Shutesbury solar project kicks off

  • Jeffrey Lacy, who is a member of the Shutesbury Planning Board, speaks during a board meeting in 2016 at Town Hall where the board voted to approve a special permit requested by Lake Street Development to build a 30-acre solar installment of Pratt Corner Road. Gazette File Photo/JERREY ROBERTS

For The Recorder
Monday, January 22, 2018

SHUTESBURY — After holdups caused by a federal lawsuit and rigorous examinations of the property by archeologists, the first large solar project in Shutesbury is underway.

Lake Street Development of Chicago recently broke ground on the project to bring photovoltaics to the Wheelock Tract, a 30-acre parcel on Pratt Corner Road, owned by W.D. Cowls Inc.

The project was allowed to begin when a federal lawsuit filed by three Shutesbury and two New Salem residents in August 2016 was dismissed in August 2017, after a judge determined the matter to be out of the court’s jurisdiction.

Prior to the lawsuit, there had been contentious Planning Board meetings, with opponents arguing that the land contains burial grounds or a ceremonial landscape for Native Americans. The board gave the project a special permit, with conditions that the board determined were met in June 2016.

Estimates say the 5.6-megawatt solar project should produce enough power for 1,050 homes and 2,600 residents. W.D. Cowls President Cinda Jones notes that just 1,800 people live in Shutesbury, and there are few other buildings in addition to the homes.

“It will be producing more power than the entire town of Shutesbury uses,” Jones said.

The project is expected to generate $50,000 a year in property taxes.