The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 26, 2010

ConsCom listens to energy task force proposal

Carlisle Energy Task Force member Steve Hinton described the group’s proposal for a zoning overlay district to allow streamlined approval of photovoltaic energy generation facilities when he spoke with the Conservation Commission meeting on November 18. The commission responded with mixed emotions when he asked their opinion of building a solar panel array in the wetlands near the transfer station.

The zoning overlay district is one of the requirements for Carlisle’s qualification as a Green Community. Designation was desirable, Hinton said, because it would make the town eligible for state grants. “Every year they give away $8 million. Even if the number of qualified towns doubled, there’d be about $100,000 to spend per town.” He said the grants might be used to support energy-efficiency projects such as improving the Town Hall HVAC system, or installing solar panels on the school roof.

It is not necessary for a solar energy facility to be built for the town to qualify as a Green Community and he noted, “We don’t know if anyone will want to build one in Carlisle.” However, he said the task force is trying to design the overlay district so that if an energy generation facility were proposed, it would be acceptable to the community.

The district would need to include at least an acre of land because it must be large enough to allow production of 250KW of power. Another acre of cleared land may be needed to ensure adequate sunlight.

Hinton asked if the commission would permit a solar energy generation facility in a wetland. He gave as example solar panels installed on a steel lattice framework up to 20 feet tall with concrete footings. The structure would partially shade the wetland and there would be vegetation cleared. He said, “I’m trying to present the worst case.”

Commissioners supported the Green Communities concept. However, Commissioner Peter Burn noted, “I’m on record earlier tonight as opposing post holes in wetlands.” Commissioner Jenifer Bush asked, “Why choose to build in a wetlands?” Hinton replied that the task force was trying to place the overlay district on town land well away from houses. He said that the school parking lot had been rejected, because it was too close to the historic district. An alternative site being considered is a storm-water retention area on the Banta-Davis Land.

Guarino asked, “Why do you need a ‘Yeah’ or ‘Nay’ from us now?” Hinton replied, “We can’t have an overlay that is not feasible to build in.”

Burn said, “This is a great idea, Steve, but take it out of our [wetland] jurisdiction. Put it at Banta-Davis.” Hinton said the task force will present the solar energy facility district proposal in a public hearing on December 14. Town Meeting approval is required to adopt a bylaw for the zoning overlay district. ∆

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