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In a formal opinion issued by Town Counsel on February 22, 2021, the Wyer’s Valley Property—acquired and used for water supply purposes—is not subject to Massachusetts Constitution Article 97 protection, and therefore may be used for the leasing of a solar energy project.
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On August 9, 2019, the Town of Nantucket issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the development of municipal solar projects at a variety of Town facilities and properties, including: the Surfside Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), Nantucket Memorial Airport, DPW, Public Schools, Public Safety Facility, Landfill facilities, and Wannacomet Water Company properties.
On January 31, 2020, SunPower was selected as the winning bidder by an inter-department municipal evaluation committee to develop two municipal projects: a small (grant-funded) roof-mounted system at the Surfside WWTP and a larger ground-mounted array at the Wannacomet Water Company property, located at 1 Milestone Road. A third proposed project: a solar carport at the Public Safety Facility, has since been put on hold as the Town prioritizes the Surfside and Wannacomet projects.
In December, 2020, SunPower and the Town executed initial agreements to construct the project at 1 Milestone Road. Over the course of the following two years, many significant changes were made to the project design in order to mitigate potential impacts and mitigate concerns of local stakeholders. Additionally, in June, 2022, TotalEnergies, a broad energy company that produces and markets energies on a global scale, acquired the Commercial and Industrial Solutions business unit of SunPower. As a result of these changes and modifications, new contract amendments were negotiated and approved in December 2022 to construct the projects with TotalEnergies as the successor to SunPower.
TotalEnergies will develop, own, and operate the solar project at the Wannacomet Water Company property, which will provide economic and environmental benefits to Nantucket.
The proposed solar project at 1 Milestone Road is sized at 3.8MW DC, and will consist of two solar subarrays. The southernmost sub-array #1, adjacent to Old South Road, will be comprised of 5130 solar panels. The northernmost sub-array (#2), located adjacent to Milestone Road, will be comprised of 3615 solar panels. Each Maxeon solar panel is rated at 435watt, and considered to be amongst the highest-performing and efficient available.
Over the solar project’s 25-year lifetime, the system is expected to produce 122 million kWh in clean energy and will offset 86,411 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, helping to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change and elevated sea levels on the island.
Additionally, the locally-produced solar power will improve local grid reliability and resiliency, reduce the island’s dependance on imported power from the mainland including from “dirty” power plants located in disadvantaged communities, and will help to mitigate the need for a costly third-undersea-transmission cable by significantly reducing the island’s summer peak load
Over the 25-year WWCo project contract term, the usable savings for the Town is $6.8 million dollars, or $277,000 in Annual Revenue.
The total disturbance of the project is 13.6 acres (10.65 acres inside fence & 2.95 acres outside fenced area for shade management). The site will be cleared using conventional construction methods. Prior to any construction, a storm water pollution prevention plan (SWWPP) will be established to meet all local and state construction regulations. Post construction, TotalEnergies plans to establish a pollinator habitat within the fenced areas when stabilizing top soils.
The Commonwealth’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program (NHESP), a division of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife, determined the project will result in a “take” of habitat for six species of moths. Between January, 2021 and June, 2022, SunPower, the Town and the Wannacomet Water Company collaborated with the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife to evaluate all viable options to mitigate the environmental impact of the project and develop a Conservation management Plan. After 18 months of work exhausting all viable options, including looking at properties owned by the Town, Wannacomet Water Company, the State of Massachusetts and on-island conservation groups, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife have provided the option of paying a fee which will be used to enhance the habitat of the species impacted by the project development during the project term, until the site is returned to its existing habitat after the project is removed.
Prior to commencement of construction, TotalEnergies will need to have secured approvals from the Nantucket HDC, National Grid, NHESP, Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Wannacomet Water and the Town of Nantucket.
The HDC approved the solar project in November 2020, with the condition of a 50’ natural buffer and screening enhancement plan. See: Wyer’s Way Screening Recommendations Memo (PDF)
The proposed project is being developed in accordance with guidance published by MassDEP for the development of renewable energy projects on lands held for public water supply purposes. To secure the required MassDEP approval for the project, Wannacomet Water will need to sign a certification stating the project “will have no significant adverse impact on its present and future ability to provide continuous adequate service to consumers under routine and emergency operating conditions, including emergencies concerning the contamination of sources of supply, failure of the distribution system and shortage of supply…[and] that the solar energy project will have no significant adverse impact on water quality and that the energy generated by the facility will be used to benefit, either by direct consumption or by other means, the operation of the public water system.”
To support the aforementioned certification, SunPower has supplied Wannacomet Water with toxicity test results for the solar modules, tested by a MassDEP-certified testing agency, pursuant to state and federal standards for Maximum Contaminant Level thresholds, including both PFAs and Gen-x materials.
TotalEnergies is solely responsible for purchasing, maintaining or disposing of any equipment associated with the project. At the end of the 25-year project term, the solar project equipment will be removed from the site and all materials which can be recycled (i.e. solar modules, copper wire, steel support structure) will be. After removal of the project equipment, any disturbed project areas will be stabilized and re-seeded to restore the site to a condition comparable to the existing condition prior to project development.