It seems that Mattapoisett is becoming the Tri-Town leader of the pack when it comes to commercial solar farms – Number Three is planned for Crystal Spring Road in the fall of 2014.
Blue Wave LLC, now a household name for many residents on North Street and Shady Oak Drive, invited abutters on Crystal Spring Road to the American Legion Hall on March 20 to hear their marketing presentation for their latest venture in town. It was the same presentation that they previously offered when a contingent of residents met with them last year regarding the Tinkham Hill Road site.
The highpoints – beyond their global footprint and depth of expertise in all aspects of solar energy production – are that they are a stand-up company that will only bring in partners that can support the project economically (Sun Edison is their partner for the Tinkham Hill venture) and with the highest level of professional oversight required by the town and its residents. Representatives from Blue Wave shared that over the course of the approximately 90- day construction cycle, every effort will be made to minimize the impact on the abutters by using dust mitigation techniques and a truck tire wash-down process so that mud will not be spread across Crystal Spring Road. Post construction, the fencing that will enclose the solar farm will be camouflaged with native trees and other species, while inside the enclosure grasses will give it a meadow appearance.
Blue Wave again told the public that energy credits could be purchased by the town, but to date, Mattapoisett has not elected to do so. John DeVillars, president of the company, said that he didn’t want to wade too deeply in the complicated topic of solar energy credits, but suffice it to say that Mattapoisett could enjoy some benefit from the energy that will be produced from this solar farm. That benefit, however, will not translate to lower energy bills for the residents of the town.
What the town will get, which is the same process they are following with the Tinkham Hill project, is a higher tax base over the course of the commercial project’s lifetime and a payback in taxes from the last five years to the higher rate (presently the parcel is zoned as a farm and taxed at a lower rate). Residents also wanted to know what will happen to the site after the twenty-year rental agreement ends. DeVillars responded that they can either renew the lease and continue producing energy at the site, or remove the equipment to the satisfaction of the town. A fund with $100,000 will be held aside as surety.
Richard Charon, the local engineer working with Blue Wave, offered as an additional comment one that had previously been used, “… the land will eventually be developed for something which is the right of the owner … do you want a bunch of houses, people and traffic, or a quiet passive solar farm.” The theme of solar farms as good neighbors was driven home.
The small turn out of only five homeowners didn’t mean they weren’t concerned for their homes and the homes of the neighbors not in attendance; to the contrary, their questions were direct and to the point. They wanted to know if their homes’ values would decrease, if storm water runoff would flood their parcels, if they would be able to see the deforested acreage, and if safety was an issue with solar farms. Each question was answered fully and appeared to assuage their concerns.
While none of those in attendance were overly thrilled at the prospect of having a solar farm situated in their backyards, they seemed consigned to the reality that Blue Wave and its partners would meet all the town’s regulations and move forward into construction.
The site selected for this latest commercial venture is not without challenges for the developers. One side of the 56-acre site is bordered by Interstate 195, which brings the State into the picture. Two other borders fall under wetlands protection, and the fourth borders approximately six residential lots. When completed, 20 acres will have 20,000 solar panels in place.
Blue Wave will meet with the conservation commission on Monday, March 24 at 6:30 pm. They propose to locate the solar farm into the bordering wetlands area and fill in some wetlands in an effort to keep the solar farm as far away as possible from the residential lots. The abutters were told to attend the conservation commission meeting to support that plan; otherwise, the solar array will have to be situated closer to their homes. Blue Wave will be working with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to mitigate animal habitat disruption and with DOT for permission to remove trees along Interstate 195. Due to the change in use of the parcel, they will also have to receive permission from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This land is owned by the Mahoney family, as is the Tinkham Hill Road site. Should the project receive the town’s permissions, Mahoney will be renting the land to Blue Wave and its partners.
By Marilou Newell