logo
Article

Solar project proposed near Interstate 91 in Norwich

Valley News|Claire Potter|December 28, 2021
New HampshireVermontGeneral

NORWICH — An Upper Valley solar company is proposing to build a 500-kilowatt solar array on a wooded hillside that was once part of a farm now bisected by Interstate 91.

But some Norwich residents are raising concerns about the impact on wildlife and recreation from the project off of Upper Loveland Road.

The Vermont Public Utilities Commission is accepting comments on the proposal until Jan. 3.

Supporters say the project aligns with the town’s renewable energy goals. The array would be built on a sloped tract of land that is already home to a 150-wide transmission corridor and a cell tower. Approximately 8.2 acres, largely forested, would be cleared to build the ground-mounted array and remove shade. An 8-foot-high wildlife fence would surround the panels. The land between the panels would be seeded and maintained as a meadow.

Norwich Technologies, a Hartford-based solar company, is applying to the PUC to build the 500 kW net-metering array, enough to power the equivalent of about 130 homes. It entered an agreement with the property owner that it will buy the property if ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]

     

NORWICH — An Upper Valley solar company is proposing to build a 500-kilowatt solar array on a wooded hillside that was once part of a farm now bisected by Interstate 91.

But some Norwich residents are raising concerns about the impact on wildlife and recreation from the project off of Upper Loveland Road.

The Vermont Public Utilities Commission is accepting comments on the proposal until Jan. 3.

Supporters say the project aligns with the town’s renewable energy goals. The array would be built on a sloped tract of land that is already home to a 150-wide transmission corridor and a cell tower. Approximately 8.2 acres, largely forested, would be cleared to build the ground-mounted array and remove shade. An 8-foot-high wildlife fence would surround the panels. The land between the panels would be seeded and maintained as a meadow.

Norwich Technologies, a Hartford-based solar company, is applying to the PUC to build the 500 kW net-metering array, enough to power the equivalent of about 130 homes. It entered an agreement with the property owner that it will buy the property if the PUC approves the project. Until the sale goes through, the price is not public record.

Martha Staskus, the chief development officer at Norwich Technologies, described the property as an ideal spot to build an array.

“It’s already a developed site, with the cell tower there. There is power nearby. There is not a significant natural resource impact. And the land was for sale,” she said.

The property is owned by the 38 Acres LLC, which was formed by John Lewis, a Florida resident, and his family. His father used to farm 300 acres in Norwich, but he gave up farming for development after Interstate 91 bisected the property.

The family broke off a 4-acre piece of the land for a cell tower, but Lewis struggled to find a buyer for the remaining acres, he said. Wet, rocky and difficult to access, it is not an ideal spot for development or agriculture — his father never farmed this piece of land.

Some members of the family were concerned about the carbon loss of cutting trees, he said. But Norwich Solar reassured them that only a fraction of the forest would be cut.

“I think that the idea of a solar farm in there is an excellent use of the land,” he said. “As the last remaining chunk of the old farm, it’s a nice use of it.”

Solar power is a central part of the town’s strategy to do its part to meet the state’s renewable energy goals, said Linda Gray who has served on the Energy Committee since 2008. The Town Plan states that Norwich needs 16 megawatts of solar power installed to meet its renewable energy generation goal, which would take up a total of about 160 acres or 0.5% of the town’s land.

“All along I’ve felt that what’s most appropriate, from an aesthetic and community-sensibility point of view, is to have a bunch of 150 to 500 kW projects,” she said. She added that smaller projects, like the one proposed off of Upper Loveland Road, are also the most workable for utility interconnection. Green Mountain Power already has a line that connects to the cell tower, so it will not have to extend its lines far to incorporate the array into the electric grid. The utility will make some upgrades from a single- to a three-phase line, which would have three wires to handle the increased electricity load.

Some Norwich residents who live near the site raised concerns about the array’s impact on the environment and recreation.

Daniel Goulet, an adjacent landowner, expressed concern about how the project may affect wildlife. He hunts and walks on the property, which abuts his backyard, all year.

“It kind of upsets me a bit,” he said. “I’m a hunter, an outdoorsman, a woodsman. I’ve seen black bear, and a constant deer population, bobcats, all kinds of things … It’s a gateway to another piece of woods to the north of me.”

The red maples and mature oak trees “do more for the environment than a thousand solar panels,” he added.

Stephen Gorman, a wildlife photographer who lives nearby but is not an adjacent landowner, is also concerned about the impact on wildlife and recreation.

“It’s a very valuable forest tract,” he said. “It’s within walking distance of some of the most densely populated parts of Norwich.” When he walks, hunts and skis on the property, he sees many other residents enjoying access to the unposted land where there are trails.

Gorman sees the project as one instance in the ongoing habitat fragmentation and deforestation in New England, where forests are being cut at a rate of 65 acres a day according to a Harvard study. He is particularly concerned about the impact on the two nearby wetland areas, including a vernal pool which is a critical habitat for amphibians.

Aaron Lamperti, who owns adjacent property with his sister, also serves on the Energy Committee and supports the solar array.

“I think the spot is a great spot for a solar project. It is not convenient for construction … There’s no valuable timber,” he said. He believes that the project will not interfere with trails on the hillside.

Arrowwood Environmental, a consultant that submitted a report to the PUC, concluded that the project would not threaten natural resources, including waterways, “irreplaceable natural areas or necessary wildlife habitat” and endangered species. A 50-foot buffer would protect one nearby wetland, and a 100-foot buffer would surround the vernal pool to the south of the array.

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources also participates in the PUC’s regulatory process.

The PUC, not the Town of Norwich, has the final say on energy construction and Act 250 does not have jurisdiction over energy development. The Norwich Selectboard, Planning Commission and Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission recommended the property for “preferred siting” after town staff affirmed that trees and the rolling landscape would shield the solar array from view.

After the public comment period closes, the PUC may hold further hearings or gather more evidence, or it may issue a “certificate of public good” that would give the project a greenlight. Then, Norwich Technologies would be able to built the project within a year, Straskus said. But the timeline is unpredictable.

“Unfortunately, the permitting process can take quite long,” Straskus said. “We have a project in St. Johnsbury that has been at the PUC since June of 2020. They just haven’t ruled on it. It’s an unknown timeline.”

Anyone who wishes to comment can go to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission website (https://epuc.vermont.gov/) and search by the project’s case number, which is 21-3587-NMP.


Source:https://www.vnews.com/Solar-a…

Share this post
Follow Us
Donate
Stay Updated

We respect your privacy and never share your contact information. | LEGAL NOTICES

Contact Us

WindAction.org
Lisa Linowes, Executive Director
phone: 603.838.6588

Email contact

General Copyright Statement: Most of the sourced material posted to WindAction.org is posted according to the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law for non-commercial news reporting, education and discussion purposes. Some articles we only show excerpts, and provide links to the original published material. Any article will be removed by request from copyright owner, please send takedown requests to: info@windaction.org

© 2022 INDUSTRIAL WIND ACTION GROUP CORP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WEBSITE GENEROUSLY DONATED BY PARKERHILL TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION