More time granted for comment on Allco Renewable Limited's farming request

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BENNINGTON — Interested parties will have more time to comment on a solar developer's request to farm land that it owns.

An order from the Public Service Board (PSB) means the town, government entities and interveners have until Oct. 28 to comment on a developer's plan to clear and grow crops on land where it wants to build two controversial solar projects.

Thomas Melone, legal counsel for Allco Renewable Energy Limited, wrote in a motion filed with the board on Sept. 16 that the developer wants to grow "horticulture crops" while it seeks state permits for the projects.

Attorneys for the town, and the state's Department of Public Service (DPS) and Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) subsequently filed motions to extend the original comment deadline of Oct. 4. The PSB approved the extension requests on Sept. 30.

Two subsidiaries of Allco Renewable Limited, a New York City energy development company, wants to build two, 2 megawatt solar arrays on 27.3 acres of woodland near the Route 279/Route 7 interchange. Chelsea Hill Solar LLC petitioned for a certificate of public good from the PSB, the quasi-judicial entity that regulates power plants, in 2014; and Apple Hill Solar, LLC in 2015. Chelsea Solar was denied a certificate in February; no decision has been issued on Apple Hill Solar.

The site of the proposed projects is owned by PLH LLC, according to the motion to intervene filed by Melone. He wrote PLH has let the land sit idle for three years while it has petitioned with the PSB.

The entity shares a New York City address with Allco on documents filed with the PSB.

Melone wrote that farming activities would take place on the 27.3 acre parcel and a 5 acre parcel, the site of an old orchard that wasn't originally slated for solar arrays.

Melone told the Banner last month that crops like corn would be grown.

Libby Harris, who abuts the proposed projects and was granted intervener status in the proceedings, has raised concern over the project's impact on aesthetics and development and the potential wind noise from clearing acres of forest.

The PSB's decision against Chelsea Solar in February stated the project was not consistent with the town plan, violating three of four requirements for the Rural Conservation District in which it's zoned. The PSB wrote Chelsea Solar "would unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region and would have an undue, adverse impact on aesthetics."

The developer then filed to reopen discovery and to amend the original petition. An amended site plan reduced the footprint from 14.85 acres to 10.2 acres; the amount of cut forest from 14.85 to 12 acres; and the height of solar panels from 9 feet to 6 feet. Later filings criticized the agency on procedural grounds. The PSB did not accept the amended site plan.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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