EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 16, 2014

Company proposes sprawling solar farm

Planned for 10 acres overlooking I-495

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — A Tennessee-based renewable energy company wants to build a 1.2-megawatt solar farm on a hill next to Old Ferry Road using plans that align closely with a 2011 proposal which failed.

Ultimate Energy Source, based in Knoxville, Tenn., submitted a proposal on March 4 to build between 4,500 and 4,700 solar panels on nearly 10 acres on a hill overlooking Pleasant Valley Street and Interstate 495.

The Community Development Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal at its meeting April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall.

The land and some neighboring properties are zoned light industrial. However, some residential areas, including an apartment complex and subdivisions, lie immediately to the north and west.

Atlantic Group Development LLC, of Lunenburg, controlled by Scott J. Peacock, owns the property. A message left at his office seeking comment Friday was not returned.

Ultimate Energy Source will lease the land and sell the electricity generated there to National Grid, the company said on its website.

A voice message left at Ultimate Energy Source Friday seeking comment was not returned.

According to plans submitted to the city, Ultimate Energy Source, under the name Methuen Solar LLC, plans to build the panels in two large dense clusters on the east side of the hill, and one smaller group just off Old Ferry Road. The two large groups will have an access road around them and in between them, and the installation will be surrounded by a chain link fence with security cameras.

Regrading will be required. The plot sits to the east and below the crest of the hill.

Aerial Spectrum Energy of Burlington submitted a similar proposal in November 2011, but that project was not built. Stephen DeFeo, chairman of the Community Development Board, said concerns arose over the stability of the system used to anchor the panels into the ground, given the type of soil on the hill.

“We were very concerned that the hill would wash away,” DeFeo said.

Those plans, however, showed a similar number of panels spread out across the lot, including on a steep incline on the northwestern edge. The current plan shows the panels being clustered on a relatively flat cut on the hill, although the anchoring system appears to be the same.

Ultimate Energy Source is working on a half dozen solar projects in the United States, including the Methuen proposal, a 37-acre eight-megawatt project in Springfield, three projects in northeastern Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina.

One megawatt can power about 750 homes.

The proposed natural gas power plant in Salem, Mass., would generate 630 megawatts of electricity.

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