Newbury hearing to set up solar array on old landfill continued for lack of quorum | News

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NEWBURY — An existing Police Department firing range must be relocated before a proposed solar array can be installed on the old town landfill on Boston Road.

According to the state fire code and the National Fire Protection Agency, once the array is installed, there must be clear access through the site for fire apparatus to traverse. If clear access isn’t possible, any dead ends in excess of 150 feet need to include turnarounds, explained Town Planner Martha Taylor.

The firing range, located about midway on the existing access road, sits between Boston Road and the transfer station along the easterly and southeasterly portion of the site. Because site constraints make it impossible to create turnarounds with the necessary diameter to accommodate the fire apparatus, the range must be relocated to avoid having two dead ends in excess of 150 feet.

A special permit public hearing for the project which opened last December was continued without discussion on Wednesday because only four members of the required five-member quorum needed for special permit hearings attended. Vice Chair Larry Murphy was not present, so the applicant sought a continuance, scheduled for May 18 at 7:15 p.m.

The project is a partnership between the Town of Newbury, as the landowner, and Alliance Newbury I, LLC, a specific purpose entity established by ACE Solar selected to develop the project. In October 2021, the town’s building inspector denied the application, which triggered a site plan review from the Planning Board.

The plan calls for installing ground-mounted solar on the south facing slopes of both closed waste disposal cells at 75 Boston Road. The total capacity of the proposed solar installation is 582.4 kW (DC) with approximately 1,456 photovoltaic (PV) panels. According to the plan, the PV array sits on concrete ballast blocks with a low bearing pressure designed to preserve the integrity of the landfill cap. The PV modules are mounted with a fixed tilt; the angles varying from 20 to 35 degrees, depending on the module orientation. Each ballast block is set on crushed stone to level the blocks to a maximum slope of 15 degrees over the length from back to front. Above ground cables, cable trays and conduits connect the panels, bringing the wiring down to a central equipment pad area located at the southeast corner of the western landfill cell.

Aerial cabling connects to a pole line around the perimeter of the existing transfer station which leads to the three phase distribution circuits operated by National Grid along Boston Road. A combination of ballasted and chain link fence provides security and separation of any unqualified personnel from any electrical conductors, as required by code.

The Fire Department reviewed the project, presenting planners with several considerations. All access roads must be at least 11’ wide and have 3’ encroachment to the travel path. Roads must be able to withstand 75,000 pounds and include a turning radius of 34’. The access plans must be stamped by a registered professional engineer and include a sweep path analysis which gauges the movement and path of different parts of the fire vehicles as they undertake turning maneuvers.

Approved access boxes should be installed at either end of the fenced perimeter to enable fire officials to enter whenever needed. The array system must include emergency disconnects, or isolation switches and Fire Department personnel will be trained on the location and usage prior to commencement of the solar facility’s operations.

ACE will mow the grass and maintain the areas within the leased footprint, with the town in charge of areas outside of the leased land. A land lease agreement with the town must be in place before building permits are issued. Construction work will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with no noise generating work occurring over the weekends. Ambient noise standards must be met; no blasting is allowed. Planners must approve any modifications, but changes that are considered minor will likely not trigger a new public hearing.

Because the developer was relying on data from 2018 to create the amount for the decommission bond, the board wants to submit it to town counsel for review. The bond acts as a financial guarantee that ensures that should the solar entity no longer be used as such, the developer will properly remove the equipment and restore the land to its original state. The developer has factored in the salvage value of the material, something that the town hasn’t done on other large solar installations proposed in the past, and is not the norm.

Planner Leslie Matthews felt enough time had passed to warrant a legal review.

“Yup –a legal review is needed,” agreed Planning Board colleague Mary Stohn.

To date there has been no recorded public comment on the plans.

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