Haverhill Conservation Commission Delays Approval of 6,000-Panel Solar Farm For Another Review

Proposed solar farm near Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School.

An eleventh-hour petition to alter a drainage plan at a proposed ground-mounted solar energy system in East Haverhill caused the Haverhill Conservation Commission to delay its approval last Thursday.

The solar farm, which received the approval of the Haverhill City Council in August, has been before the Conservation Commission for several weeks. Solar Smart of Summerville, S.C., proposes to install more than 6,000 solar panels on 18.6 acres of land owned by Theodore Xenakis at 139 Amesbury Line Road. When completed, the system would provide two megawatts of solar-produced power.

Kyle Bouchard, of Ayer-based Goldsmith, Prest and Ringwall engineers, presented a revised plan with adjustments in drainage plans for the site as well as a prohibition on herbicides. Those revisions came as a result of neighbors’ concerns over water run-off.  Bouchard told the Commission those changes had been approved by abutters to the property.

Just before commissioners were ready to vote, however, an abutter came forth with a different plan, suggesting it would better protect neighbors from potential flooding from water run-off.

While the Commission and developer appeared to be caught off-guard by the last-minute proposal, Haverhill Environmental Health Technician Robert E. Moore Jr. expressed his opinion the Commission’s approval should be delayed three weeks while all parties study the new recommendations.

The solar farm would partially straddle, what has been described as, a natural drainage divide between the Merrimack River and Millvale Reservoir. The property is largely forest and slopes toward Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School. The school would benefit from weather and solar output data and resources for emerging technologies in energy systems engineering.

Commissioners are now expected to continue their review Thursday, Oct. 28.

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