Posted by: coastlinesproject | October 8, 2014

Newbury MA, Borrego Solar Farm.

Chapter 10

Borrego Solar

Newbury, Massachusetts

August 19, 2014

 

“You basically have the best policy           environment that there is in the country.”

 

Joe Harrison

Borrego Solar

 

On August 19, 2014 Conservation agent Doug Packer closed the Newbury Conservation Commission’s public meeting and the commissioners unanimously approved a plan by Borrego Solar to build 7,000 solar modules on 10 acres of land owned by Ruth Yesair.

 

But the commissioners continued an open meeting on Borrego’s second plan to install 9,000 modules on one of Mrs. Yesair’s other properties zoned for agricultural purposes but near a wetlands area. Together, the two projects would be able to produce electricity to power 50,000 homes during off-peak hours, and 2,500 during high use times.

 

It was also not lost on the commissioners that the town of Newbury stood to collect $50,000 a year if the two projects passed. Perhaps they could protect themselves by turning down the controversial project while approving the other one. At least it seemed worth a try.

 

Joe Harrison, Borrego’s project manager, stressed that Mrs. Yesair was an environmentalist and felt that this was the best way to protect her land from traditional development. When the solar lease ran out in 20 years, the land could be restored to its original condition and passed on to her heirs. That wouldn’t happen if she had to sell the land for housing units.

 

Joe didn’t have to push too hard on the project. Borrego was one of the oldest and largest solar companies in the United States. The company had started in 1980 when the astrophysicist Dr. Richards went off-grid by putting solar panels to his home in Borrego Springs, California.

 

But the company opened an office in Massachusetts in 2007 because the state had the best tax incentive program in the country. The commonwealth was adding solar generated electricity to the grid almost as fast as Germany. It had doubled its capacity to 462 megawatts in one year, exceeded its goal for 2017 and was already working on producing 1,600 megawatts of solar electricity by 2020. Joe explained to a reporter, “You basically have the best policy environment that there is in the country.”

 

Mrs. Yesair’s projects still had to overcome opposition from some of her neighbors. They were concerned that the arrays would lower their property values even though the panels would be hidden behind arborvitae trees.

 

But the writing was on the wall. It was clear that Massachusetts wanted to build small land-based commercial solar arrays to help provide electricity to its homes and industries without having to import more oil and pollute the atmosphere. It was a small step in the right direction. But was

this the right location?

 

####

 

William Sargent is a member of Storm Surge. His latest book, Islands in the Storm is available in local bookstores and through www.strawberryhillpress.com and Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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