Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals approves solar project at Hancock Shaker Village


PITTSFIELD —; The Zoning Board of Appeals has given the green light to the Pittsfield side of a solar energy project at Hancock Shaker Village.

The ZBA Wednesday night unanimously approved the one-megawatt array on 6.5 acres along Route 41 and an access road from Route 20 to reach one of the two-megawatt arrays planned for the town of Hancock side of the museum property.

"I think the applicant put together a good plan ... and it's the first step toward a successful project," said ZBA member Thomas Goggins.

The city's Conservation Commission and Community Development Board have already endorsed the one megawatt portion, with Hancock town officials one meeting away from approving the other two arrays, according to Brian Kopperl of Renewable Energy Massachusetts.

REM is partnering with Syncarpha a New York-based private equity firm that develops, owns and operates utility scale photovoltaic energy systems in the United States and Canada. Syncarpha built the solar array now operating on the former North Adams landfill.

Syncarpha will build the solar powered generating system, feeding the electricity produced into the Eversource power grid, and the three array ownership entities would be set up as Community Shared Solar facilities.

That means residents of the Berkshires who are Eversource customers can buy energy net-metering credits at a discount and realize energy savings.

"It's a good deal to have solar energy in this area," Kopperl said.

Syncarpha plans to sell half of the credits to residential customers of the utility and is seeking municipalities or educational institutions to contract to receive the rest of the credits.

Hancock Shaker Village also makes money off the project as the developers' facilities would provide lease income for the museum for up to a 30-year period, museum officials have said.

The developers plan to install at least a seven-foot fence around the arrays and properly screen the Pittsfield site with natural vegetation to minimize the visual impact to neighbors across Route 41.

Hancock Shaker Village officials have said the Pittsfield array won't be within view from the living museum and its visitors.

REM is the local site acquisition, permitting and development partner in the projects, which are expected to produce approximately 8.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

Syncarpha intends to form individual limited liability corporations to operate each of the solar array sites on the village property. Each of the interrelated facilities, to be developed simultaneously, would be eligible for federal tax credits.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233.


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