Rochester Planning Board hears about a solar array on a bog

Jun 23, 2020

ROCHESTER — The Planning Board heard about new plans for a small solar array to be installed with a cranberry bog improvement project off of Pierce Street.

Sarah Stearns from Beals and Thomas engineering and architecture firm appeared before the board on June 23 representing Peter Beaton, who owns the bog and much of the surrounding properties. 

He wants to do work to improve the canals in his bog, while also adding solar panels in thin strips above the modified canals in a way that will not interfere with growth or harvesting in his bogs, but will provide a renewable energy source on the site. 

Stearns said that there would be no clearing on the site, and her client would not have to worry about screening the panels because the bog itself is almost invisible from Pierce Street.  

The environmental specialist said she had done a similar project that was “well-received in a different community,” and called it an “interesting way to combine agriculture with renewable energy.” 

Planning Board Chair Arnold Johnson raised one concern with the project, which was that all panels must be more than 100 feet from the property line, and the end of one line of panels along the canal looked closer than that. 

Stearns said there was one area where the panels came within 100 feet of the property line, but said she planned to go with the Zoning Board of Appeals to get a variance on that. 

Johnson cautioned her against the move, saying that in planning for the panels to get within 100 feet she was creating her own hardship, and the Zoning Board would likely not grant a variance. 

He suggested that if Stearns and Beaton kept the plans as designed that she file with the Zoning Board first. 

The chair said other than that one issue it would likely not be a complex project.