Rochester faces payment puzzle on solar farms

Feb 5, 2019

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Board of Selectmen has voted to table a tax agreement with a solar farm on Mattapoisett Road while the assessors and town counsel looked for more information and develop a strategy for such agreements

Charles Shea and Diana Knapp joined the selectmen for a part of their Feb. 4 meeting to talk about Clean Energy Collective’s solar farm at 268 Mattapoisett Road. 

The solar farm was proposed in 2016. In 2018 it suffered setbacks in construction when builders discovered more rock to clear on the site than they anticipated. The farm is now operational.

Shea was concerned because he noticed the town was set to sign the PILOT (Payment in lieu of Taxes) agreement, for significantly less than other similar arrays historically have paid.

In the case of the Snipatuit Road solar farm, which also went through the permitting process in 2016 and is operated by Melink, the town is paid $22,000 for the panels themselves, and $28,000 for the land yearly, resulting in $50,000 for the town.

The total for the new proposed Mattapoisett Road solar farm is $20,000, which led Shea to question how he had done the PILOT process.

“What am I doing wrong and how should I treat these systems in the future?” Charles Shea asked.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey responded that the changes weren’t due to mistakes on Shea’s part.

“There’s a lot that’s changed since the first agreement,” Bailey said.

Bailey and Shea looked to figure a reasonable amount to charge if they tried to reach an agreement with Clean Energy Collective, however they did not have the figures to be able to do that.

They agreed to research those figures before the next Board of Selectmen Meeting on Feb. 19.