Becket loosens restrictions on solar projects with new bylaw

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BECKET — The town of Becket is making more room for solar developments in keeping with its status as a green community.

A new bylaw sets aside land for large-scale solar projects and streamlines the process that solar developers must follow in order to win municipal approvals. Town voters passed the regulations last month, during a special town meeting.

Planning Board member Alvin Blake said town officials realized that they had to revamp their solar bylaw in order to retain the town's green community designation — an acknowledgment that opens the door for state funding. The town is banking on green community grants in order to replace the heating, ventilation and cooling system at Town Hall.

Becket has seen nearly $150,000 in state money stemming from its status as a green community, Blake said.

The previous bylaw, approved last year, was too restrictive of solar developments, Blake said, and did not allocate by-right space in the town for a large-scale solar project. Under the new rules, only large-scale solar developments that aren't on town-owned land require special permits from the Planning Board.

The new bylaw also adds regulations for medium-size solar projects, falling between 25 kilowatts and 250 kilowatts in size and which require site plan approval from the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Those wishing to set up small-scale solar projects can work directly with the town's building inspector rather than seek approvals from any town board, the bylaw states.

The town already holds one of the largest solar developments in the county, Blake said, referencing the facility at Tanglewood Circle installed by Borrego Solar. He said the development brought the town about $100,000 in building fees and an additional $53,000 each year.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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