Work on Southwick solar project halted

Southwick Solar Farm South (Photo Courtesy: The Westfield News)

SOUTHWICK, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Residents living near Big Y have noticed the solar project there has come to a halt.
Work on the project ceased a month ago and town officials are in the dark as to why. Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart said he has tried to make contact to find out the status of the project and how to ensure the project fees are adjusted, but he has not received an answer yet.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen set a fee of $7 per $1,000 valuation, an electric panel fee of $200, and a per-panel fee of .25 cents, all for commercial projects. It also set a flat fee of $50 for residents and a $50 electric fee and agreed to make sure the project at Big Y was aligned with the new fees.

Big Y Energy Manager Gary Kuchyt said yesterday he was not able to divulge details on the situation at this time, but would have more information in a month. “We are working on getting that project completed, but we’ve run into a few roadblocks,” was all Kuchyt said.

In early October, a modification of the design was presented to the Southwick Planning Board by designer Matthew Puntin of RGS energy after heavy rains in late summer caused damage to houses situated below the project on College Highway.

Michael Noble and Martha Baillargeon both experienced damage following an August rainstorm when water flowed from the solar project into their yards. Baillargeon’s gravel driveway was almost completely washed out and Noble’s backyard was ruined.

Baillargeon’s driveway was pushed back into place the next day but she has since discovered damage to her septic system’s leech field. Noble said his backyard was virtually unusable following the damage, and both residents attended a walk-through of the solar project and a Southwick Planning Board meeting last month.

Puntin offered a two-fold solution. To combat Baillargeon’s concerns, he said a trench included in the original design would be extended to 240 feet, nearly double the originally proposed length.

The trench was designed to slow down water in the event of a major rainfall. Puntin said a swale located behind Noble’s home would also be extended an additional 20 feet, which exceeds the width of Noble’s property. Puntin said another existing swale would be modified to help slow down water and divert it away from Noble’s property.

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Media Credit: The Westfield News

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