Swanzey planning board approves new solar development
This story was originally produced by the Keene Sentinel. NHPR is republishing it in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative. It has been updated to correct the location of the meeting where the solar array received approval.
A solar array approved recently by the town’s planning board could soon provide local renewable energy for residents.
The 3.5 megawatt solar array proposed at 909 West Swanzey Road by the Portsmouth-based developer NH Solar Garden received unanimous approval at the planning board’s meeting on Thursday night at Whitcomb Hall.
As Swanzey moves forward with its community power plan — where municipal government rather than a utility sources electricity for local consumers, allowing residents to seek lower costs and greener options — the array could provide locally sourced renewable energy, said Andrew Kellar, the founder and developer of NH Solar Garden.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a town that is excited about this opportunity because then they can get their power from this project,” Kellar said at the meeting.
The proposed solar array would be more than double the size of the 3,584-panel array at Keene’s wastewater treatment plant on Airport Road in North Swanzey that became operational earlier this year.
The project will disturb about 15 acres of land between the Pine Grove Mobile Home Park and Evergreen Knoll Apartments, with the ground-mounted solar panels covering about half of that acreage, according to documents submitted by the developer. The array will be surrounded by an 8-foot knot wire fence, with green privacy slats where the fence abuts residential lots, the developers said.
The site, which was formerly permitted as a sand and gravel pit, was cleared in 2009 and therefore most of the vegetation is new growth, rather than old-growth, the documents submitted by the developer state. In addition to an existing road, a gravel road off West Swanzey Road will be added to access the property from the north, according to the documents.
The solar array will be constructed within the business district and require onsite maintenance only about three times a year, according to the documents. The project received a variance from the town’s zoning board of adjustment on June 20 to allow for construction of a solar array in the business district, draft minutes from that meeting state.
In December, the developers signed a 20-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the town. That agreement, which is voided if the project is not operational by Feb. 13, 2023, states that NH Solar Garden will pay the town $3,500 per megawatt of Nameplate Capacity annually.
NH Solar Garden also has projects in Milton, Hillsborough, Marlborough, Franklin, one proposed in Laconia, and one beginning in Fitchburg, Mass. Though the Swanzey Planning Board approved the project, that approval is conditioned on the developer returning with site plans showing the full length of the new access road.
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