PLYMOUTH – Along with electricity a bi-product of ground mounted solar arrays appears to be ink, as proponents and opponents of commercial solar arrays continued to butt heads in 2016.
In the past five years a total of 15 arrays have been approved in Plymouth, utilizing close to 200 acres of residentially zoned property.
In 2016 alone the Planning Board OK’d three ground mounted solar arrays totaling just under 50 acres of cleared land.
Town officials and residents have singled out the Mass Solar Highway’s array at Exit 5 for scorn.
While located in a light industrial zone, the Mass Solar array drew fire from residents mainly because of its appearance. Located off Exit 5 and Long Pond Road, the array’s panels appear unevenly spaced and the only screening provided is a 7-foot-tall, black, chain-link fence.
ADM Agawam Development LLC’s 35-acre solar array is situated in the northeast corner of Makepeace’s Redbrook development off Bourne Road.
And a 37-acre woodland parcel off Old Sandwich Road is slated to become a 6-megawatt solar field.
The Annawon Council of Boy Scouts is continuing to move forward with plans to allow a 34-acre solar array on the 78-acre parcel located at 79R Carver Road in West Plymouth.
To do so, the company wants to build a 2,300 foot access road leading from Parting Ways Road in Kingston to the array’s northwest corner. A second, 220 foot-long maintenance road would access the site from Kristin Road in Plymouth – a cul-de-sac.
The County continues to move ahead with plans for a 40-acre solar array on the so-called “Wood Lot” off Long Pond Road.
While many praise developers’ efforts to push for alternative energy, others like Planning Board member Malcolm MacGregor question the clearing of hundreds of trees to make way for them.
The loss of native habitat, MacGregor and others argue, may be more harmful to the environment than the benefits accrued through the displacement of the fossil fuels with solar arrays.
Residents have also objected to the clearing of large tracts of forested habitat to make way for commercial arrays though existing regulations expressly prohibit that in residentially zoned areas.
This past spring Town Meeting approved a bylaw that would limit ground mounted solar arrays in residential areas to lots with more than 15 acres, but as the year ended residents and environmentalists had banded together to seek modifications to that bylaw that would ensure greater participation by residents in the solar array review process, and expressly ban arrays in areas the state has already deemed to be significant habitat or “areas of critical environmental concern.”
Solar is not the only alternative energy that residents are taking a second, skeptical look at, especially in regards to location.
Future Generation Wind’s four 492-feet-tall turbines on land off Head of the Bay Road in South Plymouth drew fire – originally from the neighboring town of Bourne.
The turbines, now owned by ConEdison Solutions, each generate 2 megawatts, for a total of 8 megawatts.
This project is considered the third largest wind project in Massachusetts, and Mass Energy has contracted to purchase approximately a third of the Renewable Energy Certificates from this project for seven years.
In recent weeks Bourne and Plymouth residents have visited both the Planning Board and the Board of Health complaining of Future Generation Wind’s negative effect on their health and well being.
Camelot Wind’s turbine was the first industrial scale wind turbine in Plymouth to come online, in November of 2012.
At 375-feet-high, measured to the tip of the blades, that was quite an accomplishment.
The $4 million, 1.5-megawatt turbine generates plenty of electricity but, to date, little controversy thanks largely to its placement in the Camelot industrial park.
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