Solar array project proposed in Claremont

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 01-08-2023 7:32 PM

CLAREMONT — Another solar array is being proposed for the River Road area, the third such project since 2019.

On Jan. 16, the Zoning Board of Adjustment will consider a variance request for a 1 megawatt array covering about 4.6 acres on a 12-acre parcel on the west side of River Road. The property, owned by Mary Beth Klee Trust of Hanover, is an open field that slopes toward the Connecticut River, where there is some frontage.

The applicant, Claremont River Solar LLC, is owned by Norwich Technologies, of White River Junction. The company was started in 2011 and has completed a number of large commercial solar projects throughout northern New England.

The property is located in three different zoning districts but two of those districts, agricultural rural and rural residential 2, do not have solar arrays as a permitted use so a variance is needed.

In its application, Norwich Technologies states the array would not “negatively impact neighboring properties, community facilities or the community.”

The parcel is bordered by “existing mature vegetation on the north, west and south sides,” the application states. To the north is Jehovah Witness Hall and to the south and west there are two private homes. Across River Road, which is also Route 12, is a large industrial building.

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Other points made in support of the variance state the array would have no impact on traffic or the school system nor is it a threat to public safety. Norwich Technologies said the array is consistent with the city’s solar ordinance, which seeks an increase in renewable energy “in appropriate locations, while protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

The array would be adjacent to three-phase power which reduces the need for costly distribution line upgrades.

Details regarding the array’s exact location of the property and other site work will be part of the site plan application that would go to the Planning Board if the variance is granted.

In September, the Planning Board approved a site plan and conditional use permit for an array on a 20-acre parcel off Grissom Lane that abuts the former trash-to-energy incinerator which shut down nearly 10 years ago. Power Investment LLC, of Milton Mills, N.H., said after the approval it plans to start construction this year of the 4.99 megawatt array. An alteration of terrain permit is required before work can start.

In March last year, North Light Solar, of Maine, which was negotiating with the city to lease land near the railroad tracks off Grissom Lane for a solar array, decided it would not pursue the planned project on about 200 acres. Company officials said the cost for the interconnection from the array to the existing transmission grid was too expensive to make the project financially feasible.

The ZBA meeting on Jan. 16 begins at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers.

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

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