Ameresco, dba Candlewood Solar, a Massachusetts-based company, is seeking permission from the State of Connecticut’s Siting Council to build one of the largest solar plants in the state on the top of New Milford’s Candlewood Mountain.
It is considered part of a core forest and home to numerous wildlife species, vernal pools and upland wetlands. The destruction of this forest to accommodate the project will have environmental consequences for generations to come.
Candlewood Mountain is part of the Housatonic Range Trail, a 6.2-mile footpath that starts in Gaylordsville and ends at the top of Candlewood Mountain, just north of the Facility location.
The Trail is also part of Connecticut's Blue Trail system and is maintained by volunteers.
The proposed Project Area consists of approximately 72.8 acres of land including the facility, 60,000 solar PV panels, eight (8) inverters solar panels, electric interconnection route and access road.
The project will require the clear cutting of approximately 56+ acres of core forest. It will also utilize 14+ acres of farmland.
At an average of 209 trees per acre, it is estimated that approximately 12,000 trees six (6) inches wide DBH (diameter at breast height) will be clear cut to accommodate this Project.
In addition, the developers will use a dirt driveway and Candlewood Mountain Road, home to a rural, quiet residential area, as its primary access to the project – during construction and operation.
The panels and glare will be visible from many areas in both New Milford and Sherman.
The electricity that is generated at the plant will feed into the New England NE ISO power grid.
While the project was greenlighted by the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Connecticut “passed on the Ameresco project because officials believed the projected power prices were too high.” (Danbury News Times, July 15, 2017, https://cleanenergyrfp.com/)
Candlewood Solar negotiated with the Mayor and Town Council for a tax abatement, without which, they could not afford to do this project. Plus the town has given up any right to Audits, Inspection of Records or Request for Declarations. In other words, for the next 20 years New Milford taxpayers will be subsidizing this utility so they can realize profits for their investors.
Construction of the project will take approximately 6 months and potentially create “over 250 construction jobs and over 30 operation jobs potentially in the areas of surveying, system installation, landscaping and site work and utility work.” These jobs will then disappear and the plant will operate with minimal staffing.
WHO IS RESCUE Candlewood Mountain
We are a coalition of Greater New Milford residents seeking to provide a fact-based overview of Candlewood Solar’s proposed 20 MW (megawatt) solar power plant in New Milford.
We strongly support renewable energy but believe it must be sited properly. There should not have to be a tradeoff between preserving our forests, farms and neighborhoods and clean energy. Clear cutting 56+ acres of forest does not save our environment.
Indeed, our state lawmakers agree and passed new legislation which took effect on July 1, 2017 no longer allowing approval of solar power plants on core forest lands without Department of Energy and Environmental Protection written representation to the Siting Council that such project will not materially affect the status of such land as core forest.
THE PROCESS AND TIMELINE
The Connecticut Siting Council has jurisdiction over the siting of power facilities and transmission lines to include hazardous waste facilities. The Council’s jurisdiction has been extended to include various other forms of infrastructure including telecommunications sites.
On June 28, 2017 Ameresco, dba Candlewood Solar, filed a petition with the Siting Council “For a Declaratory Ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need is Required for the Construction, Operation, and Maintenance of a 20.0 MW AC Solar Photovoltaic Facility In New Milford, Connecticut.”
In other words, they are asking for an automatic approval without having to prove anything.
The Siting Council has accepted the application as complete and has noticed a six-month time table in which to make a decision.
The hearings are limited to evidence submitted by the petitioner (Candlewood Solar) or the parties and intervenors. The Council may also ask further questions of the petitioner that directly address concerns expressed by persons making oral limited appearance statements. Testimony for the evidentiary hearing must be submitted by September 19.
No person who is a party or intervenor in the proceeding may also make an oral limited appearance statement during the public comment session of the hearing or submit a written limited appearance statement to the Council before, during or after the hearing.
Following the public hearing, continued public hearings and cross-examination will continue at the Siting Council’s New Britain Offices. They have set a date of October 26, 2017 to close the record, however, the Council can extend this (and other dates) if they feel they need more time to adequately evaluate the testimony and project.
Their staff will then draft a finding of fact and decision for the Council to consider, with a tentative December 22, 2017 deadline for a decision.