Solar panel proposal in Hopkinton would affect large forest – MetroWest Daily News

HOPKINTON – Another solar panel project is most likely in the town’s future, this time at 71 Frankland Road, near the former Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. research center facility.

Seaboard Solar, a solar energy company based in Milford, Connecticut, is proposing the construction of a 28-acre solar panel facility.

The facility would include a 4 megawatt alternative current (AC) round mounted solar photovoltaic array and one 3,510 kilowatt alternative current (AC)/9,000 kilowatt hour (kWh) Lithium‐ion battery energy storage system, according to the company.

The project is in the early stages of being reviewed by the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board.

As part of the solar company’s purchase and sales agreement with the property owner – Liberty Mutual – the company will acquire the entirety of the 68-acre parcel the solar panel will be installed on.

The company anticipates having the project completed by 2020 and operational by 2021. The hope is that the project would provide energy for the next 25 years. Over that time, the company expects to pay approximately $1.55 million in taxes.

The project has faced some pushback from residents since acres of forest will be cut down to accommodate the project. The 28 acres of land is also home to wetlands and numerous trails, including the Hopkinton Area Land Trust-maintained Deer Run Conservation Area.

During a meeting with the Conservation Commission last week, Seaboard Solar Project Manager Pedro Rodriguez said he has been meeting with the Hopkinton Area Land Trust and will work to minimize the environmental impact. The company will only clear the approximately 28 acres needed for the project, and leave the remaining 40 acres as undeveloped open space, according to Seabord Solar’s energy consultant, Level Design Group. 

The company also doesn’t plan to modify or tear down the 77,000-square-foot Liberty Mutual building, which will be sectioned as part of a different parcel. The goal is to rent out the building to a tenant, according to Level Design Group. 

Hopkinton Land Trust Area President Morrie Gasser said he remains “cautiously optimistic” the company will stand by its word. While he would rather the land stayed undisturbed, he said he understands it is out of his control whether the project goes through or not.

“At least right now from the discussions, they are really very amenable to concessions to help us preserve as much of the trails as possible ,” Gasser told the Daily News. “It sounds like they can keep us happy. The proof will be when they actually do it.”

Hopkinton resident Ann Karnofsky doesn’t think any piece of the forest should be touched. She thinks the project should be placed on the southern section of the property horizontally, near the Liberty Mutual Building. She said there is only one dogwood tree there.

“There are no trees there,” she said. “There’s an old office building, which could be wrecked. It’s up on a hill and there would be more sun there.”

She added, “I think the forest should remain untouched and that the town of Hopkinton buy it,” she said.

Karnofsky believes there should be an article on the town meeting warrant proposing for the town to buy the forest.

The Planning Board will be reviewing the project Monday at the Hopkinton Public Library. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

In the past decade, the town has approved five solar panel projects but not all have been constructed yet, according to Hopkinton Principal Planner John Gelcich. There is concern among residents that the town is in danger of losing fields and forest land since developers are coming in looking to use land for solar farms, according to Select Board Vice Chairman John Coutinho.

In response, the town is in the middle of drafting a Solar District Overlay zoning bylaw that would place restrictions on solar panel developers, including where the solar panel areas can be installed. Countinho is on the advisory board drafting the language of the bylaw.

Coutinho said it isn’t likely the Seaboard Solar project might need to be changed to accommodate the new zoning bylaws since the company submitted its applications long before any new rules may be put in place.

The plan is for residents to vote on the measure during May’s Town Meeting.

Cesareo Contreras writes about environmental issues and technology for the Daily News. He can be reached at 508-626-3957 or ccontreras@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @cesareo_r.

Source: https://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/20200125/solar-panel-proposal-in-hopkinton-would-affect-large-forest

« »
Malcare WordPress Security