Solar field proposed for Fearing Hill Road

Jun 2, 2021

Yet another solar field is being proposed for Wareham. 

This project, to be located at 91 and 101 Fearing Hill Rd., would consist of a 20-acre commercial solar array. The land includes vegetative wetlands, which will be reviewed by conservation agent Dave Pichette. The project will also be reviewed by Charlie Rowley, an engineer who consults for the town.

The site would be clear-cut with a fence to be installed around the perimeter of the project, Pichette said. 

Joe Shanahan, representing Wareham MA 3, LLC., spoke about the project. Shanahan works for Con Edison, a company that develops solar projects across the country.

Shanahan said that the array would cover 20 of the site’s 40 acres. Currently, the land is undeveloped. He said that the project would be set back 100 feet from Fearing Hill Road and would be surrounded by a woodland buffer to minimize the impact on neighboring properties. 

Patrick Johnson, another representative of the company, spoke about the technicalities of the project. 

Johnson said that some work is proposed within the 100-foot buffer zone, which would consist of portions of a chain-link fence, some clearing of land, erosion control and some stormwater retention basins. No solar panels are proposed in the buffers, and no work is proposed in the town’s 50-foot no activity zone.  

Johnson said that the fence would be elevated 6 inches above the ground to allow animals to travel underneath it, and any planting would be a non-invasive native species seed mix.

Johnson said the plans are in compliance with all local and state regulations. 

Asked about the environmental impact of clear-cutting 20 acres of land, Shanahan said that any use would require some cutting of trees, and claimed that the greenhouse gas offsets from the project over the next 20 years would be 200 times greater than the tree’s carbon sequestration if they were left in place. 

Shanahan said that the land will still be a wildlife habitat because of the clearance under the fence and the seed mix they plan to use, which should create a meadow-type environment. 

“It will be a great benefit to the ecosystem and the pollinators in the area,” Shanahan said, noting that the company plans to remove as little soil as possible.

Nancy McHale of the Wareham Land Trust spoke both as the owner of a property on Fearing Hill Road and the conservation steward of lands abutting the project. McHale said that the waiver requested to allow fences within the 100-foot buffer zone is unacceptable given that the site is large enough that that could be avoided. She added that the land has been undisturbed for generations, and suggested a study to determine what flora and fauna are living there. McHale noted that box turtles live in the area.

Lisa Morales said she hoped the Conservation Commission would take into account the aggregate deforestation across town when considering projects like this one.

The project will be discussed by the Planning Board on June 14 for discussion of a preliminary subdivision plan and the project itself will be up for discussion by the Planning Board on June 28. Shanahan said the preliminary subdivision plan was filed to protect the project if a more restrictive solar bylaw is passed by Town Meeting on June 12. 

The Conservation Commission will discuss the project in greater depth at their July 7 meeting.