Stalled Hickory Ridge Solar Project September Update


Map of proposed solar arrays at Hickory Ridge. Photo:

It has been a very quiet summer at the stalled Hickory Ridge solar construction site. Dead trees chopped down during the winter still litter the ground throughout 27 acres of former golf course.  A construction road built earlier in the spring sits unused next to the black erosion barriers. Nearby, long lines of chain link fencing meant to enclose the facility remain unfinished. At the entrance, a construction trailer sits empty and unused next to a large portable generator surrounded by tall weeds. The site looks abandoned. 

But over at the Town Hall in Amherst there is still optimism that construction is just over the horizon. 

The September 11th Town Manager Report includes a short statement that addresses the Hickory Ridge Solar Project:

Solar: Construction will begin again in late October or early November. Next steps include removing the trees, finishing permitted wetlands crossings, site work, and moving forward with installation of the panels now that a building permit has been issued. We do not have a definitive new schedule for this work. The solar developer spent extensive time this summer working with the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program updating project materials and timelines.

The project was originally granted a special permit in 2019 and has routinely experienced numerous delays, only recently receiving a building permit. After so many delays and false starts, it is unlikely that PureSky/AMP, Dynamic Energy, and their subcontractors will be accomplishing much work at Hickory Ridge before winter takes hold. Weather will continue to be an issue and the holidays will also cause additional scheduling problems. Residents expecting to see rows of solar panels rising out of the long abandoned fairways are likely to be waiting well into 2024 or even later. 

Few Amherst residents are aware that the City of Springfield is the off taker for the solar energy produced at the Amherst site. It appears that Springfield will also be waiting at least another year for PureSky to deliver their discounted, clean, green energy supplied by Amherst’s Hickory Ridge Solar Project.

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10 thoughts on “Stalled Hickory Ridge Solar Project September Update

  1. It is surprising to learn that electricity generated by the Hickory Ridge solar array on town-owned property will be used by Springfield rather than for Amherst’s own energy needs. What financial incentives made exporting electricity to Springfield a desirable plan? For that matter, where does the electricity generated at the solar array on another town owned property, the Amherst Transfer Station go – Amherst or elsewhere?

  2. Electrons (i.e. electricity) does not have a “home.” It flows into the grid and contributes to supply. Springfield is presumably paying for the supply. Amherst is not an independent electricity grid — thankfully. Imagine our electricity as neglected as most infrastructure (e.g. roads) in Amherst!

  3. Physically speaking: it goes everywhere (at the speed of light in the wires/waveguides).

    Financially speaking: perhaps Springfield has contracted to pay PureSky/AMP for an equivalent amount of energy.

    It’s a lot like money: whether you pay with 10s or 20s, dimes or quarters, debit or credit card, check or online, the payment is made; in the same way, electrical energy is “fungible”….

  4. Here are the basics (not to mention the tax incentives) of a Power Purchase Agreement:
    In a PPA, a solar purchaser or “offtaker” buys power from a project developer at a negotiated rate for a specified term without taking ownership of the system. The project developer procures, builds, operates, and maintains the system. The solar photovoltaic (PV) system may be physically located on the offtaker’s premises (onsite PPA) or located remotely from the offtaker (offsite PPA). In either case, a PPA is a financial mechanism that allows the offtaker to accrue many of the benefits of solar power without owning a system.”

    Feb. 2022: “By acquiring Fort River Solar 2’s complete solar energy generation and receiving a 10 percent discount rate on electricity for municipal buildings, the city is projected to save around $1.6 million in electricity costs over the next 20 years, according to [Springfield Mayor} Sarno.”

  5. Dear Smart Solar Allies,

    We’re contacting you now for your support at a critical juncture. If you want to protect Shutesbury and Amherst’s water, health, safety, and welfare, now is the time to SHOW UP. Please attend the Conservation Commission public hearing for the Wetlands Protection Bylaw Regulations tomorrow night. We need as much turnout as possible.

    Monday, September 18th, at 7 p.m.

    The link to the meeting will be posted on the Shutesbury Town Meeting Calendar at

    In addition, please take a moment to write to the ConCom to voice your support for their efforts to protect us.

  6. If the Hickory Ridge Solar Project is ever completed, the energy it produces will be added to the grid and will likely find its way into your home. But no one living in Amherst will be paying the same discounted price for this energy that the City Springfield will be paying over the next 20 years. If you are a resident of Amherst, chances are you will be paying a lot more for your electricity.

    Springfield will also be able to claim that it is taking another step towards meeting its Climate Action goals, since they are purchasing all of the clean, green energy. Unfortunately for the town of Amherst, only the “offtaker” gets to make this claim, despite that fact that the facility is located along the banks of the Fort River in South Amherst.

  7. This is the original announcement by the town of Amherst about the Hickory Ridge project:

    Although the announcement never says so directly, the phrase “commitment to renewable energy production” would logically make one assume that this means green energy for the town of Amherst. Since we now know that that is not the case, the next logical assumption is that there is a financial incentive and benefit to the town in the form of some sort of annual payment for use of the land. Does anyone know the specifics of this agreement, and whether or not the funds generated will be earmarked for other green projects within the town?

  8. I believe Amherst ends up with $50,000 in PILOT payments annually for the project but I’m not sure where that falls in terms of being earmarked.

  9. A December 29, 2022 article in the Gazette quotes Dave Ziomek saying that AMP/PureSky will be providing the town with a payment in lieu of taxes between $65,000 to $75,000 per year. As far as I know, no official announcement has been made about the final agreement. Generally, such a payment would simply go into the general town funds.

    I like the idea of earmarking the funds for green projects within the town. I would suggest that the funds be used to conserve the 41 acres of mature forest land that Amp/PureSky is proposing to clear cut on Shutesbury Road in order to install 10 acres of solar panels. Wouldn’t that be green and ironic?

  10. March 22, 2022, The Reminder: “Amherst finalizes Hickory Ridge sale, master planning to begin”
    Amp Energy has plans to acquire Fort River Solar 2 and will construct, maintain and operate the solar facility under the Fort River Solar 2 name, according to Amherst Town Attorney Tom Reidy. Fort River Solar 2 and the town of Amherst have already agreed to a deal with Springfield to sell the energy produced on the property directly to Springfield.
    [Dave] Ziomek says one question they’ve faced already is why the town of Amherst is not participating as an off taker of this solar project when they originally were. Ziomek said due to the size of the project, Amp energy informed the town it would be much simpler if all the power went to one entity. (

    PureSky/AMP will benefit through better leveraging of available tax credits:
    Developers are typically better positioned to utilize available tax credits to reduce system costs. For example, municipal hosts and other public entities with no taxable income would not otherwise be able to take advantage of the Section 48 Investment Tax Credit. These credits can be taken by PureSky.

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