Simsbury residents split on solar farm proposal

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SIMSBURY – Residents in Simsbury are split about a proposal to put solar panels on old tobacco fields in town, but it’s the state that will have the final say.

Deepwater Wind, headquartered in Providence, is calling the project The Tobacco Valley Solar Farm. It would be located on roughly 175 acres of a 280 acre site along County and Hoskins roads in Simsbury.

The project was selected late last year after a three-state Clean Energy request for proposals (RFP) issued jointly by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. According to Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the project is still subject to regulatory approval by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).

Deepwater Wind says the flat site in Simsbury is ideal for a solar energy project. They say the farm will deliver over 46,000 MWh per year to the power grid, which is enough to power 5,000 homes.

They say the project will be a significant taxpayer in the town and they will remove all equipment and preserve the agricultural lands when the solar panels reach the end of their useful life.

Deepwater Wind has already held one meeting in Simsbury to gain public input and plans to hold another on June 22.

Some residents are concerned about how the solar farm will affect their property values. Others, including some who are for solar energy in general, are opposed to the proposed location which is close to many homes and visible from heavily traveled roads.

“I’m sure there are people who don’t want to look at hundreds of acres of solar panels. It’s pretty sterile and pretty monotonous,” said Leon Botham, who said he’s happy he has a line of trees in front of his home that will block his view of the panels.

“It’s going to be very intrusive,” he said.

Others in town say there are benefits to Simsbury and beyond.

“It’s a forward thinking proposal. We need clean energy and I think it’s a good idea,” said Elizabeth Prabulos of Simsbury. “Plus it’ll be improving the taxes in Simsbury.”

Simsbury resident Mike Dolan said, “Coal, fossil fuels are in the past. We need to start moving toward the future of energy and if we could do it right here in Simsbury, that’d be great.”

Deepwater Wind sent the following statement to FOX61:

Deepwater Wind is committed to being a good neighbor.  Our new Tobacco Valley Solar Farm will power 5,000 New England homes with clean, renewable energy, will preserve important farmland for future use, and will be a major new taxpayer for the Town of Simsbury. We appreciate the feedback and open dialogue we've had with town officials and residents and look forward to building a solar farm that everyone can be proud of.

They expect to submit their permit application to the Connecticut Siting Council by the end of the month. They anticipate a decision by the end of the year.

The open meeting on the Tobacco Valley Solar Farm is scheduled for June 22 from 6:00-8:00pm at Simsbury High School.