PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Development Board on Tuesday gave the OK for a new solar array at Hancock Shaker Village.
Syncarpha Hancock III, a partnership between Renewable Energy Massachusetts LLC and Syncarpha Capital, is developing the project in Pittsfield and in Hancock. The Conservation Commission had already approved the project and, with the Community Development Board's approval of the site plan, only the Zoning Board of Appeals is left to issue a special permit.
The group is looking to construct three photovoltaic arrays — two in Hancock and one in Pittsfield — for a total of 5 megawatts of electricity. The Pittsfield project is on about 5.5 acres of land at Hancock Shaker Village and will be a 1 megawatt system.
"We are proposing a significant amount of screening for this property," said Steven Mack, of Foresight Engineering, adding that some 100 trees are eyed to be planted to limit visibility of each project. "The project is also located over 300 feet from the road so it is adequately screened the way we designed it."
The project in Pittsfield is on land that abuts both Route 20 (West Housatonic Street) and Route 41 (Central Berkshire Boulevard). The access road would be on Central Berkshire Boulevard.
The 10-foot-high panels will be mounted with posts so the ground will mostly be unaffected, Mack said. There are no structures beyond the solar panels.
Robert Knowles, of Renewable Energy Massachusetts LLC, said ongoing maintenance is minimal with mowing being done only about once a year. He said he is currently seeking quotes for the ongoing maintenance of the Evergreen trees being used for screening.
"We've gotten several quotes for that, for all of the evergreen trees and there are about 100 for this particular site," Knowles said.
Community Development Board Chairwoman Sheila Irvin is asking the company to provide a maintenance plan for those trees.
The trees will also be used to screen an access road to the facilities in Hancock. An access road to the Hancock project is on Route 20 in Pittsfield. Knowles said a line of trees will be planted screening any visibility of the Hancock project.
"We are also concerned with the entrance to the Hancock Facility is on Route 20 and that is the entrance to our city," Irvin said.
Knowles added that the company has created a "very elaborate and quite costly" landscaping plan for the entire project to ease concerns of city residents; received a determination allowing the project to go 100 additional feet into the wetland and further from neighbors, and the project is quasi-public and residents have a chance to reap some of the benefits.
"We are offering as a community shared solar project, which means you can sell the energy to hundreds of homes in the area. We are offering a discount to literally buy into the project," he said.
Pittsfield's aspect of the project now only needs approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
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