Tobey Road solar array now under construction
Construction is underway on a large solar array on Tobey Road that seemingly popped up overnight because no public hearings were necessary for its approval.
Electricity provider Eversource owns the 16-acre, industrially-zoned site located across the street from Wareham Crossing. The company plans to install 12,000 solar panels, said Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress.
Construction began this summer on the mostly vacant lot that had been hidden from view by a line of trees. In total, a little less than 8 acres of land had to be cleared, said Wareham’s Building Commissioner David Riquinha.
On Tuesday, Riquinha provided Selectmen an update on the project, saying his department approved building permits for the project.
Riquinha explained that a solar array in that spot is allowed “as of right” under local zoning bylaws. Developers meeting that requirement don’t need approval from either the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. That process would include public notice and a public hearing allowing residents to air concerns or ask questions.
Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum said board members had received several questions regarding the project. Many asked if Eversource followed the proper channels before construction, he said.
“Eversource went to the building commissioner and because it was an allowed use, no notice was required,” said Teitelbaum.
Riquinha said his department negotiated with Eversource to build an earthen wall near the road complete with landscaping in order to shield the project from view. He noted that Eversource agreed to the town’s terms despite there being no requirement to do so.
“I hope people understand that they’re actually going beyond their obligation to mitigate the view once the project is completed,” said Teitelbaum.
Selectmen also approved a $418,363, one-year performance bond for the project on Tuesday. The bond is required in the event the developer fails to complete the project.
The project arrives after Eversource received state approval last year to build solar energy arrays capable of producing up to 62 megawatts of energy across Massachusetts, said Ress.
That push is in line with the company’s commitment to renewable energy, she said.
“Our owning and operating large-scale universal solar plants helps the Commonwealth meet its renewable energy goals and helps reduce carbon emissions, at a much lower cost to customers than smaller private facilities,” said Ress. “Our universal solar plants benefit our customers with more affordable renewable energy.”