Brooklyn officials get details on solar farm project
From The Norwich Bulletin
January 2, 2017
BROOKLYN – The company looking to build one of New England’s largest renewable energy arrays in the region reassured town leaders they aren’t looking for a tax break.
Ranger Solar Senior Vice President and co-founder Paul Harris spent much of a recent meeting in executive session with members of Brooklyn’s boards of selectmen and finance to hammer out financial details of a deal to build a 50 megawatt solar farm.
“We’re not looking for an abatement,” Harris said. “We’re looking for tax stabilization so the levels of the tax exposure remain stable over the life of the project. We think there’s a mutual benefit to the town and to us to do it that way.”
First Selectman Rick Ives said a state statute does allow towns to offer tax abatements for renewable energy projects.
Harris said the value of the equipment declines sharply over the 20-year lifespan of the project. Tax stabilization would allow the town to count on a revenue stream for the entire 20 years, Harris said.
Ranger Solar won a bid to provide solar energy as part of a three-state effort to reduce the region’s reliance on natural gas infrastructure and improve the reliability and affordability of New England’s electric system. According to its bid documents, Ranger Solar hopes to create 50 megawatts of power on 470 acres straddling Brooklyn and Canterbury.
Canterbury has 250 acres of the land and Brooklyn has 220 acres, according to Ranger Solar’s bid documents. Harris said Brooklyn, however, has about 65 percent of the project. He said there are 50 land abutters and Ranger Solar has met with about 30 of them.
“We have some letters of support from the land abutters already,” Harris said.
Known as Quinebaug Solar, the project would sit on land Harris described as “active gravel mines, reclaimed gravel mine areas, invasive plant thickets, and fields. A portion of the project area was previously proposed for a residential subdivision. There are electrical transmission lines crossing the site.”
Selectmen Bob Kelleher and Joe Voccio said it is still early in the process and they do have more questions.
“The prospect of a new revenue stream is attractive,” Voccio said. “It’s just making sure we do enough due diligence to make sure we don’t agree with something we don’t want.”
Board of Finance member Sandra Brodeur had expressed concern about the visibility of the project from Route 169, a national Scenic Byway. Ives told her at a previous meeting the project would not be visible from the road and may only be visible from some locations in town during the winter.
“I like what I’ve heard so far,” Brodeur said.
Harris said Ranger Solar has been working on the project for more than a year but still has significant work to do before applying to the Connecticut Siting Council.
He said the land has been reviewed for wetlands, vernal pools, wildlife needs and archaeological significance. The transmission lines have also been studied to ensure they can handle the load the solar arrays will generate.
With much of that work done, the company is now prepared to discuss the project more publicly, he said.
“We needed to make sure there was a project here to be had,” Harris said.
Ives plans to hold a forum in late January to have Ranger Solar present the project to residents and answer questions.
Harris said the company plans to make its formal application to the Siting Council, which has complete jurisdiction over the project, this year. Harris said the company would like to see the solar farm operational in 2018-19.