SHIRLEY — While the town brokered a deal with Brookline-based NextSun Energy to build a solar facility at the old town landfill earlier this year, the project has since been taken over by a Connecticut firm, Altus Power America, LLC.
Shirley Energy Committee Chairman Bryan Dumont said last week that “nothing unusual” prompted the change, adding that such transfers are “standard practice” in the solar industry.
When the project transfer took place in March or April, NextSun notified the town of its intent to assign the existing lease to Altus, Dumont explained.
Altus specializes in renewable-energy installations on public buildings or municipal property, according to its website.
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The transfer triggered a review by the town Conservation Commission, which conducted a site visit last month and met with Altus representatives.
Anticipating a completion date for this month, Altus Construction Manager Alana Chain and environmental biologist Corey Kooken, of TRC Solutions, asked commissioners about additional paperwork they’d need to provide.
Conservation Agent Mike Fleming said there was no need to file a new notice of intent, but he and conservation commissioners agreed the next step would be to redo the orders of conditions, based on updated information. A public hearing will be held, with notifications to abutters.
Kooken and Chain agreed to highlight changes when they submitted the new data, but they stated upfront that there’s no wetlands impact and that the facility’s footprint is now “entirely outside” the 100-foot buffer zone that the state requires for rivers and streams.
“We relocated the access road,” Chain said.
Resident Tim Hatch pointed out that moving the access road also affected the town transfer station or Recycling Center.
“It’s in a different place,” he said.
But Dumont later said only the gated entrance was moved, not the recycling center.
“We are working with Altus now…the company has agreed to beautify the recycling center” with a new shed for the operator, Dumont said.
The access road to the facility will be outside the landfill cap perimeter, a few feet away from the current cart path. It will be fenced off from the recycling area, Dumont said.
Hatch, citing online research, noted other anomalies as well, including two conditions placed on the landfill parcel last year that had expired, apparently without notifications filed.
“I hope we’re not allowing this to spiral out of control,” he said. Another condition called for notifying Department of Environmental Protection of any project transfer, he said. Chain promised to look into it.
Dumont’s email also addressed a couple more issues Hatch and others have raised.
For example, passage of a Town Meeting warrant last year gave selectmen a go-ahead to enter into solar-development agreements for any parcel of town-owned land, he said.
Certain parcels were discussed at the time, Hatch acknowledged, including the old landfill, which can’t be used for anything else. But the Town Meeting vote was not site specific, he said.
Asked why he and selectmen were so proactive about going solar, with a growing number of commercial installations in town, Dumont said the primary reason is revenue.
For the old landfill solar facility, for example, annual lease and tax payments will be $22,362 and $41,792, respectively, with 1 percent increases each year over the 20-year contract period.