Burrillville solar project moves forward

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BURRILLVILLE – The Planning Board gave a first nod of approval Monday night to a project that would see more than 11,500 solar panels installed at an industrial complex off Route 102.

Burrillville Solar hopes to sign a 20 year lease for a 68-acre town-owned property inside Burrillville Commerce Park. The company already has a contract with National Grid to purchase electricity generated by the project, which is expected to disturb some 22 acres of currently wooded land that stands between Lynne Lane and Daniele Inc., a Burrillville-based meat processing plant.

Engineers from Waltham, Mass.-based firm ESS Group, Inc. first presented the project to planners and residents at a public hearing on Monday, Dec. 3. This week, the group was back before the board to answer questions presented last month, and walked away with master plan approval.

The company still needs to obtain permits, and will have to return before the board for final approval, but the unanimous decision to move the project forward this week is a sign that the development is on track.

“The town is going to benefit from this,” said Planner Marc Tremblay. “We are the town – all of us sitting here.”

An attorney representing the solar group, Jennifer Cervenka, noted that the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is now completing the “stage 2 review,” of the proposal.

“We should hear from them in the next week or so,” said Cervenka.

The developer would pay the lease and tax payments to the town of Burrillville for the property – located in a general industrial zone.

“There are benefits,” said Cervenka.

The 4.2 megawatt ground-mounted solar installation – consisting of 11,646 panels – would come with an option to renew the lease for five years. Planners asked if the town could take over the solar farm once the lease is through.

“If it’s a mutual benefit, we’d be happy to do that,” said Craig Olmstead of Burrillville Solar.

Olmstead noted that construction of the project will take a few months, and would ideally start in summer of 2019. After the project passes RIDEM permitting, it would need to return before the Planning Board for final approval before building permits could be obtained.

“We really need to get it done this year if at all possible,” said Olmstead.

Residents who had expressed concern about the company’s plans to maintain noise-blocking tree coverage were told that the planting plan will be looked at in the final review.

“We’ll look at that in the final plan,” said Town Planner Raymond Goff.

Planning Board Chairman Jeffrey Partington noted that in the town’s comprehensive  plan, “we are in favor of doing things that will bring the town revenue.”

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