Proposed Solar Farm Development

A Message to Lake Attitash Association (LAA) Members about the proposed Solar Farm development in the Birchmeadow area of Amesbury.

Syncarpha, a solar development company has proposed placing a 35-acre solar field on a hillside in the Lake Attitash watershed. 

Regardless of which town you live in, we all need to be knowledgeable of the environmental implications of this proposal, and to be prepared for, and engage in the process that is about to begin.  Your support and participation are critical in ensuring that no harm comes to the lake, and in maintaining the quality of the water in Lake Attitash.

Any day now we should be hearing about a public meeting in Amesbury about the proposed solar farm to be built by Syncarpha in the Birchmeadow area of Lake Attitash.  

What is known so far is that Syncarpha plans to build a 35-acre solar farm by clearing a forested area on a hill adjacent to residential homes near Lake Attitash.

The LAA is not against solar energy. Renewable energy, if carefully developed, is critical for the health of our planet.  The LAA is all about protecting Lake Attitash and the people who live near it from nutrients entering the lake and causing harmful toxic algae blooms.  These are the cyanobacteria blooms that forced Health Departments to close the lake frequently during the summers before 2017 (Guidelines for Cyanobacteria at Recreational Freshwater Locations ).

The LAA, Amesbury, Merrimac, the MA Department of Environmental Protection, and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency have invested millions of dollars and countless hours of work in restoring and protecting Lake Attitash from the influx of sediment and nutrients (Phosphorus) that flow with STORMWATER into the lake feeding algae blooms.

Here’s the problem:

Siting a solar farm on a hilltop that has been cleared of trees creates a dramatic increase in stormwater runoff. A solar farm recently built in Plainville, MA had all the stormwater drainage protocols required by the State in place but in last year’s heavy rains, these systems were overwhelmed causing tremendous damage to local homes (Plainville Problems with Solar Farm).   Any increased stormwater runoff from the solar farm proposed for Amesbury could flow not only onto residents’ properties but also into Lake Attitash and Meadowbrook.

  1. Climate change requires that we plan for more extreme storms and temperatures. Clear cutting forested areas will increase stormwater runoff and reduce natural vegetation that absorbs stormwater and reduce the effects of climate change (Forests as Climate Solutions).
  • The Amesbury Lakes and Waterways Committee has expressed their concerns for Lake Attitash water quality and for the impact of increased sediment on the already fragile Archbrook Culvert which has needed very expensive repairs for many years.  This is the culvert that takes water from Lake Attitash and Meadowbrook and allows it to enter the Powwow River.
  • In 2023 Lake Attitash Association sent a letter to the Mayor of Amesbury, the Zoning Board, and the Conservation Commission (LAA Letter to Amesbury) asking for extensive stormwater management protections should this solar farm be permitted. It calls for:
    • independent engineering studies,
    • regular/frequent water quality testing,
    • contractual commitments from the Company to do whatever is necessary to address any increases in phosphorus found in the lake for the duration of their ?25-year lease.

These protections exceed those required by law but should be required of Syncarpha given the environmentally sensitive area they are planning to clear-cut.

  • When the solar farm is decommissioned, perhaps 25 years down the road, that land will still be deforested. The question of who will be responsible then for the protection of water quality in Lake Attitash needs to be included in any permit process.

We need to be informed, ask questions, and ensure that our voices are heard.  This needs to be a fully transparent process that in the end satisfies all parties involved. 

Coincidently, the State is in the process of collecting feedback on its proposed regulations on “Energy infrastructure Siting and Permitting.”  Establishing rules and practices at the State level should help local communities manage the challenges of these permitting processes and ensure that projects meet high standards.  A link to the survey follows.  Please take a look and comment where you can and have your voice heard: Clean Energy, Siting and Permitting – Public Comments Needed

Thank You.