Clean Focus Renewables approved for White Pond Solar array

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Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2019 9:00:05 PM

ATHOL — This week the Colorado-based solar energy company Clean Focus Renewables received the  site plan approval from the Board of Planning and Community Development and approval by Conservation Commission for a 8-acre solar array off White Pond Road. 

After some revisions, the Planning Board settled and approved a site plan for Greenskies Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of Clean Focus Renewables, with conditions regarding the management of stormwater runoff. The conditions require Greenskies to provide the Planning Board with a peer-reviewed stormwater management study before a building permit can be issued. Additionally, they must maintain 3,600 cubic feet of storm water storage per acre of land cleared, and all soil-exposed slopes must be stabilized with vegetation. Greenskies has a signed lease agreement with the landowners.

According to the site plan agreement, “Post development rates of off-site runoff shall be kept (at) or below pre-development rates.” 

Stormwater drainage impacts from the array were assessed by Roger Blair of Caiman Engineering who determined that, “site runoff pattern will not be modified and runoff will not flow through an existing or proposed culverts at this time.”

Receiving no negative feedback from abutters notified about the public hearing process, the Planning Board voted unanimously to accept the site plan with conditions. Members Jackie Doherty and Calvin Taylor were not present and did not vote at Wednesday’s meeting.

Clean Focus Renewables’ array will be close to an existing solar array on Partridgeville Road, built in an old gravel mining pit by Borrego Solar Systems. 

Planning Board member Rick Hayden asked whether the electrical grid has the capacity for this project with a number of new solar projects in the works.

He said what would have been the first community solar project in the state was forestalled in Wendell for that reason.

"We believe the local distribution lines can handle the additional capacity of our project, and we are awaiting the interconnection agreement to come back from the utility," said Zach Sawicki, a project developer for Greenskies. "We will work with National Grid on any modifications that might be needed.”

Sawicki said he is still waiting on confirmation from National Grid that the array can connect to an electrical substation, or if additional upgrades are needed. 

“We won’t know until they get back to us,” Sawicki said. “Fingers crossed.”

When asked whether Greenskies would be ready to front the cost of the substation upgrades if necessary, Sawicki said it was possible, but he was not sure.  The Planning Board estimated the upgrades could cost between $1 million and $3 million. 

“It appears there’s a reasonable chance they don’t have the capacity,” Hayden said. 

The array will include 5,886 solar panels covering two undeveloped house lots near the corner of White Pond Road and Thrower Road. With 2,177 DC kilowatts of generating power, the array would be enclosed by a fence with a lithium iron phosphate battery stored on site.

While no formal agreement exists as of yet, Greenskies plans to lease the land from the owners, Kevin Colo and Arthur Billings and negotiate a ‘payment in lieu of tax’, or PILOT, agreement with the town.

Clean Focus Renewables, owned by the United Renewable Energy Company, has build over 350 solar arrays in 19 states and claims to be the largest commercial and industrial solar developer in the U.S. The company develops, constructs, engineers, owns and operates the commercial scale solar arrays.

Cypress Creek tabled

On Tuesday the Conservation Commission decided to cancel a public hearing for a solar array near Secret Lake awaiting new plans by the prospective company, Cypress Creek Renewables. David Small, the Planning Board chair and member of the Conservation Commission, said the wetlands delineation plans had errors left uncorrected since the last meeting, and the company would have to start over before re-applying. 

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@atholdailynews.com.


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