Deerfield Planning Board continues hearing on proposed solar array on old landfill

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-17-2023 11:20 AM

DEERFIELD — The Planning Board will continue its public hearing on a proposed solar array, slated to be built on the town’s former landfill, on Aug. 7, having scheduled a site visit for this Wednesday.

Deerfield Renewables LLC, in conjunction with Nexamp, is proposing a 2.95-megawatt, 9.9-acre solar array at 42 Lee Road, the town parcel that contains the transfer station and the now-closed landfill. The town is leasing the land — through a December 2020 agreement — to the company, and energy from the system will be sent to Eversource and the local energy grid, according to Nexamp representative Henry Barrett.

“I know it’s been a long road since this project started, so thank you for your patience,” Barrett told the Planning Board at a recent meeting. “I think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

To get to the end of that road, Deerfield Renewables and Nexamp need the Planning Board’s approval of its site plan. A special permit, however, is unnecessary because Deerfield’s bylaws allow municipal solar arrays to proceed without one in the residential-agriculture zone.

“The short answer is yes, the project must complete a site plan review but does not need a special permit,” reads a February legal memo from town attornys Lisa Mead and Ryan Clemens. “A municipal solar project is one ‘that is owned by or located on land owned by the municipality.’”

In the first phase of this review, the Planning Board discussed the impact a solar array would have on the site, which will be placed on the capped landfill. The landfill operated from 1940 to about 1997, according to the lease between the town and Deerfield Renewables.

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According to the project narrative, the landfill has little to no native vegetation or woodland where the array is proposed and “minimal” tree clearing will only be needed at the outer limits of the landfill to make room for grading improvements and fencing.

“Since we’re not cutting into vegetation, into the landfill cap, everything’s going to be placed above it,” explained Weston & Sampson engineer and Project Manager Robert Bukowski. “I don’t see any issues.”

A handful of abutters attended the Planning Board’s recent meeting. Roy Gregor, who lives across the street from the property, raised concerns about the site’s battery buzzing loudly when it is being discharged.

“This is not a pleasant rustling of leaves that you’re going to hear 24/7,” Gregor said, adding that once the transfer station closes for the day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the area is “dead silent.”

According to Barrett, the company would typically discharge the battery during the day at peak hours.

As the discussion continued, Planning Board members said they’d like a peer review done on the site plan and that they are awaiting additional information from the state Department of Environmental Protection, which Barrett and Bukowski said they should have by the Aug. 7 meeting.

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