Solar power arrays proposed on Hancock Shaker Village parcels


PITTSFIELD — Developers are working with Hancock Shaker Village to erect three solar power generation arrays on parcels in Pittsfield and Hancock, capable of producing a total of 5 megawatts of electricity.

If required permits and agreements to purchase the electricity generated are obtained, the facilities could provide lease income for the living history museum for up to a 30-year period, officials said.

Renewable Energy Massachusetts, LLC, which would construct the facility, previously met with Hancock officials and last week began the permitting process in Pittsfield by securing an order of conditions for work within a wetlands buffer zone.

The segments of the project located in Pittsfield also will require a special permit review by the Zoning Board of Appeals and site plan approval from the Community Development Board.

Brian Kopperl, a partner and co-founder of the Cambridge-based REM, along with project permitting adviser Marc Volk, of Foresight Land Services, met with the city commission on Thursday. They said the solar arrays are proposed for three parcels on the 750-acre Hancock Shaker Village property.

Kopperl said following the meeting that the sites include an 11-acre wooded parcel in Hancock on the eastern side of Richmond Road, just south of the intersection of Route 20; a 10-acre parcel on the town-city line north of Route 20 and the Shaker Brook, set mostly in Hancock; and a 5.5-acre Pittsfield parcel set back on a field east of Route 41.

He said that in addition to their discussions with municipal officials, a meeting of abutters to gather input and suggestions was held in October.

Contacted on Friday, Linda Steigleder, Shaker museum president and CEO, said details of the proposal are in the hands of REM and the developer, Syncarpha Capital, but that Shaker Village has agreed to lease a small portion of the 750-acre village property on a long-term basis.

She stressed that the sites "are not in the viewshed of the historic village," and its cluster of two dozen historic Shaker buildings on the Route 20 campus.

While income from the proposed leases would not eliminate the need to fundraise for the living museum, it would be a welcome supplement to those efforts, Steigleder said. She added that the permitting and review process is expected to be a lengthy one.

Solar power also is "sympathetic to the Shakers," she said, in that their buildings were often constructed and oriented to take advantage of the sun's warmth. "That's kind of cool," she said.

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Kopperl said REM is working on the project with developer Syncarpha Capital, a New York-based private equity firm that develops, owns and operates utility scale photovoltaic energy systems in the United States and Canada.

Syncarpha and REM also co-developed a solar project at Palmer Airfield and others in Leominster, Bolton and Stow. And Syncarpha developed a solar project at the former North Adams landfill site, which went live last fall, as well as projects in Scituate and Dartmouth.

Kopperl said REM is the local site acquisition, permitting and development partner in the projects. In this case, he said, the firm learned of the museum's interest in leasing a portion of its land for solar generation through his father, Paul Kopperl, of West Stockbridge, who introduced him to a member of the museum's board of trustees.

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

The energy generated would be fed 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, Kopperl said.

He said the project is expected to produce approximately 8.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per annum. Under current state regulations for Community Shared Solar facilities, half the energy may be purchased by up to two larger commercial, municipal or college entities with the capacity to use over 4 million kilowatt hours per year, he said.

Efforts are underway to sign up such larger power users within the Eversource service territory to purchase discounted power, he said. Syncarpha plans to sell the other half of the energy net metering credits to residential customers of Eversource.

Kopperl said a CSS is a way for a large solar project to be a local resource that provides energy savings to area residents who may not want to erect solar panels on their property or are in shaded locations.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.

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For information on how Eversource customers might take advantage of the net-metering credits and savings, email (attention Matt Preskenis), or call Matt Preskenis at 212-419-4840, ext. 100.


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