The solar array will take up about 8 acres of the 20 acre site
The Amherst Planning Board voted unanimously last night (6-0 with 3 absent) to approve a Site Plan Review for Hampshire College to construct a 2.55 megawatt solar array in a former 20 acre farm field off West Bay Road near Atkins Market, Eric Carle Museum and Applewood Retirement Community.
Since the Building Commissioner had ruled this energy operation was an accessory use to an education institute, the Dover Amendment would trump local rejection of the project.
But the Planning Board seemed impressed enough with the presentation so they probably would have endorsed it heartily anyway.
Nearby Orchard Valley resident John Boothroyd spoke loudly against the project questioning if solar really was carbon neutral and lamenting the loss of farmland and trees. He also worried about glare endangering drivers along West Bay Road.
Developer Mickey Marcus assured the Board solar was more environmentally friendly with carbon savings (estimated at 2,000 tons annually) and that it's a myth solar panels cause glare saying, "They are designed to absorb sunlight."
This Amherst solar project combined with one in Hadley will provide the campus with 100% of its energy needs. Construction is expected to take 3 to 4 months and will be completed by the fall semester.
And for the first time in its history Hampshire College will pay the town a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes over the solar project ($21,000 plus 2.5% annually for 20 years). Although the house/barn at 1095 to the east of the project is slated for demolition.
Farmhouse and barn east of solar project will be demolished soon
Hampshire College bought the Ives Farm where the solar project will be located including the old farmhouse and barn over 20 years ago with the provision -- called a "life estate" -- Mr. and Mrs. Ives could live their until their deaths. Both have now passed away.
Last year Hampshire College paid $6,377 in property taxes for the 1095 West Street property, but that will go down substantially after the demolition (perhaps to zero).
Last year Amherst College paid us $130,000 in PILOT for the vital services of Amherst Fire Department, while UMass paid around $450,000 (for ambulance service). Hampshire College paid nothing.
Hadley solar array