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Lee, Massachusetts Considering Solar Options

By Lucas Willard

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-996388.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – The company is looking to install and maintain solar panels in 4 locations in Lee. Proposed locations include water and sewage treatment plants, the former town landfill, and a fourth in a large open area off of Stockbridge Road.
The energy firm Broadway Electric is eyeing the 175 acres once considered by Lee as the site for a future municipal golf course 20 years ago.

Lee Town Administrator Bob Nason introduced the energy plan at the Board of Selectmen's meeting on Tuesday evening. He announced the solar initiative is designed to produce enough electricity to power the town's municipal buildings, including schools, public works, and fire and police stations.
If approved, Lee would engage in a 20 year purchase agreement with Broadway Electric for 7 cents per kilowatt hour. Presently, Lee pays at 12-cent rate to the Western Massachusetts Electric Company.

The 175-acre plot considered for the array would also include new youth athletic fields, and land set aside for a privately funded and operated dog park.
Eleanor Tillinghast of environmental advocacy group Green Berkshires is wary of the idea of 175 acres of land going to an Energy Company. She says the massive subsidiaries to solar energy could attract more outside companies to the area, and risk transforming valuable farm-land into single-use energy arrays.

There is generally little opposition to solar power - it creates no noise and is not as visible as wind power. But the controversy mainly lies on where to place the solar panels. Pittsfield hosts the largest solar array in the state on the grounds of the city's municipal waste water treatment facility. Jane Winn of BEAT explains that there are better places for solar energy arrays other than open spaces.

The Selectman agreed to introduce further public discussion of the project at future town meetings on before a proposal is considered for vote