Wareham Zoning Board wants to see screening measures for massive solar project

Nov 9, 2017

The Zoning Board of Appeals heard concerns from officials and residents on Wednesday regarding a massive solar project, including the need to properly screen it from view.

Representatives from Bluewave Capital, a Boston-based solar developer, met with the board seeking permission to build a facility capable of generating 12 megawatts of electricity.

Plans call for installing 32,724 solar panels in four different arrays on land near the intersection of Route 25 and Charge Pond Road. The area is home to a mix of cranberry bogs and forest.

Charles Rowley, the town’s engineer, said he wanted developers to ensure the project isn’t visible from Route 25. In particular, he said clearing trees along a 900-foot stretch of highway was concerning.

“Once you start clearing trees that are dense, vegetative growth you see things you never saw before,” said Rowley. “The more we can keep that dense growth without impacting substantially the number of panels they’ve got there is worth taking a look at.”

Jonathan Mancini, Bluewave’s senior director of project development, said the company had installed landscape buffers at its projects throughout the state.

Rowley said he preferred using existing trees because a buffer requires maintenance.

Bluewave officials agreed to return with more details on the project, which is currently moving through the approval process with several other town boards. A preliminary hearing with the Planning Board has already occurred and the Conservation Commission is reviewing if the project will impact nearby wetlands.

On Wednesday, Richard Riccio, a project manger for Field Engineering, Bluewave’s design firm, reviewed the solar proposal with the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Riccio said the arrays will not be within 500 feet of a home or generate substantial noise or traffic. He noted that a 7-foot high chainlink fence will be built around all four sets of arrays for security.

During the public comment portion of the hearing, Wareham Department of Natural Resources Director Garry Buckminister asked if the substantial loss of wildlife habitat due to clear cutting will be addressed.

He said losing the habitat, which abuts the 597-acre Maple Springs Wildlife Management Area, will impact many species.

“You’re pushing green energy, but you’re eliminating habitat,” said Buckminster. “No one mentioned mitigation for the amount of [habitat] that’s going to be taken down.”

Rowley agreed on a personal level, but noted the town has few avenues for denying solar projects.

Selectman Alan Slavin, who was also at the meeting, said the state is committed to promoting renewable energy through subsidies and laws favoring developers.

“There’s a lot of incentives for companies to do this,” said Slavin. “The bottom line is, you’re very constricted in what you can do.”

Bluewave Capital officials are scheduled to appear before the Zoning Board of Appeals again on Dec. 13. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Multi-Service Center.