Commissions open hearings on solar projects  

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Chris Gagnon, a professional engineer, presents plans for a solar panel array to the Naugatuck Zoning Commission during a hearing at Town Hall on Oct. 20. –ANDREAS YILMA

A solar energy company’s plan to build solar panel arrays in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls faced opposition from residents last week at separate hearings.

TRITEC Americas, LLC, out of California, has land use applications pending in both municipalities. The company provides solar photovoltaics project development, financing and asset management services for commercial and industrial solar markets, according to its website.

In Naugatuck, the company is seeking a special permit to build a 1 megawatt solar farm with 3,240 solar panels on about 5 acres of undeveloped land at 0 Bosco Drive, which is at the end of the street. The land is zoned residential and owned by Curtis Bosco and Florence Justino.

The Naugatuck Zoning Commission opened a hearing Oct. 20 on the application.

Chris Gagnon, a professional engineer from BL Companies who is representing TRITEC Americas, told the commission the company would need approval from the Connecticut Siting Council, a state entity responsible for the siting of power facilities, if the proposed project would generate more than a 1 megawatt of power.

The proposal includes single axis tracking panels that will follow the sun’s movements, Gagnon said.

“It allows us to be a little more efficient with a little smaller footprint by using that type of tracking panel,” he said.

The plan calls for a 12-foot-wide gravel access road that goes around the site and two stormwater management ponds, Gagnon said. There will be an 8-foot-high chain link fence around the panels, and a buffer of evergreen trees will be planted between residential properties on either side of the site, he said.

The application has been approved by the Naugatuck fire and police commissions.

Since the development disturbs at least 5 acres, Gagnon said TRITEC Americas will need a permit for stormwater discharge from construction activities from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

About 20 people attended the hearing via Zoom. Half a dozen residents raised concerns, including that the array could potentially contaminate groundwater, disturb wildlife, lower property values, and be harmful to the health of residents.

“We’re on well water here,” said Scott Fitzgerald who lives on Farmstead Lane, near the area. “I’m concerned about ground contamination and what it’s going to do to my property value.”

Brian Swiderski, of Graham Ridge Road, said he’s worried about electromagnetic radiation from the solar panels.

“We looked at the proximity to some of the houses and I understand their concerns,” Zoning Commission Chairman Wayne Malicki said. “I think it’s a legitimate concern and it’s one that is going to have to be answered.”

The commission continued the hearing to its Nov. 17 meeting at 6:05 p.m., when Gagnon said he would have answers for residents’ concerns.

The Beacon Falls Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 21 opened a hearing on the company’s special exception application to build an approximately 0.75 megawatt solar panel array of about 2,025 solar panels at 343 Lopus Road. The land is in an Industrial Park District and owned by Terrance Murtha and June Rydzik. There is a home on the property. The proposal calls for demolishing the home and a shed on the property.

Gagnon presented roughly the same proposed development as in the borough, including a 12-foot-wide gravel road around the panels, a 6-foot-high fence around the site, a meadow-type ground cover and one stormwater retention pond.

The Beacon Falls Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission has accepted the application but has not made a decision on it yet.

About a dozen residents attended the hearing. A few residents critically spoke out on the potential impact of the project, including stormwater drainage from a nearby resident’s property, severe sun reflection from the panels, and if there’s a proper decommission plan after the life of the panels.

Gagnon said the company will need approval from at least one municipal commission before seeking the necessary DEEP permit.

TRITEC Americas plans to lease the land in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls and sell the energy generated by the solar panels back into the electric grid.

The Beacon Falls commission continued the hearing to Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.