The “View” of the Solar Farm from Pond St
I am going to start from the beginning. The solar farm project on Pond Street started in September of 2019. Before the project was even brought in front of the town my husband attended a meeting with the Boy Scouts and the project was discussed. Once the project came to the town public hearing notices went out and some of the neighbors besides ourselves became involved. There were a few meetings between September and the Spring of 2020 where the solar farm was discussed but was moving rather slow. Spring of 2020 we were in the middle of a pandemic. Things started to go slow, there were less meetings discussing the solar farm until September 2020, keep in mind all the meetings during the pandemic time where being held on zoom.
At one of the Planning Board meeting the neighbors were told that the applicant wasn’t going to be at the meeting, and we didn’t need to attend. The applicant showed up anyway on another project and Pond Street was discussed. At another Planning Board meeting we were never told at all that they would be discussing Pond Stret and they absolutely did. Their defense, all these times there were telling us about the meeting was to do our of courtesy for the neighbors, they were not required to do so. That was when I had enough, I rallied more of the neighbors, I went door to door asking to help save our neighborhood.
We have the neighbors more involved and the community did a quick petition, we had 500 signatures in two weeks. We researched and researched and brought all our concerns to the planning board. We felt that all our concerns fell on deaf ears, because remember all these meetings where on zoom. The neighborhood hired and attorney our of our own pocket (with help from the community) help us fight. We brought in a professor from URI who did an extensive study on the depreciation of house values the closer you are to a solar array. The study was on over 400,000 homes sold before and after a solar array had gone in. That was still inconclusive for the Planning Board. Keep in mind one of our town by-laws states house values should not be affected by a solar farm.
At the end of March, the Planning Board made its decision to approve the solar farm with conditions. This isn’t the only solar farm we have intown. This is the only solar farm that has a battery storage component. Now everyone thought the neighborhood just did not want to look at a solar farm, and honestly, we didn’t, but we will for the first 10 years until all the plantings grow, another bylaw we have that the planning board chose to ignore.
The biggest concern we had and have is the battery! This battery is the same type of battery that is used in Tesla vehicles. Electric cars/buses and solar panels that on your home, want to know the difference. This battery is the size of a shipping container. Do you know what else, there isn’t have just one battery, there are two. Two shipping size containers less than 500 feet from our front doors.
Have you seen what happens when these batteries catch fire and explode? If not look into it. Do you know how these fires are put out once go up in flames? They don’t, they can’t, they evacuate the area and wait for it to burn out. As it burns, you know what is between our homes and this burning battery, 75 feet of trees. Do you know what comes out of that battery as it burns, so many toxic chemicals. Do you now where those toxic chemicals go after they burn out, into our environment and groundwater. Do you know what happens once toxic chemicals get into the groundwater and our aquifer, they destroy our wells. Do you know what happens when our well are destroyed, simple we have no water. Now say we only didn’t want to look at the panels we are trying to protect our health safety and welfare of all of us in our town. If can say you wouldn’t have fought for your families and your neighbors then stop reading here because the sad part is this the first neighborhood in our town that is getting this type of solar farm, but I guarantee it won’t be the last, your neighborhood could be next. Any existing solar farm in town can get these storage batteries installed
When the planning board was discussing the solar farm, the “Dover Amendment” came up. Quickly, it is an amendment in Massachusetts that gives solar farms development the upper hand, but if you read it closer is says towns cannot turn down all solar projects. Rehoboth currently has 6 and we think this one could have been fought against. You know what the “Dover Amendment” doesn’t cover, the installation of lithium-ion battery storage facilities.
In the interest of public health, safety and welfare and the fact they are less than 500 feet from our homes we think the town had a chance in court.
Fast forward to now. One of the conditions, Condition 25, of the Special Permit is strict on the installation of the battery. The developer had not yet met these conditions. The Planning Board a few weeks ago sent a certified letter to the developer and told them until Condition 25 was met no work will begin on the property including tree cutting. Well, this week they ignored the letter the tree cutting has begun.
A cease-and-desist letter has been served to the developer by the Building Inspector/Zoning Officer and work is ‘supposed” to stop. That has yet to happen.
Like I said before, this is our neighborhood now, but it could be yours next. This neighborhood is going to be in constant fear of the battery exploding and destroying our homes, effecting our health safety and welfare. Our neighborhood doesn’t have a choice.
I have since become a member of the Planning Board because if you want change you have to be part of if it to make it happen.
Three members of the planning board remain that voted to approve this project. One sadly resigned right after the Pond Street decision. One was up for re-election right after the vote and decided not to run “because of this vote” his direct words to me. One member the next year decided not to run when his term was up, and one hasn’t showed up to a meeting in over a year and has no plans to do so. He is going to wait until his term expires next April and just not run for re-election and as of now, he has no plans to resign.
The next Planning Board meeting is September 7 at 7pm at Francs Farm. The developer is supposed to be there as well. The Planning Board has asked them numerous times to come to a meeting, they have yet to appear. If you can attend the meeting, please do to show your support for the neighborhood that is dealing with this unfortunate circumstance and will have to live with the fear that on any given day something could go wrong with the battery system. Your neighborhood might want support in the future.
Thank you for reading, I know it was long, but our community needs to be aware. This isn’t a simple solar farm; it is much more with the battery storage facility. Go green, be green, love green there is nothing green about clear cutting 14 acres of forest and the dangers that this battery brings to our neighborhood less than 500 feet from out front doors.
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