Pittsfield Conservation Commission begins reviewing Churchill Street solar project

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PITTSFIELD >> No serious concerns were raised Thursday by Conservation Commission members or members of the public during an initial of review of plans for a 2.6-megawatt solar power generating facility off Churchill Street.

Robert Fournier, of SK Design Group, representing landowner Todd Driscoll of Pittsfield and the developer, Aegis Renewable Energy, of Waitsfield, Vt., presented details of the project during a commission meeting.

The commission is reviewing the project for potential impacts on wetlands areas and buffer zones on two sides of the site.

According to the plans, the Vermont firm would create solar panel arrays to generate 2.6 megawatts of power, which would be fed into the Eversource power grid through lines along Churchill Street.

The solar panels would be set on about 10 acres of a 61-acre parcel, which is about 1.2 miles from the West Street-Churchill Street intersection and south of the Dan Casey causeway at Onota Lake.

The land, with 1,752 feet of road frontage, is undeveloped forest and meadow land and once was part of the adjacent Blythewood Stables property.

Fournier said there would be solar panels facing south, west and east, and some tree cutting or trimming would be required on west and east sides to allow access to sunlight.

There will also be "a considerable amount of regrading," he said, in part to allow the panels the best angle toward the sunlight.

There also will be an erosion control plan that includes a runoff detention basin. The project "should be no threat to the wetlands," Fournier said.

Along Churchill Street, he said trees above 15 feet will be trimmed or cut, and the developer will add evergreen trees to fill in gaps in what will be natural vegetation screening bordering the street side of the parcel.

The panels will be 3 feet off the ground with a meadow surface beneath. An 8-foot fence is planned around the project site.

Fournier added that the project will go before the city Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit and the Community Development Board for site plan review, with both meetings scheduled for next week.

Fournier said the state Department of Environmental Protection "had no comment on this [plan]."

City conservationist Robert Van Der Kar raised no major concerns but said he and the commission will want to sure there are no impacts on the wetlands buffer zone from stormwater runoff or other project impacts.

The stormwater impacts could be "a little bit complex here," he said, adding that he expects to "try to flesh [the details] with Bob [Fournier] over the next few weeks."

The hearing was continued until the March 10 commission meeting.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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