Franklin planning board to hear from public on proposed 3-megawatt solar farm

Monitor staff
Published: 4/23/2019 5:23:31 PM

A Portsmouth company is looking to build a three-megawatt solar array on 13 acres of residential land in Franklin.

New Hampshire Solar Garden has submitted a site plan for a project that would involve at least 10,000 solar panels between 293 Sanborn St., and Duffy and Marks streets, said Franklin City Planner Dick Lewis. The array would be connected to the power grid with the energy sold through a power purchase agreement.

Chris Nadeau of Nobis Engineering, a Concord company handling planning for the solar array, said panels would likely be 7-feet tall and 14- to- 15-feet wide, according to minutes from a Dec. 19 planning board meeting. Nadeau said the panels would be concealed from abutters by shrubbery and fencing.

A public hearing on the project’s site plan is scheduled for Wednesday at Franklin City Hall at 6 p.m.

New Hampshire Solar Garden was the same company that planned to develop an 8.5-megawatt solar project in Franklin three years ago. That project would have been the state’s largest solar installation but fell through after a bill that would raise the net metering cap failed in the Legislature.

The land for the latest proposal, owned by General Properties and Sun Development Group, is located in low-density residential and single-family residential zoning districts.

Usually, a developer would need to obtain a variance to build an industrial project in a residential zone. However, Franklin’s city attorney is pointing to a state statute, which provides exceptions for renewable energy projects.

RSA 672-1.3a states, “the installation of solar, wind, or other renewable energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of renewable energy shall not be unreasonably limited by the use of municipal zoning powers.”

“They have more flexibility in where they can be located compared to industrial projects and housing,” Lewis said of solar projects. “Municipalities can only restrict them under very limited circumstances.”

During Wednesday’s public hearing, Franklin’s planning board will discuss security, fencing, management and drainage at the proposed solar site, Lewis said.

“There’s a lot of issues to consider and we need to hear from the public,” Lewis said.

When the conceptual plan for the solar array was first proposed to the board in December, Nadeau said then that the panels would be set at a 30-degree angle, with about 15 feet of grass between each row. The entrance would be off Duffy Street.

During that meeting, planning board chairman David Liberatore recused himself over his involvement in the project. He was the realtor for the land sale last year when General Properties purchased their portion of the land proposed for the solar array, according to minutes.

(Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @LeahMWillingham.)

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