Third Turners Falls burn dump solar array nearing completion

  • While the Kearsarge Energy power company already operates two functional solar arrays at the end of Sandy Lane in Turners Falls, attention has recently been paid to launching a third array between the first two. Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the parcel already has panels up and is now undergoing final site work. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • While the Kearsarge Energy power company already operates two functional solar arrays at the end of Sandy Lane in Turners Falls, attention has recently been paid to launching a third array between the first two. Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey said the parcel already has panels up and is now undergoing final site work. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/29/2021 5:00:12 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Establishment of a third solar array at the old burn dump on Sandy Lane is nearing completion, says Montague Town Planner Walter Ramsey.

While the Kearsarge Energy power company already operates two functional solar arrays on the 163-acre town property next to Judd Wire that is divided into multiple parcels, attention has recently been paid to launching a third array between the first two.

Earlier this month, the Selectboard granted an easement from the town to NSTAR Electric — whose parent company is Eversource — and Verizon New England to serve the third array, which will also be operated by Kearsarge. Ramsey said the parcel already has panels up and is now undergoing final site work.

To support solar site interconnection, the Selectboard also granted Eversource permission to install a utility pole approximately 600 feet south of the intersection of Sandy Lane and Turnpike Road.

Once operational, this third solar array will generate 2.9 megawatts of energy, totaling 8.8 megawatts when combined with the 5.9 megawatts that is produced from the first two arrays. Ramsey said the solar project will both remove cost liability and benefit the environment by producing clean energy.

Aside from energy improvements, Ramsey said “capping” the burn dump — which means containing it according to environmental regulations — had been long overdue ever since it was closed in the 1990s. After the capping was finished, he said implementing a solar array was seen as a way to not only improve the health of the watershed, but as a logical next step in reusing land unfit for much of anything else.

“The town has a legal responsibility to cap that landfill by (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) standards,” Ramsey said. “We saw solar as a way to achieve that objective at a minimal cost to the taxpayer.”

In addition to generating renewable energy, benefits of the town’s agreement with Kearsarge include a lease payment of more than $166,000 per year, a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) valued at $65,000 per year and renewable energy credits that save the town about $30,000 per year in electricity costs.

Ramsey said the town hopes to develop 25 more acres of land on the property with hopes of inviting broader commercial development in the future. He also emphasized the importance of sticking to this 25-acre limit to preserve the surrounding nature, adding that the town has a “vision to ... have walking trails through the area.”

The third solar array is slated to be complete by fall.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.




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