Zoning Board OKs 2 megawatt commercial solar array on East Street

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PITTSFIELD — The Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday approved the construction of a nearly 2 megawatt commercial solar array on East Street.

The array, which would be built on a 73-acre parcel near Winesap Road, would produce energy that would be sold at a 20 percent reduced rate to Springfield Public Schools, said Todd Driscoll, the owner of BVD Solar. Clearing of the highly vegetated parcel would take place before the panels are installed, according to project engineer James Scalise.

"My concern is the potential glare from all of the glass," Kyle Burks, of 54 Winesap Road, said after the meeting. "I don't want to be one of those NIMBYs, I like solar. It's just that this is literally 200 feet from my house, and the glare would go right into my kitchen."

BVD has a plan to mitigate a change in lighting in the backyards of nearby residents, including keeping trees closest to their properties taller, but Scalise said it would be difficult to prevent glare at higher levels, like Burks' second-floor deck.

"If you shade a portion of the panels, it shuts the whole system down," Scalise said.

All Zoning Board members other than Miriam Maduro voted to grant the permit to BVD. Maduro requested that a condition be added to the proposal that an artificial evergreen material that would be installed to mitigate the extra light to nearby residents be inspected annually.

"If we install this and it starts to deteriorate, it will be kind of unsightly," Maduro said.

Scalise and Driscoll assured the board that the material, which they had used near their office, is long-lasting, but they agreed to the annual inspections. An 8-foot fence would also be built to surround the array.

After the hearing Wednesday, Driscoll reached out to Burks to talk to him about possible solutions for the glare.

The project needs approval from the Conservation Commission, but Driscoll said after the meeting that he doesn't expect any issues.

Driscoll said that, for the past six months, he has tried to sell the power to the Pittsfield Public Schools for a 20 percent discounted rate from what it is paying now, but he wasn't successful.

"They don't understand it," Driscoll said.

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