Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Bright Future for Solar in Amherst?

It will be interesting to watch how UMass deals with NIMBYs this time around--after the Gateway setback--on the solar farm project announced for 15 acres of former farm property just off Valley Lane where neighbors have already circled the wagons to cast shadows over the sun catching project.

Naturally the $10 or $12 million project, which will provide $200,000 in energy savings annually, will be tax exempt if constructed on UMass property, unlike the BlueWave proposal for the old landfill, which will be roughly the same scope but would pay around $175,000 in property taxes annually and provide low cost electricity to the town.

A far brighter deal for Amherst taxpayers.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not everything is about deals for taxpayers. It's no deal for me as a taxpayer for you to damage my property value.

Anonymous said...

What a surprise that no one with beautiful scenic views wants them filled up with solar panels. If you buy a house in a beautiful place you want it to stay that way. This is a pretty reasonable feeling and one to respect. Has anyone noticed that solar farms are usually built in remote areas? Has anyone noticed that there are a lot of remote areas nearby without homes?

Anonymous said...

So in 50 years, this project will pay for itself?

LarryK4 said...

I also notice that solar farms are springing up on old closed landfills nationwide like flies on, err, garbage.

With all the tax breaks from state and federal sources it does not take long for one of these projects to pay for itself.

BlueWave is finding their own financing, providing substantial savings on something the town uses lots of--electricity--and would pay substantial annual taxes for 25 or 30 years.

Plus they are placing it on an old abandoned, unlined, landfill that currently generates no tax revenues and in fact consumes tax money every year for routine upkeep.

Anonymous said...

A capped landfill that people enjoy and use everyday. How much tax money do the roads and common consume? Our schools, pools, downtown streets, and trails? Is this this the only way you evaluate things?

Anonymous said...

Too bad they don't put panels instead on the roof of the Mullins, or the new powerplant (oriented the wrong way - oops!), the new fitness complex, or even the top level of their parking garage (where it would double as shade for parked cars!? Maybe you could suggest Todd D try that, Larry, next time you meet with him?! (Isn't Valley Lane mostly wetlands anyway - will the panels there be up on stilts?)

Anonymous said...

Personally, I would like to see the solar on the landfill and the farmland farmed...

Anonymous said...

"A capped landfill that people enjoy and use everyday"? what people use and enjoy it everyday? the abutting neighbors? seems a little bit exclusive to me, whereas renewable energy and additional tax revenues can be "enjoyed and used everyday" by far more residents.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:52 pm's comment really captures the spirit of the time in which we live.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, the age old look out for #1 routine.

Krysty said...

According to town online property records, 4 of 9 houses on the street are non-owner occupied. The Commonwealth of Mass. is the 900 pound gorilla - it isn't subject to local zoning laws, and doesn't have to consider abutters comments in a project such as this one. If the powers that be decide that this project should happen, it will, no matter what the locals say about it.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I tried to bring that up at every opportunity with the now doomed Gateway Project.

Since UMass owns Frat Row they can do whatever they damn well please with it, but if they HAD turned it over to the town or ARA we would have had a LOT more control over what springs up there AND it would have paid property taxes.

steve s said...

Amen Larry

Anonymous said...

Up to the powers-that-be at UMass? Not quite....
Wetlands issues come before the Town's (or Towns', if both in Amherst and Hadley) Conservation Commission(s) for delineation and permit approval (or denial). Why would UMass build a PV array in the middle a wetland or meadow or hayfield when it has so much under-utilized roof space and so many acres of parking lots which would serve just as well (or even better) for PV? If this story is true, it's plain madness! The UMass administrator that thunk it up should be fired, er, retired (I mean ;-)!!!

LarryK4 said...

The entire project is sort of a living laboratory experiment with the goal of creating energy via the panels but without disturbing the area underneath the installation; so plants, critters or even wetlands are not overly disturbed.

Besides, the state allows for "replication" of wetlands. Maybe Umass will install a swimming pool on the old Frat Row (and fill it with beer).

Ed said...

a swimming pool on the old Frat Row (and fill it with beer).

Do you have any idea of what would be growing inside that within a week of hot sunny weather? Beer is an excellent cultural medium for bacteria, fungii and whatnot...

And as to the old landfill, I don't think that people should be trespassing on it. When we have a rash of heavy metal poisonings and such, we will all feel so guilty but why don't we do something NOW and put an end to this???

Anonymous said...

when buying a house, a major investment, do your research.....just because you buy next to a wooded area...check to see the owners, zoning, etc.......and don't cry when someone wants to do something with the land like develop it...they have and always had that right when you bought your house....and why would anyone want to buy buy an expensive house next to capped land-fill.......and think because your real estate agent said something it is true....
if you buy a house next to a large university...and want a quiet place.and one that can't be built or new projects started..you are dumber than your agent

Anonymous said...

$10,000,000 divided by $200,000 = ?

Anonymous said...

$10 to $12 million to find out if sheep can graze under solar panels? Financial payback in 50 years. Wow. Couldn't this project be scaled back quite a bit and still lead to answer to this not-so-important question? Who is putting up the $10 - 12 million? Federal money so no one is thinking about it?

Anonymous said...

"when buying a house, a major investment, do your research"

You bet we did. And that research was the town's representation that they knew what they were doing when they capped the landfill and that they would only use the land for recreation. Now all they have to do is keep their word on both accounts. It's not about what realtors said, it's about what the town said.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon 3:42. I could not have said it better. It is the town who is not living up to their end of the deal. They never signed the contract that was required to get the state money...and that is ok how??? That was patently dishonest - not one of Amherst's finer moments. I just don't see how the town in good conscience can just ignore that fact. Hey we lied to the state and never signed and recorded the piece that was required to get the money!! Too bad. We're off he hook on that one and now we get to do what we want to do with the landfill.

So, were the neighbors supposed to do the research to find out if the town did what they said they did? How much research is a person supposed to do anyway?

Anonymous said...

Here's my contribution to the study. In my yard, grass grows best in the shade. Sheep graze on grass, stay inside fences and need water. And there are many, many open field in central and western massachusetts not being grazed or used for solar panels. Can I get a cut of the $12 million? Can I have it all?

LarryK4 said...

We ended up with free wireless internet in the downtown due to a (I'm assuming) very expensive DOD grant to UMass (that the town almost turned down because it was from the Department of Defense.)

So yeah, if you were UMass and the $ for the installation was coming from the State or Feds then that $200,000 electricity savings per year is real money. The $10 million not so real.

Anonymous said...

golf course bad because we pay for it -- all else good because other taxpayers pay?

LarryK4 said...

Actually state money (OPM) was involved with the golf course as the town received an Open Space Grant for $500,000 to help with the purchase. (South Hadley got sucked in the same way.)

Ed said...

Hey we lied to the state and never signed and recorded the piece that was required to get the money!! Too bad. We're off he hook on that one and now we get to do what we want to do with the landfill.

Damn right! And you can file a claim with your title insurance company for not catching that.

If the town neglected to record a utility easement across your land, and then Gilford showed up with a bunch of trucks and wanted to start digging up your lawn, would you let him????

Or would you say "easement didn't get recorded, get the f*** off my land?"

So, were the neighbors supposed to do the research to find out if the town did what they said they did?

YES! That is what "title insurance" is all about...

How much research is a person supposed to do anyway?

A lot. *I* would have gone down and made sure the restriction had been filed....

Ed said...

if you were UMass and the $ for the installation was coming from the State or Feds then that $200,000 electricity savings per year is real money. The $10 million not so real.

More than even this.

First, see http://www.umass.edu/research/proposal-guidelines/indirect-costs

UMass takes 55% of all grants for administrative services. So of a $10M grant, $5.5M is going directly to Whitmore in cash -- only $4.5M will actually be spent on the project itself.

In that kind of situation, you really -- REALLY -- don't care what the $4.5M gets spent on because you got $5.5M out of the deal.

Second, when do solar panels work best? (Hot sunny weather.) When is the local grid under the most stress (hot sunny weather). When is WMECO asking UMass to dump load (hot sunny weather).

What the solar panels will do is enable UMass to not have to start all the diesel generators -- which will save a lot more than you might think at $4/gallon for diesel fuel...

Solar makes sense another way that the tree huggers don't realize -- you need electricity to make electricity in most cases. Turbines have electromagnetic fields and without power to them, you can spin them all day without effect.

The thing that saved us in 1966 is that they hadn't torn down all the old plants yet. The lit a wood fire in the boiler of one, went to coal, and got enough power out of it to start a turbine, and then got everything else going from there. Today, we couldn't do that.

The nice thing about a solar farm is that come dawn, she will produce electricity regardless of what else happened (EMP?) and you could take the entire output of the farm and use it to restart one turbine, from there restart the rest of that plant, and then the rest of the grid...