Battery energy storage system eyed for N. Amherst

AMHERST — A vacant North Amherst parcel where a garden and gift store was located for many years could be used for an 18.87-megawatt battery system.

Josh Lariscy, project development director for BlueWave Solar, told the Conservation Commission at its Sept. 14 meeting, where a hearing on a notice of intent filing began, that the project would fit into the state’s Clean Peak Energy Standard program that promotes renewable energy.

Near the Sunderland town line, the project would be developed in proximity to existing solar arrays and would be a short distance from an Eversource substation, connected to that by overhead and underground wires.

Battery energy storage systems enable energy from renewables, like solar, to be stored and then released when customers need power.

Being developed for BWC Eastman Brook LLC of Boston, the lithium ion batteries would go on about an acre of an open field, formerly tilled for agricultural uses and owned by the Chang family of South Deerfield.

Plans show six concrete pads to hold inverters, transformers and electrical switch gear, a number of battery containers and crushed stone on which the equipment would be placed. Development would take up about 7,500 square feet.

A U-shaped gravel driveway that formerly was used for Annie’s Garden and Gift Store, with its building demolished in the spring of 2019, remains and would access the system, surrounded by a chain link fence 7 feet high.

Lariscy said all work would be done outside the 50-foot no-work wetland zone.

Because no site visit had yet occurred, the applicant will return to the commission meeting next Wednesday at 7:50 p.m.

The applicant will also be filing for a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Wedding approved

Also at its meeting, the commission granted permission for a wedding to take place at Mount Pollux Conservation Area on the afternoon of Nov. 5, though this approval of a land-use permit came even with members expressing reservations about continuing this practice.

The wedding will have 25 guests and organizers are being advised to carpool to the site, possibly from the South Amherst Common, and not exclude other visitors who might be walking through the site that day.

Commission member Laura Pagliarulo said she is not in favor of continuing to approve permits for weddings, noting that she is concerned about the intense use for the site, including granting an OK for a movie to be filmed on site, and an experience she had there.

“I don’t feel like if we got wedding applications for every Saturday and Sunday for the fall it would be fair use of public land, or community,” Pagliarulo said.

Commission member Andrey Guidera said the commission could set a policy for future use of the property for events, and member Michelle Labbe noted that 25 visitors at once, along with chairs and other aspects of the wedding, would mean a lot of trampling of the resource.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek, though, said that when he first began working for the town in 2004, more weddings were held there and that Amherst has since then gotten a better handle on what is happening at the location.

“They’re doing the right thing by contacting us,” Ziomek said of the wedding party.

He cautioned that if the commission rejects applications, couples might stage weddings without seeking approvals. That is something that already happens at other conservation sites, with occasional weddings being performed on the beach at Puffer’s Pond.

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