Stow Independent... Online
November 2, 2011
Solar Farm Hoping for Roots in Stow
By Nancy Arsenault
A Massachusetts company is looking to install a twenty-acre solar panel
field on a property that resides in both Stow and Bolton. Recent
legislation allows renewable energy utilities to locate in any
municipality where a site is conducive to their needs, the property
owner is in agreement and local permitting requirements can be met.
Renewable Energy of Massachusetts LLC, in partnership with Syncarpha
Capital and Hudson Light & Power Company, already have a signed
lease to the 12-acre Stow portion of the land on the western side of
Delaney Street, just inside the intersection with Great Road. This open
field is owned by Teradyne Corp., which acquired the GenRad site on Rt.
117 in Bolton some years ago, including the Stow parcel. A lease is
still being negotiated for the 8-acre Bolton parcel, according to
Renewable Energy sources.
The site plan is categorized as a 2.5 megawat DC layout; something
that, when in full operation can glean enough solar energy to produce
electricity for 400 homes. “This facility will generate approximately 3
million kilowatt hours of AC-grid ready power each year, though the
generation amount degrades as the facility ages and the system should
last at least 30 years,” said spokesmen for Renewable Energy.
“We are looking to do more projects like this,” said Yakov Levin of
HL&P. The privately-owned utility has already experimented with
solar by installing a residential system on the roof of their power
plant in Hudson, to not only bring additional power to their operation,
but to serve as a live model for interested homeowners who may be
considering a similar solar layout.
Before even a shovelful of soil can be turned over for construction,
some hurdles still have to be overcome, according to the project’s
Most recently, Sycopath Capital appealed to Stow’s
Board of Assessors to grant the project a PILOT tax status, (Payment in
Lieu of Taxes). This agreed upon lump sum would be similar to
arrangements the town has with HL&P and which many other towns have
with utilities, both traditional and renewable.
The project has offered to pay the town of Stow $12,000 per year for
the PILOT, and then also pay the property taxes as determined by the
assessment, an amount that now comes in at a little less than $8,000
annually for the twelve acres. Together, the two payments would equal
close to $20,000 for the town each year.
“The fact of the matter is that solar energy's equipment costs remain
too expensive, compared to fossil fuel energy, still to be able to
deliver a town wholesale power while also paying a high yearly tax bill.
The economics of large scale solar projects are not viable if the
project costs get too high, such as high tax rates, which would put the
project at risk of not getting done,” explained the executives of
Renewable Energy, Bob Knowlton and Brian Kopperi.
Last week, the Board of Selectmen were told by Town Administrator
William Wrigley that the Assessors did not favor a PILOT plan. Assessor
Dotty Wilbur later said that more tax revenue could be collected if the
property became a residential lot, or a few residential lots, each with a
newly constructed home. “The PILOT proposed in the Syncarpha letter is
particularly unfair to the town since the amount proposed is hardly the
equivalent of the property tax obligation based on full and fair market
value. It more closely matches the tax obligation of one new home,” the
Assessors wrote to the Selectmen in October.
The site is currently not being offered for sale, only for lease,
according to Renewable Energy spokesmen. It is also classified as a
Brownfield site, one that is undergoing continual cleanup efforts and
monitoring by the DEP in regards to the existence of hazardous waste in
the property’s environment from earlier manufacturing operations;
something that does not make it an ideal site for residential
“While the Assessors understand the environmental significance of
green energy, as well as the need for budgeting, they also understand
that ultimately, this is a business with substantial rewards in the form
of grants to build and credits – Solar Renewable Energy Certificates,”
explained Assessor Dotty Wilbur of the government subsidies that will
help fund the project. Using a calculation formula associated with a
proposed bill in the House concerning solar projects and a depreciating
tax schedule, the Assessors determined that an acceptable annual tax for
the project would be $100,000.
The Assessors have agreed to look for guidance from the Department of
Revenue as to how renewable energy utility projects should be taxed, an
option supported by the Selectmen.
”A 2.5 MW solar facility in
partnership with Teradyne, Hudson Light & Power, Syncarpha Solar and
the Town of Stow would be a win-win for all parties involved. A solar
facility is an appropriate and positive reuse of this otherwise
undevelopable site. Solar facilities are quiet, unobtrusive neighbors
that are low to the ground (10 feet off the ground at their highest
point). The facility will provide clean, affordable, renewable energy
to the people of Stow, through its utility Hudson Light & Power, for
decades to come,” said Renewable Energy in a written statement on
Though the developers have indicated that a favorable tax structure
will be a deciding factor in locating this project in Stow, they are
still moving forward to gain permit approval for their design. They
hope to begin construction in the spring of 2012, anticipating a short
4-6-month period before the entire farm would be producing useable