We’re very tenacious, and perhaps a bit stubborn,” Ciccarello said.