To The Daily Sun,
This letter will serve to notify the residents of Sanbornton and surrounding communities about the current status of the proposed "solar farm" to be located off of Tower Hill Road in Sanbornton.
In August 2017, a firm named "N.H. Solar Garden" approached the Sanbornton selectmen with a proposed 12 MegaWatt (MW) solar farm to be located in a residential area off of Tower Hill Road and Giunta Way. N.H. Solar Garden was requesting a "payment in lieu of taxes" for the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) program in the amount of $60,000 per year based upon the proposed revenue to be generated by the 25 MW solar farm. The company did not provide any site plans or designs at the meeting. The selectmen did approve the PILOT program, as they considered it a benefit overall to the town. The average taxpayer in the town would receive about a $20‐$25 property tax reduction under the plan.
In December 2017, a new solar firm, "Clean Energy Cooperative" (CEC) approached the Planning Board with a conceptual design for the project. Apparently, N.H. Solar Garden turned the project over to CEC. The conceptual design called for only a 5 MW system to be installed with a maximum potential of 12 MW in the future. This reduced design would also reduce the revenue to the town to 1/5th of what was agreed to by the pilot study. Many residents at the meeting asked why the town is still considering the proposal as the town will be losing money based upon that agreement and the taxpayers would be getting $5 or less in a reduction of property taxes.
The selectmen have not addressed this concern to date. At the Planning Board meeting, the conceptual design that was proposed showed five distinct locations on the 100+ acre parcel. Four in fields, two of which will overlook the Sanbornton Elementary school and one along Range Road (the snowmobile trail). The Range Road parcel is mostly wooded land and will require clear cutting (not so green after all). The fields and woodlands fall into three zoned areas: Agricultural, Forest Conservation, and Historical Districts. The project will also require three‐phase power that requires new power poles that would run from Tower Hill Road south to Route 132 to Tilton, right through the center of the Sanbornton Historic District.
The current power poles are roughly 18 feet tall; the new poles would be 45‐50 feet tall and are dependent on what Eversource deems necessary. At that meeting, it was brought up that Eversource has an existing right of way for its lines and can upgrade the lines and poles as needed. CEC has no say on the size or location of the poles. At that meeting, CEC also stated that since this project abuts several residential homes, a minimum 125-foot buffer would be instituted from the property lines to give proper screening for those abutting properties.
In February 2018, approached the Zoning Board of Appeals to request variances for the proposed solar field parcels (rezoning them to commercial land), CEC presented a new conceptual drawing showing only a 35- to 80-foot buffer from the abutting properties in contradiction to the plan they laid out at the Planning Board meeting in December 2017. For the 40‐acre (Lot 14) parcel, CEC is proposing to run line from Range Road west to Tower Hill Road then south to Route 132 or running from Lot 14 to a private driveway right‐of‐way (ROW) to Tower Hill Road. The ownership and use of that ROW is contested as the land owner for the solar farm project was granted ingress/egress only in 1987 by the land owner of
Lot 15, for which the ROW was constructed in 1970. No other ROW access is legally deeded to the solar farm land owner to the private driveway to access lot 14 or any other lot, other that the his current residence on lot 15.1. The ZBA has not ruled on the variance and will take up the item in the March 27 meeting.
In conclusion, the plans for this project have been strongly opposed by the residents along Tower Hill Road and many in the town. There is no financial benefit to the town as the solar firm keeps changing and modifying plans. The need to solar energy should not outweigh the need for green space and forest lands. Cutting trees for creating green energy is that same as bulldozing a meadow for a Walmart. Placing 10,000 solar panels per acre, on the proposed 35 acres they are looking at for this project and fencing the lots will restrict wildlife usage of the area and create a monotypic habitat under the panels, which has no wildlife value (Green energy is not always green). Additionally, the effect on the residences and property values will likely be detrimental.
The Planning Board has come up with an ordinance to regulate these types of projects.That ordinance will be voted on during the March elections. This letter should not only serve as an informational memo to the Sanbornton town residents but also a warning to other communities to get regulations in place before these types of projects start to overwhelm the towns.
- Written by Edward Engler
- Category: Letters
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