The Pomfret Town Council voted 4-1 this week to approve the solar farm on Farel Road after a long, wide and sometimes bizarre public hearing.
John Sedota was the only “no” vote to approve RIC Energy’s plan to build solar panels on a 45-hectare site previously used for cabbage planting.
RIC Energy responded to complaints from nearby residents by increasing equipment failures offered by property lines and changing the site’s configuration to make it less visible.
The hearing lasted an hour and 12 minutes on Wednesday, and many of the same residents who had expressed their concerns at previous city meetings attended. However, at this hearing, some people supported the project.
Marcia Westling spoke to renewable energy sources to “encourage this council to be part of the movement.” He said solar energy would have “positive effects on the environment and politics.”
A letter of support was read from Michael Bobseine, who praised the community’s participation in the project and the changes it has brought. He said more renewable energy developments were needed to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
A woman who says she lives on the Farel Way said that occasional glances at solar panels would make her feel part of Pomfret’s renewable energy movement. This was an open response to another neighbor who complained that he could see the panels from his front windows.
The other two spoke in support of the solar project – but there was a lot of concern.
RIC Energy representatives who attended the hearing answered questions such as lines of sight, tree planting, the area’s decommissioning plan, and “white noise” from solar panels.
Kevin Bliss of RIC Energy said 21 panels from the solar farm would emit about 60 decibels of sound when measured from a distance of 100 feet. This can be compared to a normal conversation, he said, adding that the nearest house would be more than 300 feet away from the panels.
Bliss also said that the entrance to the farm was removed from the plan after neighbors complained.
He added that due to problems in the supply chain, construction of the project will not begin until the spring of 2023.
At one point in the hearing, a woman was worried that solar energy could cause harmful radiation. RIC Energy officials, city officials and the crowd tried to convince him that solar energy is transmitted through regular power lines and does no more harm than electricity generated from another source.
Another city resident criticized the city official, claiming that he had mailed a copy of the site permit in his name, even though he did not want his name to be used. Vento refused to ship the item, and it turned out that RIC Energy had in fact mailed the document. The man angrily instructed RIC Energy to remove his name from his documents.
Bliss later said he was investigating the possible effects of solar panels on dogs in response to neighbors’ concerns and because he was also a dog owner. He spoke to a dog behaviorist who was confident the panels would not harm the animals.
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