Present: Planning Board: Chair Jeffrey Miller, Vice-Chair Dennis Marcom, Secretary James Aldrich, Jeff White, Jason Perron, Jeff Harrington. Alternates: Jeff Colley, Joanna Andros. Zoning Board of Adjustment: Chair Myra Mansouri, Don Sellarole.
Recording: Marilou Blaine. These minutes are unapproved and will be reviewed at the regular June 2019 meeting for corrections, additions and/or omissions.
Mr. Miller called the meeting to order at 7 pm.
The purpose of this meeting was to finalize the language of the Nonresidential Solar Regulations because a Public Hearing on this document is scheduled for the regular Planning Board meeting on June 11, 2019 in the Town Hall and the document must be posted in two places within 10 days of the hearing.
The Board has spent several months working on two interim solar documents. One, which is already complete and in use, is for residential installations and attached to the building permit process. The other document is for nonresidential solar installations.
The process was as follows: At the first meeting last fall a lot of ideas were thrown out about what Board members already knew and what was good and definitely not good for Walpole. Board members look at ordinances from other towns about the size of Walpole as well as the NHSEA Model Solar Zoning Ordinance, prepared by the NH Municipal Association, which covered everything that an ordinance needed to have in it including things that didn’t apply to a small town like Walpole. After realizing there was so much information out there and so many varieties of installations, it was decided a couple of members should cull together the information and put together a draft of possible regulations. The result was several months of draft for solar regulations for nonresidential installations put together by Jeff Colley and Joanna Andros.
When the first draft for nonresidential installations was finished, the Board began taking out regulations, adding some and tinkering with the language of the document.
At this May workshop meeting, Ms. Andros referred to the Planning Board’s regular May meeting in which there was a discussion of larger installations now being considered because the NH state legislature has recently increased the mega watts for an installation from 1 to 5 and that requires larger parcels of land in the 30 to 35 acre range. Later in the meeting Mr. Aldrich said he didn’t see these larger solar farms coming to Walpole.
Then a good portion of the meeting focused on draft regulation 2.3 – “Abandonment: Assent notice of a proposed date of decommissioning or written notice of extenuating circumstance, the non-residential solar facility shall be considered abandoned when it fails to operate for more than one year without the written consent of the Planning Board. If the owner or operator fails to remove the installation in accordance with the requirements of this section within one hundred fifty (150) days of abandonment or the proposed date of decommissioning, the Town may enter the property and physically remove the facility.” Several Board members people felt this might mean that the Town and its taxpayers would be left with the cost of decommissioning an installation and that the language “at the expense of the owner” should be added.
Mr. Miller said that the Site Plan already includes verbiage regarding decommissioning. Others were not convinced that it was enough and thought there should be some phrase in the document that indicated that the owner should be responsible for taking the installation down. Mr. Perron cited language from the town of Peterborough Solar Ordinance and also referenced the NH Municipal Association’s recommendation in its document on solar installations. ZBA member Pauline Barnes, who was not at the meeting but sent an email to be distributed at the meeting, cited Section XI Performance Guarantees in the Site Plan saying that the Site Plan “does provide for bonds and sureties, but only with regard to “completion” of a project – in other words, putting something up, not taking something down.”
Mr. White mentioned there was a cost of getting rid of the batteries. Ms. Mansouri said that currently only gravel pits are required to pay for their decommissioning.
After the discussion on the language about decommissioning was complete and added to, the Board discussed two sections in Part 1 – In addition to the submission requirements in the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review Regulation, the applicant shall provide the following documents: Sections 1.3 and 1.4 – “Copy of approved permits awarded to the applicant by electrical utilities associated with the project.” and “Copy of power purchase agreement.” respectively.
The discussion centered around that the more important point was that the town should know about the agreement between the owner and the utility commission and that the agreement between the owner/operator was none of the town’s business.
Here is the final document. There will be a Public Hearing regarding adding these regulations to the Site Plan at the regular meeting of the Planning Board on June 11 at 7 pm in the Town Hall. The Public is encouraged to attend.
Town of Walpole, NH
Site Plan: Nonresidential Solar Facilities
May 28, 2019
Site Plan Review: All non residential solar energy installations whose value exceeds $10,000 shall undergo site plan review by the Planning Board prior to construction, installation, or modification as provided in this section. All installations shall conform to the goals and objectives identified in Walpole’s Master Plan.
1. Required Documents: In addition to the submission requirements in the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review Regulations, the applicant shall provide the following documents:
1.1 Plans and drawings of the solar installation signed and stamped by a Professional Engineer licensed to practice in New Hampshire showing the proposed layout of the system.
1.2 For ground-mounted solar collection systems with solar land coverage greater than 5 acres, an operation and maintenance plan including measures for maintaining safe access and general procedures for operating and maintaining the installation.
1.3 Copy of approved permits awarded to the applicant by the electrical utilities associated with the project.
1.4 Statement that the solar energy system will be installed in compliance with manufacturers’ specifications.
1.5 Statement that the owner/operator will construct and operate each solar energy system in compliance with all applicable local, State, and Federal codes, laws, orders regulations and rules.
2. Decommissioning or Abandonment
2.1 Removal Requirements: Any nonresidential solar installation that has reached the end of its useful life or has been abandoned shall be removed. The owner or operator shall physically remove the installation within one hundred fifty (150) days after the date of discontinued operations. The owner or operator shall notify the Planning Board by certified mail of the proposed date of discontinued operations and plans for removal.
2.2 Decommissioning: Decommissioning shall consist of:
2.2.1. Physical removal of the solar arrays, structures, equipment, security barriers, and electrical transmission lines from the site.
2.2.2. Stabilization or re-vegetation of the site as necessary to minimize erosion. The Planning Board may allow the owner or operator to leave landscaping or below-grade foundations in order to minimize erosion and disruption of vegetation.
2.3 Abandonment: Absent notice of a proposed date of decommissioning or written notice of extenuating circumstances, the nonresidential solar facility shall be considered abandoned when it fails to operate for more than one year without the written consent of the Planning Board. The owner/operator shall remove an abandoned installation within one hundred fifty (150) days of abandonment or the proposed date of decommissioning.
2.4 To assure that such removal takes place a performance guarantee shall be provided in a form that is acceptable to the Planning Board, equal to the estimated cost of removal of the approved facilities.