Conservation Commission Hears Plans for Hilldale Avenue Solar Panels; Project Co-Exists With Farm

Solar panel site plan for 1050 Hilldale Ave., Haverhill.

The Haverhill Conservation Commission heard last night, from a group looking to install a large-scale, ground-mounted solar energy system on upper Hilldale Avenue just north of St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

The 1050 Hilldale Ave. site is approximately 88 acres and is already home to one solar panel array. This proposal would create two other solar arrays on the property.  Michael Zhe of Blue Wave Solar, the company that installed the original solar panel site, said this new project would be a bit different.

“It would be a dual use or solar with farming array. This type of solar array is designed to optimize the generation of electricity and the agricultural use of the land,” he said.

Because this proposal is designed to allow for the continuation of farming activities, the solar panels would be raised about 10 feet off the ground, allowing crops and livestock underneath. In addition, those panels rotate for maximum efficiency. Jeffrey Murphy, a civil engineer with Beals and Thomas explained.

“The panel design is a little bit different than a traditional ground-mounted system. These types of panels here are called single-axis tracker panels so, basically, they’ll follow the sun, facing east in the morning and then they’ll rotate throughout the day and follow the sun and end the day kind of facing west,” he explained.

Murphy said fencing around the panels would be raised slightly to allow small wildlife to pass through. He also said plans call for a 150-foot wooded buffer area on the northern part of the property to screen the project from the adjacent residential area.

Commissioners voted to continue the hearing until the next meeting on Aug. 26.

Because solar panels require a special permit, the developer must also receive permission from the City Council before any construction may begin.

In other business before the Conservation Commission, a review of plans to protect two endangered sturgeon species at a planned 290-unit housing and commercial development on the Merrimack River was postponed.

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