6.6 MW solar project planned for Partridge Road in Lanesborough

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LANESBOROUGH — Eversource has gone to Plan B to boost solar energy in Lanesborough.

The town's electricity provider is gearing up to construct a 6.6 megawatt solar array on land it's leasing from Petricca Industries along Partridge Road.

The Planning Board on Monday night unanimously supported the estimated $10 million project that has supplanted the utility's original proposal of a 5.5 megawatt facility on Eversource land off North Main Street. The company put that site on the back burner because a portion of the property was unuseable, according to Paul Sylvester of Burns & McDonnell, Eversource's engineering consultant.

The Partridge Road facility will use roughly 25 of the 65-acre site and involving just three acres of tree clearing in order to accommodate the 8 to 10-foot high solar panels. The project could generate about $210,000 in annual revenue for the town, town officials said, the amount depending on the current property tax rate.

Located on the south end of the Route 7-8 Connector Road, formerly the Berkshire Mall Road, the solar installation will be separate and detached from the utility's planned smaller solar array on the Pittsfield side of Partridge Road.

The development team hopes to secure a building permit in August and complete construction by the end of this year.

However, two matters remain unresolved before work can begin: the submission of a definitive screening/landscaping plan and Eversource ponying up money to cover the project's financial liability with the town.

The Planning Board will meet July 10 to discuss the screening with TRC, the design firm for the project. While the current foliage will screen most of the solar panels, that won't be the case come late fall and winter, according to board member Joe Tyrbus.

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"You have to imagine it with the leaves down," he said during Monday's public hearing.

Annual town meeting voters recently adopted a town solar by-law with screening the panels among a key issue with many residents. Board vice chairman Jeff DeChaine says the board needs to be vigilant about following the bylaw.

"People are going to be driving down the mall road, see those panels and knocking on our door," he said.

The bylaw also requires the developer of a large scale solar photovoltaic installation to provide a bond or set up an escrow account to cover the cost of removal and restoration of the site should the owner abandoned the solar project.

The energy developer must settle the surety issue with the town before being issued a building permit, according to the bylaw.

Eversource has several solar arrays in the works or being built in Berkshire County, including the 2.2 megawatt facility on Partridge Road in Pittsfield and 3.3 megawatt solar plant between the Massachusetts Turnpike and Chapel Street (Route 20) in Lee. Both are being sited on Everource land.

The company's increase in solar projects comes on the heels of last summer's approval by the state Legislature of an energy bill allowing utilities to maintain up to 70 megawatts of solar power across the commonwealth.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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