Developer scraps proposed solar farm at Egremont Country Club

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Opponents of a proposed solar array were poised to flock to Town Hall on Wednesday to fight the plan, which called for the installation of 10,000 solar panels on what is now Egremont Country Club.

But the developer pulled the plug.

The expense of hooking the panels into the power grid was cited as the reason.

"While we were excited about this project and working with the community, this project's high interconnection costs made us decide to pursue other development opportunities," said Erin Walkowiak, director of development for Cypress Creek Renewables.

Costs can depend on how far away a substation is from a solar farm, and what other energy sources also are feeding into that substation.

Abutters and neighbors received notice on Friday that Horizon Solar LLC, a Cypress Creek subsidiary, had pulled its application to the Great Barrington Conservation Commission for approval to build in an area with plentiful wetlands. The commission had been waiting on some further delineation of the wetland boundaries, and planned to discuss the matter at its Wednesday meeting.

Club manager and part-owner Frank Mazzarelli confirmed that the company also had withdrawn from its purchase and sale contract with the country club, which sits on Route 23 and stretches into Egremont and a small part of Sheffield. The 63-acre property was placed on the market in 2007, but not advertised until 2012, when it was listed for $2.5 million. It has not yet been officially placed back on the market, he added.

"Our intention is to sell it eventually," he said, noting that it remains operating as an 18-hole golf course with a driving range and banquet facility.

Horizon Solar planned to use 32 acres for solar panels that would generate enough energy to power between 600 and 1,000 homes and businesses in the area, a company spokesman said last fall.

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At a meeting in November, the Conservation Commission had asked for changes to the wetlands mapping, so the company could avoid running afoul of the 50-foot buffer zone for building near wetlands.

Commission Chairman Jeffrey Cohen said the company never produced any more submissions.

"We never heard from them," he said

But opposition to the project had already reached a boil. Abutters and area residents said their views and real estate values would be shot.

Diane Sorrell was one of them. She lives across from the third tee.

"We're all sighing relief, because this is the entrance to our town, for God's sake," she said. "This is our front door to historic Egremont, and also for Great Barrington."

She also said it would have put the Windflower Inn out of business. The Inn sits across Route 23, with a view of the first few tees.

"Who in their right mind would come to the Berkshires and sit on the front porch to look at 10,000 solar panels?" she said. "There are places to put solar fields and there are places to not put solar fields."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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