Route 14 solar project up for review

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2020 9:03:18 PM
Modified: 11/29/2020 9:03:16 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Town officials this week plan to discuss a proposed 150-kilowatt solar array project that has concerned some West Hartford neighbors over its impact on the landscape.

In meetings on Monday and Tuesday, the Planning Commission and Selectboard will review advantages and drawbacks to the project and discuss whether to include comments on the array ahead of a review by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission next month.

The project, which is overseen by Norwich Solar Technologies, would sit 735 feet back from Route 14, on a 176-acre Ray’s Way parcel owned by the Bettis Family Trust.

The company describes the project as a “ground-mounted solar generation facility,” comprised of multiple solar panels, underground power lines, inverters and transformers, according to the application for the project from Norwich Solar Technologies. It would also require creating an access road from Ray’s Way and, potentially, installing an eight-foot fence around the facility to keep wildlife out.

The company wrote that the array will look similar to other solar projects around Vermont, and that it has a “low profile in the landscape,” according to the application. The area was designated as a preferred site for the project by the Hartford Selectboard in June.

“As a renewable energy source powered by the sun, this project will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” the company wrote, adding that its development will have a low impact on the surrounding environment and that the company will work to preserve the “prime agricultural soil” that’s currently at the site.

Still, some neighbors have raised concerns about the project’s impact and scale.

In a September letter from neighbors Erin and Jason Nott, who live less than 500 feet from the proposed site, the pair worried that the project would hinder their view of the natural landscape and may harm or injure the birds who typically migrate to their backyard pond.

“We value green energy but this project is a massive electricity generating industrial facility in a natural landscape which we view from many central locations from our home and yard,” the Notts wrote in the letter, which was addressed to the PUC and posted in an agenda packet ahead of Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting.

They added that Norwich Solar Technologies “has not indicated any interest in modifying the project,” and asked the PUC to deny the application so they can “avoid the necessity of taking further formal action.”

In a July letter, neighbors Lisa Vose and William Soule, whose property abuts the site, expressed similar concerns, asking that the project be abandoned or moved elsewhere on the property. They said construction of the project would make their “portion of the field useless,” and would decrease the value of their home.

“We cannot fathom why someone with over 176 acres would choose a location that would impact the only two residences in proximity. … You could not find a worse location in terms of impacting others,” the pair wrote.

The Planning Commission is meeting to discuss the project Monday at 6 p.m. and will share their thoughts at the Selectboard meeting the following night, also at 6 p.m.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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