Hadley identifies targets for municipal solar projects

Hadley Town Hall

Hadley Town Hall FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 01-25-2024 11:08 AM

HADLEY — A former town landfill, the roofs of the elementary school, library and senior center and a municipal parking lot in Hadley center are being identified as possible locations that could be ideal for future solar installations.

“All of these are pretty good targets for solar power,” Nick d’Arbeloff, vice president of SunBug Solar in Boston, told the Select Board on Jan. 17. “There’s no such thing as an easy solar project, but they would lean toward straightforward.”

D’Arbeloff and Jonathan Parrott of Chesterfield, program coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, were invited to speak to the elected board by Town Administrator Carolyn Brennan as an update on efforts to bring photovoltaics to town properties.

So far, Brennan said, getting solar arrays on town buildings and land has proven difficult, with limited response to bids to put solar panels on the Senior Center roof and issues with the library roof preventing bids from being sought.

“We’re definitely having problems doing it separately,” Brennan said.

Town officials are also interested in having Eversource look at solar on the former landfill. The 14.6-acre site, along the Connecticut River off Cemetery Road, could generate 2½ megawatts of power to offset electrical loads at municipal buildings.

Parrott said there are challenges of transition to renewables and a likely lag of getting projects developed. Even though state rules favor putting solar on previously disturbed areas, it would likely be three years before a landfill project could begin producing power.

In looking at what is available for space to place solar arrays in town, d’Arbeloff said he really wants to find the “big wins.” His discussions with Brennan have included the library roof, the parking lots between the library and senior center, the landfill and the elementary school roof.

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The roofs of the senior center and library are small, though, meaning there would be little offset of the electrical loads for other buildings. A decent amount of power could be produced from parking lot canopies, he said.

The larger targets, d’Arbeloff said, are the elementary school roof and landfill.

“The elementary school’s roof is an excellent target,” d’Arbeloff said, adding that the structural integrity would have to be examined to make sure it can handle solar, on top of snow and ice during the winter. The landfill, already capped, would have issues of its own.

There may also be a need to have utility-scale batteries associated with the projects, which Parrott said are part of the solution for delivering responsibly created power at all times, including at night and on cloud-covered days.