In drive for green energy, Lanesborough Planning Board endorses plans for solar array on part of Skyline County Club

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LANESBOROUGH — Green energy could replace several greens at a local golf course.

TGA Clean Energy wants to build a 4.5-megawatt solar array on part of the Skyline Country Club off South Main Street, taking out the 10th, 12th, 17th and 18th holes, according to company officials.

The Lanesborough Planning Board has endorsed the project, one of three ground-mounted solar arrays totaling 14.4 megawatts the New Bedford firm has in store for the community.

"It's in the very, very, very preliminary stages," Skyline owner Jim Mitus told The Eagle. "If it does happen, we'll probably go to nine holes."

Mitus didn't divulge the potential arrangement with TGA, but company officials said they are looking to lease about 20 acres from Skyline.

TGA's other pending solar projects are a 3.3-megawatt facility just south of Skyline at 550 South Main St. and a 6.6-megawatt array off Partridge Road, just west of the Berkshire Mall.

On Monday, The Planning Board granted special permits for the two South Main Street facilities and approved TGA to replace Eversource as the developer of record for the Partridge Road site, previously approved by the board.

TGA seems all in with solar energy in Lanesborough, according to company Vice President Tim Voutour.

"This is a good, green community that lends itself to such projects," he told The Eagle.

Voutour wouldn't give a cost estimate for building out all three solar arrays, but Eversource had a price tag of $10 million attached to the partridge Road project.

However, Voutour and town planners note the three projects have several regulatory and financially hurdles to clear before construction can begin, possibly in the fall.

The Lanesborough Conservation Commission still has to review and sign off on the two South Main Street proposals.

"If the plans change with the Conservation Commission, [TGA] will have to come back to us," said Planning Board Chairman Jamie Szczepaniak.

His remarks directed to several concerned neighbors to both projects who attended Monday's board meeting.

TGA must be able to tie all three projects into the power grid through Eversource, the electric company serving Lanesborough. Last year, Eversource shelved the Partridge Road project because the utility determined it to be too costly an upgrade to the utility system equipment in order to handle the 6.6 megawatts of electricity generated.

TGA is also awaiting acceptance into the state's new incentive program for cost-effective solar development. The Department of Energy Resources is finalizing details of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, Program to replace the state's current incentive, Solar Renewable Energy Certificate.

Both incentives award customers based on the amount of electricity produced by their solar panels. The difference between the two, according to the DOER website, is that the current incentive awards a certificate the solar operator can trade on the market; its value would be determined by supply and demand of energy.

"When the SMART program starts, solar system owners will receive a payment from the state for their solar production at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced," according to the website.

Project breakdown

TGA Clean Energy's development team told residents and town officials on Monday the Skyline solar array will face south and require zero screening as the existing landscape will block its view from neighboring properties. Plans call for the array to avoid nearby wetlands and no significant clearing of trees. One unique feature, a 50- to 75-foot-high netting surrounding the array, preventing errant golf balls from damaging the solar panels.

"We were pressed to minimize the impact by the golfers," Voutour said.

Environmental impact more an issue with the 550 South Main St. site. The solar array would be built behind a vacant house on the TGA-owned property. The 16 acres of the site being used is heavily forested and would need to be cleared; the solar panels installed and arranged to avoid the wetlands, according to the developer. A drainage system of small retention ponds and rain gardens would help handle the water runoff that flows in several directions from the site.

TGA didn't discuss the already town-approved Partridge Road facility that Eversource first proposed in June 2017. The utility expected to use roughly 25 acres of the 65-acre site to be leased from Petricca Industries, with minimal tree clearing in order to accommodate solar panels.

Located just west of where Partridge Road crosses under the US Route 7/state Route 8 Connector Road, the solar installation would be separate and detached from the solar array Eversource did build on the Pittsfield side of Partridge Road.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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