Developers outline new plan for Chester town solar farm

Ian Jewkes, left, and Luke Shullenberger hold the new plans against a wall. Click photo to enlarge. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

Ian Jewkes, left, and Luke Shullenberger hold the new plans against a wall. The original plans are in Jewkes left hand. Click photo to enlarge. Photos by Shawn Cunningham.

By Shawn Cunningham


A new plan for the Chester town solar farm was unveiled Monday morning, as the Chester Select Board and about 10 residents gathered at the Jeffrey well site on Route 103 North to look at  plans for the 500 mega kilowatt solar farm that will be built there – possibly as early as this fall.

Ian Jewkes, a partner in the engineering firm of Krebs & Lansing of Colchester, responded to board chairman John DeBenedetti’s request that they discuss the location and height of the panels as well as what measures would be taken to fence and screen the site.

The new plan unveiled by Jewkes showed two areas of solar panels separated by the existing road that leads to the building in the middle of the field. “That layout is totally different,” noted Jeff Holden, Chester’s water superintendent referring to the preliminary plan submitted to the town a couple of weeks ago. The old plan consisted of one long strip of panels. (See photo above right for comparison.)

“We had to push it over,” said Jewkes, explaining that the site has a Class 3 wetland on one side and a flood zone on the other.  Jewkes said that this seemed to be the best solution. “We’re here for input,” said Jewkes, “this is a work in progress.”

The Chester Select Board held a special meeting on Monday at solar farm site.

The Chester Select Board held a special meeting on Monday at solar farm site.

“Personally, I don’t have a problem with it,” responded Holden.

That seemed to be the consensus of the crowd. The new drawing shows the solar field concentrated at the northern section of the 17 acre parcel. Several in attendance noted that this was a better configuration for neighbors including Steve Copping, whose house across Route 103 overlooks the site.

According to Jewkes, Michael Buscher of T.J. Boyle – a landscape architecture firm – is working on the screening for the project including trees to be planted along the road.

Asked about the anchoring of the solar panels, Luke Schullenberger of Green Lantern  — the project’s the developer — said that they would not be using the large concrete slabs like those being set in the large installation at the corner of Routes 103 and 7 just south of Rutland. Instead, Green Lantern plans to drive 8×10 I-beams for a cleaner look.

The question of fencing is still in flux. The requirement is that whatever barrier is used should be as difficult to climb as a 7- foot chain link fence. But the requirements of the Public Service Board for security and the Agency of Natural Resources for wildlife are somewhat in conflict. The current proposal is to use a lightweight fence that’s painted black. The fence would feature 6-inch square panels on the bottom to allow small animals to move around and 3-inch mesh above that.

Schullenberger pointed out that Green Lantern is subject to guidance by the ANR and that he would be making a preliminary filing – a 45-day notice of application – with Vermont’s PSB. He estimated that if everything goes well, the solar farm could be in operation by October.

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