Proponents of the Crawford Road Solar project hosted a forum Monday evening to educate town of Halifax residents about the project, the benefits of solar energy and what locals can expect should the effort move forward to fruition.
The meeting was the second forum designed to give Halifax neighbors a chance to meet representatives of esaSolar and Apex Clean Energy, interact with town leaders and ask questions about the proposed solar farm.
The first forum was Sept. 14, and both meetings took place at the Halifax Volunteer Fire Department building. Event organizers reported that the September meeting saw more attendance, though both were valuable.
The forum utilized a walkthrough display with infographics, property images and maps, as well as an animated video illustrating the ways in which the project will impact local traffic patterns at each phase of its life cycle.
Attendees were able to matriculate the stations and ask questions of representatives from Apex Clean Energy and esaSolar. They also had the chance to enjoy pizza from Italian Delight.
Mary-Margaret Hertz is a development manager with Apex tasked with developing the Crawford Road project. She explained the reason for a second community meeting.
“This one is just kind of an additional opportunity to allow people that had any lingering questions, because we’ve been here and present in the community for most of this year, and that gives people more time to come up with questions,” she stated.
“We have some posters showing the site plan we’ve got a local landowner map because people really like to see where they live in relation to the property,” Hertz explained. The map showed all properties within a half-mile radius of the proposed site.
The “renderings” poster illustrated the progression of the site plan via computer-generated images of the view of the property from the perspective of Crawford Road. The first image shows the baseline of how the land looks now.
The second image shows removed trees and vegetation, depicting what the site will look like immediately following construction of the solar farm, before the recuperation of the promised landscape buffer. “It will utilize native species and existing vegetation where possible,” the caption ensures.
The third image shows the same view five to seven years after construction, during which time the vegetation buffer will have grown such as to produce an unblemished vista, according to the rendering.
“We built this construction traffic simulation to show people how many trips a day, what types of vehicles and the route that they’re going to take, emphasizing that we’re not planning for anyone to come down Academy Street, down Main Street in town,” Hertz continued.
The animated simulation was new to the second forum and showed a visualization of the route that the business traffic for the project will take to avoid areas in town that are prone to congestion and sensitive to such fluctuations. The route diverts down Greens Folly Road, then through Sinai Road and Mountain Road before arriving at Crawford.
According to the simulation, the site preparation phase will take two months and will increase traffic by five employee trips and two “heavy vehicle load” trips (depicted visually as tractor-trailers) per day during that period.
Following site preparation, the installation of the solar panels is projected to take three months, increasing traffic by three to five heavy vehicle loads and 12-25 employee trips per day.
The one-month mechanical and electrical installation will follow next, according to the animation, and will increase traffic by one heavy vehicle and 10 employee trips each day.
Construction will then be completed, and the farm is expected to be active for 25-35 years, during which time there will be zero heavy vehicle loads per day, and only one or two small-vehicle employee trips per month for maintenance.
Upon decommissioning of the farm, the deconstruction phase will take one month, requiring five heavy vehicle loads and 10 employee trips per day.
“We’ve also got additional information about what happens to the panels after their 30-40 year life; we recycle them,” Hertz shared.
The infographic explaining the recycling process for the panels indicated that 95% of the glass and 100% of the metal are reused after disassembly. Additionally, 80% of the modules and 85% of the silicon are reused.
Halifax Town Council is expected to vote on three recommendations from the planning commission pertaining to the solar farm at a business meeting Tuesday at Halifax Town Hall, one of which will be to approve the special use permit so that the 5-megawatt facility on Crawford Road can move forward.
The council will hear public comments on these recommendations at 7 p.m.
Hertz is cautiously hopeful about the prospects of the vote passing at the council’s Tuesday meeting.
“You know, we’re not sure,” she said, “I hope positive, but you never know.”
“We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback from the community, and I think that we’ve been able to manage expectations pretty well and answer questions as we’ve gotten them,” she expounded.
Regardless, Hertz feels that Monday’s forum was productive in that she got to interact with residents, answer their questions and better prepare herself for next week’s vote.
“The mayor did give me some good homework, so I know that when we come to the town council next week, we’ll be prepared on some of the talking points for questions that I wasn’t able to give a full answer to at this time,” she revealed.