Mayor Recommends Approval of Hilldale Avenue Solar Farm

(File photograph.)

Note: Story updated to reflect expected postponement.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini during a recent Open Mike Show.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini during a recent Open Mike Show.

Once Mayor James J. Fiorentini returns from vacation, the Haverhill City Council will be asked to approve city agreements for solar energy services, including one to advance a developer’s plans for a 4.2 megawatt solar farm at the upper Hilldale Avenue industrial park.

Fiorentini requests the council approve a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) and net metering credit agreements with Bluewave Capital Castle Neck River LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. The developer would construct and operate the solar facility on about 16 acres of former agricultural land at 1050 Hilldale Ave., near Saint Joseph Cemetery. Under the proposed 20-year agreement, the city would annually receive $75,000 the first five years and, with 2.5 percent increases every five years, up to $80,767 from years 16 to 20. The payments, made by quarterly installments, would begin the “fiscal tax year following the first January 1 on or after the completion date.” The project has received all local approvals, according to Fiorentini.

“The PILOT agreement starts at $75,000 and increases every five years for a projected total over the 20 year period of $1,557,195.00,” Fiorentini said in a letter. “The city has already received payment from the developer to remove the property from the Chapter 61 agricultural restriction. The documents have been reviewed by both the city solicitor and Meister Group, the city’s solar energy consultant.”

The agreement, submitted by City Energy Manager Orlando Pacheco, was to have been voted on this week, but is expected to be postponed until next week’s meeting, according to David S. Van Dam, chief of staff to Fiorentini. He told WHAV the mayor is “on vacation.”

A separate net metering credit agreement between the city and Bluewave would allow the city’s water/wastewater division to purchase electric from a solar project in Grafton at a flat rate of 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour over 20 years.

Pacheo told WHAV Monday afternoon a split between “load zones” in the city, as designated by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), prevent the Water/Wastewater Division electric accounts from using the upper Hilldale solar project for electricity. Pacheco explained the Water department accounts fall in the Central/Western Massachusetts load zone while the Bluewave solar project comes under the Northeast Massachusetts load zone. “Net metering (agreements) must stay with the designated load zone,” Pacheco said.

“The Energy Taskforce has also endorsed the proposal as it will assist the Water/Wastewater Divisions in controlling some of their electricity costs. It is our intention to bring similar agreements to the city council for approval, if we can obtain similar proposals from developers,” Fiorentini said.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, in council chambers at Haverhill City Hall.

Last March, WHAV reported councilors supported the city’s decision to not exercise a first refusal option to purchase the 16-acre portion of a 93.4 acre parcel from landowner Dixieland LLC, which would lease the land for installation of solar panels for energy generation.

At the time, Councilor Robert H. Scatamacchia said a solar farm there would help protect the environment and bring tax dollars to the city. He said he also looks forward to potential new business development in the industrial zone after the economic downturn, which followed the city’s utility and infrastructure improvements for the area.

“One of the things that I think helps Haverhill is the utilities and infrastructure that we provide. Industry can’t go to Plaistow. They don’t have the infrastructure that you need for industry. I think in the long run its going to be a good idea. I don’t know if the solar farm will help with that, but I think in the long run that industrial park will be filled and will be providing a lot of jobs and a lot of tax dollars to the city,” Scatamacchia said.

3 thoughts on “Mayor Recommends Approval of Hilldale Avenue Solar Farm


  2. How is it the city has already received payment for this program before the city council has approved it?

    Part of Orlando Pacheco’s personal financial compensation when he was hired was to receive a ‘commission’ based on energy reduction in the city. When is the information relating to what he receives going to be made public? How much is it? How is energy reduction savings measured and qualified? Is it a one time compensated bonus or reoccurring yearly bonus?

    Haverhill taxpayers have a right to know how this employee is being paid based on all the recent activity and erroneous information coming from that office. In the past month the mayor, and Pacheco himself, have promoted lighting savings at city hall which were GROSSLY over inflated, they bragged about a homeowner community choice program which not only was significantly overly inflated, but also included a secret unannounced fee (city councilors weren’t even informed about it) that homeowners have to pay, and now this program that is lacking facts and specifics. There’s no way the city council should approve this solar farm without further investigation.