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Solar project receives green light

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/28/2022 8:17:23 PM
Modified: 9/28/2022 8:17:24 PM

CLAREMONT — The Planning Board Monday unanimously approved a site plan and a conditional use permit for a proposed solar array on a 20-acre parcel off Grissom Lane.

The conditional use permit came with several conditions, most notably the requirement for a decommissioning plan and bond approved by the planning office before construction can begin.

While the board had a few questions for the applicant, Power Investment LLC of Milton Mills, N.H., most of the discussion had to do with the absence of a decommissioning plan in the application. The board briefly considered continuing the hearing but instead agreed to make the conditional use approval contingent upon the company submitting the plan of the cost to decommission, if that becomes necessary in the event the array is abandoned and the owner is unwilling or incapable of removing it.

Because this is Power Investments first solar project, company owner James Cialdea said they would investigate and provide a plan and price. While the board agreed the company would need to submit the plan, it also said the city needs independent verification of the plan and in particular, the price that Power Investments will have to post as a bond.

“We need another authority to say it is a fair plan and price,” Planning Board member Dave Putnam said.

City Planner deForest Bearse noted that contacting other communities who have gone through the process is not the right approach because every project is different so the city needs someone who is familiar with what Power Investment is proposing. She said there would be labor and disposal costs unique to this array.

“I need to connect with the right people and work with the applicant to be sure the city is protected,” Bearse said.

Though the panels have an estimated life of 25 years, Cialdea indicated that with the cost of energy rising it is likely the panels would be replaced and the solar operation continued for another 25 years and possibly longer.

The open field where the array will be built has just 50 feet of frontage on Grissom Lane so Power Investments will access the property through the abutting Wheelabrator Incinerator parcel, which the company also owns. The power produced by the array will be connected to a substation on the Wheelabrator parcel, the application states. The Wheelabrator trash-to-energy plant shut down about a decade ago.

The array will be 228,000 square feet or about 28% of the 20-acre lot and produce 4.99 megawatts of power. The lot is an open field with stands of trees running along the eastern, western and southern borders. Fencing around the array will not be required as it is not recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cialdea said they plan to sell the power on the wholesale market but may at some point consider the retail market. Construction would likely begin in 2023, he said. According to the list of conditions before construction can begin, Power Investment must obtain an alteration of terrain permit from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, have liability insurance, secure the required local building permits and develop an emergency response plan with the Claremont Fire Department.

“We think this is a great project,” Cialdea told the board. “Much better than burning trash.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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