Monday, October 18, 2010

Solar Array Proposed for Landfill Site

The Longmeadow, MA Planning Board is recommending a warrant article at the special Town Meeting that would allow large scale solar installations to be constructed on the former town landfill site.

Article 11 asks residents to amend the zoning bylaw to allow ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations as a permitted use in the agricultural zone. The landfill between Birnie and Pondside roads is in the agricultural zone.

"There are about 16.3 acres of land that we really can't use for any other purpose, so why not allow a company to come in and use it to create renewable energy," said Select Board member Mark P. Gold, who presented the idea to the town after attending a seminar at Holyoke Community College about such solar installations.

Planning Board Chairman Walter T. Gunn says residents seemed supportive of the idea during a public hearing held Oct. 6.

"People had a lot of good questions, but there was no real opposition," he said.

The state has established a right-of-siting law that basically allows corporations to build these installations in whatever town they choose, according to Gunn.

"If a company approaches the town with the intention of creating a solar farm then they cannot be unreasonably denied," Gunn said.

He said what the Planning Board has done is create a bylaw that would give the town some control over where the installation would go and how it will be operated and maintained.

"There are provisions in the agreement that deal with what would happen if the facility is abandoned or there are other problems. With this bylaw, the town is protected," he said.

Gold said there is a lot of interest from corporations to build these solar farms because of incentives created by the state for developers to build alternate energy generation facilities.

"This year alone, electric utilities in the state have to generate 5 percent of their power from renewable sources, a requirement that increases by 1 percent each year until it reaches a 20 percent requirement in 2025," he said. "Now is the time to get involved with this."

Gold said there are several things that need to be done before a farm can be built on the land. First of all, the landfill is currently considered idle.

"Before anything can be built on the land, it must be officially closed," Gold said. "It will cost some money to do studies of the land and to close it, but we will get the money back through the savings on electricity."

Gold estimates that whatever company the town works with will sell them electricity for 1 cent per kilowatt as opposed to the current 17 cent per kilowatt rate. The town could also lease the land to the corporation.

Gold has worked closely with Greenfield which has already started working with a company named Axio Power to build a solar farm on its closed municipal landfill.

"In Greenfield, they are saving more than $250,000 a year on electricity in their municipal buildings, which is a significant amount," he said.

The special Town Meeting will be held Oct. 26 at Longmeadow High School. More information on the project is available online at


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