Monday, August 02, 2021

Local News

North Branford Council Backs Proposed Solar Farm on Forest Road

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The array site would be on privately-owned land at 127 Forest Road (Route 22), shown here. 

Image from Google Earth

The array site would be on privately-owned land at 127 Forest Road (Route 22), shown here. Image from Google Earth)

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Citrione Power LLC's rendering showing the siting of its proposed 2 megawatt ground mounted solar array at privately-owned at 127 Forest Road was shared July 7 during the Town Council meeting. Forest Road is to the left of the screen.

Image Capture from Totoket TV Facebook

Citrione Power LLC's rendering showing the siting of its proposed 2 megawatt ground mounted solar array at privately-owned at 127 Forest Road was shared July 7 during the Town Council meeting. Forest Road is to the left of the screen. Image Capture from Totoket TV Facebook)

With support from the Town Council, a section of privately-owned North Branford farmland that fills up with sunflowers in summer is one step closer to sprouting a solar farm; and potentially generating an estimated $90,000 annual power bill savings to the Town for a period of 25 years.

On July 21, after discussion and review of a July 7 a presentation by Citrione Power LLC (Westport), the Town Council voted unanimously to support Citrione's proposed installation of 2 megawatt ground mounted solar array at privately-owned land at 127 Forest Road, and to negotiate a contract with Citrione for the purchase of power produced from the site at a reduced rate. The vote also authorized Town Manager Mike Paulhus, together with Town Attorney Vincent Marino and council members Rose Marie Angeloni and Ron Pelliccia, to negotiate the contract on behalf of the Town.

There is no investment on the part of the Town for the project, which will be an installation owned and operated by Citrione on land to be leased for 25 years from property owner Mark DiLongo. The plan proposes installing 6,000 solar array panels on 8 to 10 acres of the 27-acre property, with the remaining acreage left as farm.

After 25 years, the installation site could revert back to farmland, Economic Commission (EDC) chair Elisabeth Caplan told the council on July 7.

"After 25 years, the lease is up [and] the panels can be taken down, dismantled and it can go back to a farm. It is not going to permanently alter the landscape," said Caplan, adding, that, as an alternative, "...Mark can do what he wishes with the property. He can build houses on it if he wishes. He is trying to help the town ... and yes, I'm sure he'll make money; as he should.  This is a win-win for this community."

Caplan also spoke to the current sunflower field where the array would be sited, saying that, while "... its near and dear to our hearts as a community; I think we have to balance this potential for cost savings with the Town with the bucolic nature of our town at the same time; and the Economic Development Commission is always thinking of this. Roger [Salway, Economic Development Coordinator] is always thinking of this when he talks to potential businesses that are interested in coming to our community."

To create compromises addressing some concerns arising during preliminary discussions about the installation, Citrione managing partner Cela Sinay-Bernie highlighted for the council changes to some of the original plan, most notably moving the proposed array back 200 feet from Forest Road, rather than the plan's originally proposed buffer of 15 feet. Due to moving the array back, together with the anticipated presence of some wetlands in the area, as well as the desire not to change a currently-proposed buffer boundary with residential Marjorie Drive, the company also reduced its original 6,500 panel plan by 500 panels. The array, which will be fenced in, will be bordered by plantings of shrubs and other landscaping, including sunflowers along Forest Road (to be installed by a local landscaper). Together with existing trees in the area, the plantings will further mitigate views of the installation for passerby and between area residential streets including Marjorie Drive, said Sinay-Bernie.

Citrione has installations in other Connecticut towns including East Haven and Middlefield and partners with local agencies to develop beneficial programs in the communities. Sinay-Berinie said ideas which have already been suggested in initial discussions with the North Branford include adding a pollinator path, planting a sunflower garden border, creating an educational curriculum in partnership with the Board of Education (including internship opportunities) and guided school field trips to the array.

Due to being a power facility, by state statute, the Connecticut Siting Council will have jurisdiction over the siting of the installation. The siting council takes into consideration municipal land agency, leadership and residential input, approvals or other actions, such as the Town's decision to enter into a contract with a company.

With the council's July 21 vote to negotiate a contract with Citrione and to support the installation project, Sinay-Bernie said next steps would include submitting the project for the Town's permitting process. The plan would need to be reviewed by town land agencies including the Planning and Zoning Commission.

"We want to work with the Town and get the neighbors input," Sinay-Bernie said to the council on July 21. "We're eager to move on to that stage, where if we can have a successful negotiation with you, we can put our permit packet together."


Pam Johnson covers news for Branford and North Branford for Zip06. Email Pam at p.johnson@shorepublishing.com.

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