BENNINGTON >> The developer behind two controversial solar projects is proposing three more, this time calling for the clearing of nearly 50 acres behind Carbone Auto Group and Home Depot.
The three projects are being put forward by Otter Creek Solar LLC, a subsidiary of Allco Renewable Energy Limited, the same company behind the Apple Hill and Chelsea Hill solar projects proposed east of the Route 279 interchange. The later project had its application for a certificate of public good denied by the Public Service Board in February. The Apple Hill project remains pending.
These new projects, collectively dubbed "Battle Creek Solar," according to planning documents, must also go before the Public Service Board, and according to a recently passed ordinance must also be reviewed by the town.
Part of the PSB process requires the developer to give the town a 45 day notice of its intent to file for a certificate of public good. The Planning Commission met Monday night to discuss the initial filings.
Commissioners had a number of concerns about the projects, chief among them the potential visual impacts on neighboring commercial properties such at the Publyk House and the Harwood Hill Motel.
Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks said he would include those concerns in a memo to the Select Board which is expected to hear the proposal from the developers at its regular meeting on Monday.
Monks will also include other points the Planning Commissioned raised, such as why are the three contiguous projects not being treated as one, and whether or not the land they are proposed to be built on is considered prime agricultural.
Monks said the developer has indicated it is seeking official and public comment and may perhaps modify the proposal based on that. Monks said it's possible that the portion south of Rice Lane could be adequately screened, but was skeptical of the smaller array north of Rice Lane and west of Hardwood Hill Road.
He said this is a preliminary filing and that more detailed information regarding visual impacts and others things will likely be forthcoming.
Separate notices were filed for each project.
All three projects are fairly close to each other on the same 76-acre piece of private property, which the notices commonly describe as, "...vacant and contains no structures. The Property is currently fully wooded. The Property contains some topographical and wetlands features that will be avoided by the Project footprint. The Property is surrounded to the west, south, and east by commercial, retail, and industrial uses, and to the north by a mixture of timber and residential uses."
According to the notices, the parcel is zoned 35 percent residential and 65 percent industrial.
The largest of them has a 28-acre footprint and is expected to produce 5 megawatts of power. The second largest is a 2.2 megawatt array with a 15-acre footprint, while the third has a six-acre footprint and would produce one megawatt of power.
The notices say each project will be surrounded by a seven-foot high security fence.
All three are unmanned facilities requiring between two and three maintenance visits per year. The projected lifespan of the projects is 45 years.
The notices say the power will be sold to a local utility. There is no mention of whether or not they plan to make use of any of the state's renewable energy incentive programs.
The notices can be found online at https://ecosenergy.app.box.com/s/8685lzyvujv5aonbzveurw7q0pdz82dt
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115