The West Orange Road property operated for years as independent timberland.
The property owners had over 4,000 acres of forest in central Massachusetts of which roughly 1,500 acres in permanent conservation. The landowners were enthusiastic about our proposal for a solar farm and the proposed location on their land, as it was as section of their property in poor condition.
This lease offered long-term, reliable income to pay the remaining property taxes on the rest of the land holdings, as well as provide a steady stream of cash for daily operations. The 25-year lease would provide future generations of children and grandchildren with income to meet their land stewardship and conservation objectives.
The location had already been developed with an existing cell tower and had previously attracted numerous gravel pit inquiries over the years. In the final project design, the solar array was placed on a on a south-facing hillside, which allowed us to tighten the panel spacing together and use less footprint than many other project designs. We designed the project so that it is nearly invisible to all immediate neighbors and only visible from the local highway driving in one direction for roughly 5-8 seconds.
This inspired several more projects in the area as it was found the forest played a huge role in hiding the solar farm while still providing energy into the local grid and saving subscribers of these projects 10% on their energy bills every month.
Before we finalized project design we had a surveyor come out to the area to look at it from a historical perspective.
The land West Orange Road is located at was known for different historical discoveries and of historical significance and the last thing we wanted to do was impede or unknowingly destroy a location of importance.
What we found was extraordinary- a set of Native American ceremonial stones. The stones were a string of regular stones varying up to small boulders strung up in a line. To respect their cultural significance we made sure to build around the area the stones were found with enough easement so the solar farm wouldn't back up right to it. The stones were not residing on active Native American land which lines up with our company ethics of refusing to build on Native land.
There were also several environmental and location factors we had to keep in mind- one being the location of the project.
Since West Orange Road was built on a hill, it brought the steep slope angle into factor for design and caused concerns for water runoff after storms.
To protect the degradation of the ground where the solar farm would be placed , we introduced grading into the hillside to prevent sheet flow, the overland flow or downslope movement of water taking the form of a thin, continuous film. This specific grading type is called channel flow, which is where water is confined to a channel for the purpose of redirecting water flow to a specific area.
Why prevent sheet flow? If we left the runoff uncontrolled water will follow the path of least resistance down a slope and oftentimes this path is not where we want it to be. By introducing channel flow we are able to direct the water in a way that minimizes damages to the solar farm. It also has the additional benefit of slowing the water flow.
We eventually sold West Orange Road to AES after the completion of construction.