Norfolk County Solar Project At Agricultural School Encounters Opposition

The field where the Norfolk County Commission proposes building a dual-use solar array on the Norfolk Agricultural School campus. Photo: Chris Fama/WBZ NewsRadio

WALPOLE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — The Norfolk County Commission is holding a public comment meeting on a proposed solar array on the campus of the Norfolk Agricultural School later this month.

Opponents of the project are criticizing it because they say it will be placed on prime agricultural land. The array would need to clear-cut four acres of trees on the land, and the rest would be built on a pre-existing hay field.

Walpole Finance Committee Member Brian Bain said he supports solar power, but "would like to make sure that there's transparency with this project, and that the Commission is doing their due diligence." He said the county should be studying all of its properties in its 28 towns and cities to ensure this is the right spot for the array.

The county has been working on ideas for a solar array on the site since at least late 2017. The plan was originally slated to cut down more trees, but has since been scaled down. The current outline calls for a dual-use agricultural-solar array, which would allow at least some agriculture to continue under a raised bed of solar panels.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy offers a program that repays farmers for converting their land to dual-use solar, which the county cites in its proposal.

Matt Sheehan sits on the Board of Directors at the Agricultural School, and is also running for County Commissioner. "It's just not the right fit," he said. "The county government has ten other properties with roofs and parking lots where we could build solar arrays," he said.

Kearsarge Energy, the company that would build and operate the panels, says the carbon offset of the panels is equivalent to cutting down more than 180,000 gallons of gas consumption.

A statement from the County Commission says it is examining the project, which it says will create educational opportunities, reduce the school's carbon foot print, and generate revenue.

WBZ's Chris Fama (@CFamaWBZ) has more:

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