Published in the March 11, 2016 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — A plan to place an array of rooftop solar panels on top of two parking garages at Edgewater Office Park is good to go after the Zoning Board of Appeals gave the plan its blessing this week.
The planned project will result in the largest solar panel installation in Wakefield to date, with 50,400 square feet of panels on the garage at 601 Edgewater Dr. and 43,000 square feet of solar panels on top of the garage at 701 Edgewater Dr.
Representing the owner of 601 and 701 Edgewater Dr., Atty. Brian McGrail told the ZBA that the parking garages associated with those two office buildings have top parking levels that are open with no roof. He explained that his client would like to add a roof to each of those buildings and place rows of solar panels on the roofs.
McGrail introduced Bill Bergeron of Hayes Engineering to review the details of the plan.
Bergeron said that Hobbs Brook Management has office parks all over the state and in some of them it has done similar projects where it has placed solar panels on the roofs of buildings. He showed photos of such installations at office parks in Lexington and Waltham. He said that Hobbs Brook would like to do the same at two of its buildings at Edgewater Office Park.
The solar installation at the office park in Lexington, Bergeron said, generates 1.1 million kilowatts of energy back into the system and provides 20 percent of the energy for the entire office park.
He also pointed out that snow removal on the top level of a parking garage with no roof can be challenging and adding the roof would help to solve that issue as well. He said that there would be no change in the drainage from what is there now, as runoff from the panels and the roof would go into the original drainage system that was built for each garage.
Bergeron told the Board that the project would require running about 75 feet of conduit from each of the two garages to the electrical panels in the buildings that the garages serve.
ZBA members asked about construction details and had questions about snow removal on the roofs. It was explained that snow would melt quickly due to the heat generated by the solar panels.
The Conservation Commission gave the project its OK last month, agreeing that the work would have “virtually no impact” on the nearby wetlands. The ConCom sent the Board of Appeals a letter of support for the project that ZBA Chairman David Hatfield read into the record at the Board’s meeting on Wednesday.
“The commission would like to take this opportunity to express support for the applicant’s pursuit of a renewable and sustainable energy source,” the ConCom memorandum states. “Current science suggests increases in global temperatures would have negative effects on the state’s wetland systems by altering hydrological regimes, decreasing plant diversity and significantly affecting floodplain function. Therefore, the Commission supports and encourages the implementation of renewable energy projects to contribute to the long-term protection of Wakefield’s wetlands.”
The Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department also sent a letter to the ZBA supporting the project.
With the necessary approvals in hand, McGrail said yesterday that the project would now go to the final design phase.
The ZBA also took a favorable view of a proposal by the R.J. Kelly Companies of Burlington, Mass. to renovate and convert a one-story 95,497 square-foot warehouse at the end of Audubon Road into a self-storage facility.
But the Zoning Board will hold off on issuing its decision until the Conservation Commission completes its review of the project.
At last week’s ConCom meeting, Engineer Ryan Bianchetto described the proposed project, which he said would involve only minor changes to the exterior of the site. He said that one loading dock would be added to the existing five loading docks and a handicapped ramp would also be installed. New curbing would be installed in the parking lot and three small areas where the asphalt has deteriorated would be repaired, he said. Some additional landscaping would also be installed. He said that the overall amount of impervious area would be reduced.
Bianchetto said that no changes would be made to the existing storm water management system, which he described as “pretty minimal.” He said that the site met all of the standards for handling storm water.
The ConCom wanted to have the Conservation Agent go out and confirm the wetland line. Members also plan to make their own site visit on Saturday morning.
The ConCom could issue its decision at its next meeting on March 17.
If the ConCom approves, the ZBA is expected to OK the project at its March 23 meeting.