BENNINGTON — The Select Board will consider leasing land at the former town landfill off Houghton Lane for a solar array covering 21 acres of the site, with generating capacity of about 4 megawatts.
Thomas Hand, of MHG Solar, LLC, proposed a facility on the closed and capped landfill site in a letter to town officials.
Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Daniel Monks said in a memo in the board’s meeting packet for Monday that, at the direction of board members, management staff negotiated the proposed lease agreement with MHG Solar.
Monks said the plan involves “an approximately 21-acre solar array on the capped landfill site,” and a lease of “up to a 3-year period to perform due diligence on the property to determine feasibility of the project, followed by an initial term of 25 years with three options to extend the lease in 5-year increments.”
He added that “a modest annual rent of $1,000 is proposed, but the anticipated annual municipal tax revenue is $30,000.”
Monks said the town staff is asking the board to authorize Town Manager Stuart Hurd to sign the agreement.
In a prior letter to town officials, Hand said in part, “MHG has extensive experience developing projects that utilize challenging sites. From our work repurposing slate quarries throughout Vermont to host solar projects to gravel pits and transfer stations, MHG has successfully revitalized numerous sites that have limited use given their intensive past.”
“I am thrilled that a company with MHG Solar’s expertise and reputation is exploring a solar array at the Bennington landfill,” said Select Board Chairwoman Jeannie Jenkins. “This is a preferred solar site that has been difficult to develop due to the lack of 3-phase power. This site would add solar capacity to the county and help Vermont reach its renewable energy goals. It would also bring in significant tax revenues to the town of Bennington, making it a positive for the community on the energy and financial fronts.”
Hurd said of the proposal, “This is an excellent use of a capped landfill. It will generate renewable power for the grid, which benefits our climate and puts land that can’t be used for anything else back into productive use. Construction design must meet state and Environmental Protection Agency guidelines before it will be allowed.”
“While this site at the town landfill is not without challenges from a development perspective, we do believe a solar project may indeed be viable at the location,” Hand wrote. “A solar project at the town landfill would bring substantial financial and environmental benefits to the town while making unique use of a retired landfill.”
Among the development challenges for the site and his Manchester-based firm, he noted, are required power line upgrades along Rice Lane and Houghton Lane to enable interconnection of the solar project to the power grid, and the necessity of designing a ballasted solar array foundation system that doesn’t puncture the landfill cap.
“MHG has utilized this [ballast] system on numerous projects, including our Shields Drive solar project in the Maneely Industrial Park,” he wrote.
Hands further noted, “The project is also located on a site that has been designated as a preferred site for energy project development by the Town. Advancing a project of this nature will help Bennington further its steps toward its energy goals while staying clearly within the trajectory of the development plan set out in the Town Plan. MHG Solar is excited by the prospect of bringing our unique experience in developing industrial reuse sites and combining it with town of Bennington’s vision on where projects like this might be possible.”