Select Board establishes an Alternative Energy Committee

Aug 30, 2023

The Select Board established an Alternative Energy Committee to address issues relating to solar and battery policies and procedures in town.

Sherry Quirk shared with the board what she and other committee members hope to achieve through its work, including developing bylaws for solar projects and battery storage as well as considering solar opportunities offered through federal and state programs.

Quirk discussed the committee’s solar bylaw that is currently before the Attorney General’s municipal law review session, which will approve or disprove the policy. 

She said the committee anticipates feedback from this session Tuesday, Sept. 19.

Developing a bylaw like this is a “continuous process," said Quirk who explained that the committee is also reviewing the policy and discussing potential changes, especially in regard to issues that have come up in solar project applications.

As a part of a working group from the Planning Board, Quirk and other members focused on solar project decommissioning and batteries.

“The projects basically, and generally, are set up as Limited Liability Corporations, which means they have no assets,” she said. “So it’s important for us to be able to have assets in the event that there’s an abandonment or something goes wrong with one of these sites.”

She added the planning group has been developing a battery storage bylaw to address issues in some pending cases. 

The group has followed other towns in Massachusetts as well as locations in New York that have recently developed policies that she said she considers “state of the art.”

Quirk said something the town should be aware of is that the governor of New York launched a special investigation into lithium ion batteries due to a number of fires, including at a solar farm that is similar to the kind Wareham possesses.

“We’re still looking at this and want to make sure that no matter what happens, what we go forward with for Wareham is protective of our citizens, fulfills our responsibilities under the law and protects our environment,” she said.

She said part of the concern is runoff. She gave the recent electric car fire as an example.

Quirk said the battery spontaneously combusted and required 11,000 gallons of water to put out. 

She added not only is this an “enormous” amount of water, but depending on locations of these types of fires it could harm sensitive wetlands or aquifer areas.

Quirk said although there are no battery storage projects being proposed at this time, she still suggests the town closely follow this issue.

Select Board Clerk Jared Chadwick suggested reaching out to both fire departments and making it mandatory for at least one firefighter to be on the committee.

She said one of the final issues that the committee would like to focus on are the “large incentives” available for solar and battery storage under the Federal Inflation Reduction Act.

Quirk added she suggests the committee look into these projects for possible opportunities in the town.

“Wareham needs to take steps to make sure that the solar is installed, not just where it can be installed, but where the town believes it should be installed,” she said, adding, “And what is in the best interest of its people, the environment and addressing climate change.”

The Select Board unanimously agreed to establish the committee with seven members.